4. Jimmy Webb
The songs of Jimmy Webb drive me nuts. They’re so wonderful and I love singing them. Jimmy always says, “You take my hardest songs.” I recorded “Paul Gauguin in the South Seas” and it taught me more about singing than I had learned since I studied it. It’s like climbing without a rope. What Jimmy Webb does in “Gauguin” is the musical version of “Free Solo.”
5. Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is third in line behind Shakespeare and the Bible. I just finished 40 of her audiobooks, all of them read by the great Hugh Fraser. She was dynamic, she was particular, she was elegant. She described the buildings and the water and what was served at tea. I mean, sometimes she could go on and on until you got tangled in the web of language and scenario. She was a relentless writer. She was 80 when she wrote her last book.
6. Audiobook Readers
We have very strong opinions in my family about a lot of things: politics, literature and always the voice. I need to have a good reader or I can’t listen to an audiobook. Peter Grainger is a favorite writer of mine, and he has Gildart Jackson, who may be the best reader that I’ve ever heard, second only to Hugh Fraser. And I love listening to Robert Caro read his books. They are phenomenal. I remember his voice on television when he was talking about Robert Moses and what he did to the public landscape by tearing down communities to build the freeways. His books about Lyndon Johnson are read by another reader whom I cannot bear. But I can hear them in my own voice, so that’s fine.
7. Monty Python
Monty Python were the first group of comedians that I got in touch with when I was in England in the ’60s, and they always had a way with humor. Nothing we can do quite matches it. There was the show “Beyond the Fringe” and then they made a movie, “Behind the Fridge,” and nobody else seems to have seen it. It was Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. They were hysterical. The humor is quite priceless. You see a reflection of it in “Downton Abbey.”
8. Shawn Colvin
I’m very picky about my singers, and I am crazy about Shawn Colvin. I’ve actually written a song about her, which I didn’t put on this album. I played it for her, though. She’s the best. She and I played together in the mid-’90s. The brilliant album that she made with John Leventhal, “Steady On,” is mysterious and extraordinary. We did an artist weekend for three days in Greece in 2016 and we had the best time. That’s where I basically fell in love with her singing, her writing, her spirit.
We watch the “PBS NewsHour” and “Masterpiece,” anything. “Professor T” is a Belgian series, which is now on PBS. It was our lunchtime television watching. It’s very offbeat. That’s a fabulous show. I love “Endeavour.” And “Inspector Morse” and “Inspector Lewis.” Inspector Lewis is not as brilliant as Morse, but, you know, he’s good.
I’ve always had cats. My first cat was named Fluffy. She gave birth on my bed one morning. “Mommy!” I screamed. “Fluffy fell apart!” Now I have three cats. They’re all Persian longhairs. Rachmaninoff is a devotee of my husband. He follows him everywhere he goes. Coco Chanel is always busy. She purrs and purrs and wants to be petted. Tom Wolfe is so exquisitely beautiful and he knows it, so he poses a lot. He claimed the Christmas tree this year, because he knew that people would come and take his picture