An interesting quote from Roman playwright, Terence (185-159 B.C.) says "Nothing is said that has not been said before"..... pretty profound for that era. So...does that mean the lyrics on the radio are lines we've heard before?
Occasionally I'm forced to listen to mainstream radio and it seems to contain lyrics that revolve around people taking off their clothes and getting messed up. My 15 year old daughter explains that all of "their" music is pretty much about "partying". Yikes. Kids today have to really dig dip in order to find some lyrics that are worthy of a listen. Today's mainstream music has little depth but looking back, that has probably been a common element in pop radio for decades. A lot of people turn on the radio & want to listen to something simple, jazzy.... non-commital. If you start listening to the lyrics...you might get sucked into thinking about something more intelligent than body parts. Interestingly, however, I consider a lot of lyrics written in the past 10 years as some of the most progressive and introspective lyrics ever. You just gotta put out a little effort to find the treasures.
The 60's brought song writing to a new level - the obvious lyricists of that era were Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez.... they were ballsy enough to put their observations on war and peace into poetry....aka song lyrics.....
The Beatles started writing their songs with somewhat simple themes. After the quartet had a few hits, they noticed that songs containing a pronoun as part of the title became hit songs! Therefore, they thought the formula for a hit would be to include I, You, She, Me, etc. in their song titles. I.E.: She Loves You, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, And I Love Her, I Saw Her Standing There, I Feel Fine, I'll Follow the Sun, Can't Buy Me Love....etc....
I once saw a video clip of John Lennon (post Beatles) talking about a fellow that stopped him on the street one day. This man was a Lennon worshipper and he told John that the Beatles saved the world with their song lyrics. Lennon responded to the fellow something to the effect of ... get a grip man, we just wrote down words. We didn't put a lot of thought into most of it.
I was listening to this punky song by the Stooges, titled "1969" and one of its lines caught my attention and made me think about how a short line can be just as effective as all of the lyrics in a 5 minute song. "Last year I was twenty-one, I didn't have a lot of fun. And now I'm gonna be twenty-two... I say oh my and a boo-hoo"
We all get it, don't we? The age of innocence is officially over for this guy.
A terrific young band that Mags introduced me to is Vampire Weekend, whose lead singer is a former English teacher. The first time I listened to them I heard the influence of Paul Simon's "Graceland" album throughout and it was fascinating. Then I started to pay attention to the lyrics. They are just plain cool and enjoyable and for a lyric freak....they provide a roller coaster that darts in and out and upside down. Using creative words that you don't hear in ordinary conversations, let alone in music. It's just refreshing and fun, while making you feel intelligent for listening to proper grammar.
"Who gives a *&^% (edit) about an Oxford comma?
I've seen those English dramas too, they're cruel
So if there's any other way to spell the word
It's fine with me, with me
Why would you speak to me that way?
Especially when I always said that I
Haven't got the words for you
All your diction dripping with disdain
Through the pain
I always tell the truth"
Now... who sings about punctuation and diction anyway? As a refresher, an Oxford comma is the comma that separates a group of things...ie: Some of my favorite bands are The Beatles, Foo Fighters and Cage the Elephant. The comma separating The Beatles and the Foo Fighters would be an Oxford Comma.
Another interesting thing about song lyrics is that they are interpreted differently by everyone. Most peculiar is the difference in how men and women hear the lyrics.
And delivery of the lyric makes a profound difference. For instance, a simple song I ran across recently is called "Stay With Me", by Lorraine Ellison. When this chick belts out the refrain of Stay With Me .... it gave me chills & made the hair on my arms stand straight up. Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about. Very simple lyric.....killer presence. Check out the recording on youtube....
The effect that the music has on lyrics can be different as well. Reading the lyric can have a different feel to it rather than listening to it within the song. On a different note, check out this recording called "Mercy Mercy Mercy" by Cannonball Adderley. There are no song lyrics, just terrific instrumentation. What is wicked cool is at the beginning of the song one of the band members gives an introduction to the song & explains how this song makes us feel the emotion of adversity.....he says the song "sounds like what you're supposed to say when you have that kind of problem". Very Cool.
In October, 2010, Maggie, Annie, Abby & I drove to St. Louis to see Vampire Weekend and they were outstanding-- lyrically and instrumentally. They have a few show dates this summer, namely, July 13, in Indianapolis. Check 'em out!
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Peace & Rock & Roll!