The Steinbeck Music Collection

Picture of different music records


Music was a strong bond between Carol and John Steinbeck, who both admired music from many eclectic genres, ranging from flamenco, jazz, classical, blues, Cuban folklorico, swing, and Mexican rancheros. The Steinbecks had a superb sound system with large speaker cabinets, where together they listened to Bluegrass and folk music, like folk singer Woody Guthrie. Carol told a friend that, “Jazz let her forget herself”; She listened to blues singer Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and “Fine and Mellow,” singers Ida Cox and Trixie Smith, players like Count Basie, bandleader Eddie Condon, trumpeter Frankie Newton and Lu Waters of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band.

While writing The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck acknowledged using “the forms and mathematics of music rather than prose.” When composing the poetic chapters, the author listened to Bach’s Art of the Fugue as inspiration for the movement and tone of his words. In his journal, Steinbeck noted his struggle to keep the frantic feeling out of his writing, he wanted to play The Swan, from Carnival of the Animals by composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Click the pdf link below to view the entire music collection:

Steinbeck Music Collection (with links to music) [pdf]