Five Songs That Inspire Emily Saliers

By Amy Ray, for Folk Alley

As part of Folk Alley’s Pride Month feature, we’ve asked a handful of LGBTQ+ artists to make a list of the songs or artists who most influenced them.

This list was written by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls.

Listen to the Pride Month playlist for just one more week on the Classic Folk stream.

Ani DiFranco – “32 Flavors” 

This became one of my very favorite songs. Ani’s lyrics are right on point—cutting without being cruel. She turns a phrase as well as any other writer, and the part about the Phoenix rising was incredibly inspiring for this queer girl.

Janis Ian – “At Seventeen”

I was obsessed with this song. I couldn’t believe it was a radio hit—so raw and honest and talking about the pain of social isolation and high school politics. I was drawn to this song for seeing me and the angst of my vulnerability.

Elton John – “Love Song”

I loved the hypnotic repetition of the chords and the simplicity of this song and its message: “Love is the opening door/love is what we came here for.” It’s about as folky as Elton ever got. Amy and I learned this song and played it out at bars.

Meshelle Ndegéocello – “Bitter”

MeShell Ndegéocello had no boundaries for her music and lyrics. She drew me in to her honesty. The combination of the acoustic guitar, her inimitable voice, and the dark truth of her lyrics floored me. She’s the realest of the real. I aspired to be real and remember listening to this song over and over in my car.

Ferron – “Our Purpose Here”

Ferron is one of the great songwriters of our era—up there with Dylan and Mitchell and anyone else you name. The fact that she was openly queer was thrilling, even though I hadn’t come out when I discovered her music. Her lyrics were understated and brilliant. She was a guiding light for how to write a song and how to be open and full of pain and understanding about life.

Supported By