Marcus Mumford Explains How Author John Steinbeck Influenced Mumford & Sons

By Eliot Hill

February 28, 2020

On behalf of Mumford & Sons, Marcus Mumford accepted the band's Steinbeck Award at Stanford University. “[It is] the honor of my professional life so far,” Mumford said in his speech.

The band made history after becoming the first collective recipients of the prestigious award; which is “given to writers, artists, thinkers, and activists whose work captures Steinbeck's empathy, commitment to democratic values, and belief in the dignity of people who by circumstance are pushed to the fringes.”

In his speech, Mumford paid homage to the American author and explained how his writing has influenced Mumford & Sons

“Taking an unvarnished look at cruelty and injustice, I came to find, is central to Steinbeck’s vision and it is precisely this which Ben [Lovett] and I discussed at length as we sat around his piano shortly afterwards and wrote our first song inspired by Mr Steinbeck, called 'Dust Bowl Dance,'” he explained. “The commodification of people, the autocracy of the market and the anonymity of the state. The degradation of community, the dismissal of the local and devaluation of the rural. The rage that burns underneath injustice. We metabolized all those ideas and wanted to tell a story of the perseverance of the human spirit amidst the tragic. At the center of it all, there was 'that glittering instrument, the human soul.'”

The singer went on to also explain that there are two key Steinbeck themes important to the band: “loving our neighbor,” and “the importance of intentional listening.”

Mumford & Sons isn't the first musical artist to be recognized with the award, Bruce Springsteen was the inaugural recipient of the Steinbeck Award in 1996.

Watch Mumford's full touching speech above.

Photo: Getty Images

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