Letter Writing Day may be on December 7, but the music world has been celebrating for a months now with its newfound fondness for posting open letters on the internet. The fun started in early October when Sinead O’Connor penned an open letter to Miley Cyrus, urging her not to "let the music business make a prostitute of you." Then Miley tweeted a bunch of stuff in retaliation. Then Sinead wrote some more open letters. Then Amanda Palmer got involved because no one was paying attention to her.
Since those magical early days, we've been treated to a veritable orgy of open letter-writing. Sufjan Stevens wrote to Miley! Miley composed one for her ex-fiance Liam Hemsworth! The founder GoldieBlox sent one to The Beastie Boys in the wake of the controversy surrounding the company's use of "Girls" that began with their open letter! Everyone with a Twitter account wrote an open letter to anyone we could think of because we all think we’re really funny that way.
But long before musicians were publicly airing their grievances and innermost feelings to the internets, they were expressing them through song.
And so to celebrate Letter Writing Day 2013, the Year of the Open Letter, here's a list of ten of our favourite musical open letters by ranging from Leonard Cohen and Jay Z to Eminem and XTC.
Jay Z - "Open Letter"
An outtake from this year's "Magna Carta" album, "Open Letter" addresses a number of controversies that were surrounding the mogul at the time, including his decision to sell his stake in the Brooklyn Nets basketball franchise as well as his trip to Cuba with wife Beyonce and the flack that pal President Barack Obama received over it. Although the track is not specifically addressed to Obama, the president did feel the need to respond to it in <a href="http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/stop-the-presses/president-obama-responds-jay-z-diss-track-open-231929501.html" target="_blank">an interview with ABC News</a>.
Leonard Cohen - "Famous Blue Raincoat"
This song from 1971’s "Songs of Love and Hate" finds the Canadian folk legend in a contemplative mood as he surveys his surroundings on Clinton Street in New York and writes to his friend/wife’s lover about the love triangle in which they’ve been embroiled. According to a 1994 interview with BBC radio, Cohen no longer remembers if <a href="http://www.judithfitzgerald.ca/famousblueraincoat.html" target="_blank">the song is based on a real triangle</a> that he was involved in or something he imagined. He does remember the famous blue raincoat, though. As he writes in the liner notes to "The Best of Leonard Cohen", that part was inspired by a Burberry trench he owned in the late fifties.
Eminem - "Stan"
This unsettling track from 1999's "The Marshall Mathers" LP is comprised of a series of letters written by a character named Stan Mitchell who claims to be Eminem's greatest fans. Stan begins with the type of friendly fare you'd expect to find in fan mail, but quickly veers into psychotic and abusive territory when the object of his obsession doesn't respond. The song was a critical and commercial success across North America and Europe and it even managed to introduce the word "stan" (an overzealous fan) to the modern lexicon.
Lulu - "To Sir, With Love"
In 1967, Scottish singer and actress Lulu appeared in "To Sir, With Love," a British film that starred Sidney Poitier as a strict but kind engineer who became a teacher at a troubled inner-city school. She also sang the film's theme song, which her character performs for Poitier's teacher to thank him for all he has done for his students. The song went on to become a hit in its own right on our side of the pond, making it to the number one position on the Billboard 100 in the U.S., but it was never even released as a single in the UK.
Rod Stewart - "You Wear It Well"
A nostalgic Rod Stewart takes a coffee break on a sunny day to write a missive to a long-lost love in this 1972 hit single. The exercise, which includes fond memories of the former couple's ups and downs, praise for his ex's sartorial abilities and regret for his part in their separation, might all be for naught, though, as he's not even sure that she's still at the same address "after all the years."
Elvis Costello and The Brodsky Quartet - "The Juliet Letters"
Not content to stop at one measly musical open letter, singer songwriter Elvis Costello and The Brodsky string quartet collaborated on an entire record's worth of them for 1993's "The Juliet Letters." The concept album is comprised of a number of fictional letters written to Juliet Capulet of "Romeo and Juliet" fame.
The Hollies - "Dear Eloise"
British band The Hollies play Nice Guy in this 1967 open letter to the recently dumped Eloise. They begin my pretending to console her but, before you know it, they’re gloating, I-told-you-so-ing and hitting on the poor girl.
The Cure - "A Letter To Elise"
"Oh, Elise it doesn't matter what you say, I just can't stay here every yesterday," Cure singer Robert Smith opines in the opening lines of this Dear John letter. And then things get really mopey as the goth rockers reach deep into their angst-y bag of tricks to explore familiar themes like isolation, disconnection and life's inability to live up to dreams. "A Letter To Elise" was the third single from The Cure's 1992 album, "Wish," and must have felt like quite the comedown to people who had discovered the band thanks to "Friday I'm In Love," the album's wildly popular second single.
XTC - "Dear God"
British new wave band XTC's haunting and pointed open letter to the almighty, which addresses religious hypocrisy and questions the very existence of God, didn't sit well with some people. A number of radio stations in the U.S. refused to play the track at all and one station in Florida that did play it received a firebombing threat for their efforts. Music fans certainly loved it, though. "Dear God," originally released a B-side in 1986, was such a runaway hit that Geffen Records decided to add it to reissues of the band's "Skylarking" album.
Tracy Bonham - "Mother Mother"
This 1996 modern rock hit isn't technically an open letter; it’s actually more of an open answering machine message that the narrator leaves for her mom. Alternating between friendly, mundane details of her daily existence and the more brutal reality that lurks underneath them, the message-leaver assures her mother, in sarcastic screams, that "EVERYTHING'S FINE!" And yes, that's Bonham's real-life mother in the music video.