Sara Collins' Black Joy playlist
Sara Collins' Black Joy playlist

Music kept me going through the lonely process of writing my debut novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Many of the songs on this playlist featured on my Frannie playlist, including Kendrick Lamar, Nina Simone and Jay-Z. Some are copied from the launch-party playlist my kids made, which was particularly heavy on dancehall and reggae.

I must give credit for the other contributions of my four daughters, Shani, Christiana, Marianne and Nyah (aged between 19-26). When I was putting the list together I reached out to our family group chat and I was flooded with suggestions, representing a musical evolution, from Motown to Stormzy. It would have been a pretty slim list without their help!

When I was a young girl, our family celebrations weren't complete without either reggae or country music playing in the background. That's how it was in the Caribbean: the music was as important as the food. I remember my dad, who was a barrister, getting ready for court in the mornings. Either a Bob Marley album would be playing, or my dad would be singing one of his songs.

I remember bursting with pride that Marley had come from the same small island I came from, and was so universally admired.  Everyone had heard of him. It was a rare example (at that time) of Jamaican excellence being recognised on the world stage, and reminded me that there was no limit to what we could do - that we didn't have to take anyone's word for that but our own.

Music has historically been a way for Black people to express ourselves that wasn’t as easily policed as, for example, reading or writing. It has been a way to communicate, to celebrate, to protest, to commemorate – to be reminded of the joy of being alive, and of being Black.

Sara's playlist

Respect
Aretha Franklin 

I Say a Little Prayer
Aretha Franklin 

Feeling Good
Nina Simone 

I Wish I Knew How It Feels to be Free
Nina Simone 

To Be Young Gifted and Black
Nina Simone 

Strange Fruit
Billie Holiday 

Ex-Factor
Lauryn Hill 

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Lauryn Hill

Cranes in the Sky
Solange

Shea Butter Baby
Ari Lennox and J Cole

If I Ain’t Got You
Alicia Keys

This is America
Childish Gambino 

Redbone
Childish Gambino 

Midnight Train to Georgia
Gladys Knight

Apple Tree
Erykah Badu 

On and On
Erykah Badu 

Window Seat
Erykah Badu 

One is a Magic Number
Jill Scott 

I Will Always Love You
Whitney Houston 

I Wanna Dance with Somebody
Whitney Houston 

Roses
OutKast

HeyYa!
OutKast 

Fast Car
Tracy Chapman 

1999
Prince 

Purple Rain
Prince 

All For You
Janet Jackson 

Needed Me
Rihanna 

Love on the Brain
Rihanna 

Wicked in Bed
Shabba Ranks 

Ring-a-Ling
Shabba Ranks 

Murderer
Barrington Levy 

Too Experienced
Barrington Levy 

Murder She Wrote
Chaka Demus and Pliers 

Til Shiloh
Buju Banton

Who am I
Beenie man

Waiting in Vain
Bob Marley and the Wailers

Sun is Shining
Bob Marley and the Wailers

Get Up Stand Up
Bob Marley and the Wailers

Champion
Buju Banton 

Punkie
Sean Paul 

No Games
Serani 

Smile Jamaica
Chronixx 

Here Comes Trouble
Chronixx

Night Nurse
Gregory Isaacs 

She’s Royal
Tarrus Riley

Caution
Damian Marley 

Nail Pon Cross
Damian Marley 

Patience
Nas and Damian Marley 

Bam Bam
Sister Nancy 

Tempted to Touch
Beres Hammond 

Fantastic Voyage
Coolio 

Hip Hop Hooray
Naughty by Nature 

The Choice is Yours
Black Sheep 

Hypnotise
Biggie 

Juicy
Biggie 

Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang
Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg

Paid In Full
Eric B and Rakim

Fuck Da Police
NWA

I Get Around
2Pac and Digital Underground

If I Ruled the World
Nas and Lauryn Hill

No Church in the Wild
Kanye West and Jay Z

Formation
Beyoncé 

ALREADY
Beyoncé, Shatta Wale and Major Lazer  

Work It
Missy Elliott 

Waterfalls
TLC

No Scrubs
TLC 

Lose My Breath
Destiny’s Child 

Glory
John Legend and Common 

DNA
Kendrick Lamar 

What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye 

Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud
James brown 

Put Your Records On
Corinne Bailey Rae 

Like a Star
Corinne Bailey Rae

Lost & Found
Lianne La Havas

What You Don’t Do
Lianne La Havas 

Crown
Stormzy 

Rainfall
Stormzy and Tiana Major9

Bronze
Stormzy 

No One Knows Me Like the Piano
Sampha 

Blood On Me
Sampha 

Blue Lights
Jorja Smith 

A Prince
Jorja Smith 

Simmer
Mahalia and Burna Boy

No Pressure
Mahalia

16 Shots
Stefflon Don 

My Hood
Ray BLK 

Boo’d Up
Ella Mai 

Trip
Ella Mai 

No Ordinary Love
Sade 

Your Love is King
Sade

For Black History Month, we asked Black British authors at Penguin to celebrate the things that bring them joy.

What did you think of this article? Let us know at editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.

  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton

  • 'Deep-diving and elegant . . . Wide Sargasso Sea meets Beloved meets Alias Grace' Margaret Atwood

    'Takes the gothic genre by the scruff of the neck...a triumph of powerful characterisation melded with suspenseful plotting' Bernadine Evaristo

    WINNER OF THE COSTA BOOK AWARDS FIRST NOVEL PRIZE 2019
    LONGLISTED FOR HWA DEBUT CROWN 2020
    WATERSTONES BOOK OF THE MONTH

    'They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don't believe I've done?'

    1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning - slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

    For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

    But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

    A haunting tale about one woman's fight to tell her story, The Confessions of Frannie Langton leads you through laudanum-laced dressing rooms and dark-as-night alleys, into the heart of Georgian London.

    'A dazzling page-turner' Emma Donoghue

    'A star in the making' Sunday Times

    'Gothic fiction made brand new' Stef Penney

    'Dazzlingly original' The Times

    'A heroine for our times' Elizabeth Day

  • Buy the book

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