Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just Singin' Along

by Deborah Nielsen

I’m on the road again and even though I’m not making music with Willie Nelson and friends, I listen to music when I’m on the road. Some people listen to audiobooks, but I’d rather have the radio, a few CDs, and my playlist.

There’s something about singing along to the latest new song or an old favorite. In my car, I can warble to my heart’s content, and no one is going to wince and tell me to stop that caterwauling!

Is there a song that resonates with you because of the words? Have you ever had a phrase stuck in your mind that plays on an endless loop? A good song or a phrase (usually from the chorus) is supposed to. Like reading a book by an author who has an engaging style and keeps you reading on, a good songwriter strives to write a song that hits the listener emotionally and connects on a deeper level.

I think that we prose writers often give songwriters short shrift if we think of them at all. We don’t even classify them as poets, even though that’s what they are. Song lyrics are poetry set to music.

Some of my favorite songwriters are Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift. All have something in common; they’re storytellers. They use personal experiences set to music to tell a story in three minutes or less.

Kristofferson, a Rhodes scholar, wrote Sunday Morning Coming Down in the late 1960s. Look up the lyrics. They’re some of the best songwriting ever, I think. Two lines in particular just resonate with me: 

Then I headed back for home and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'
And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

When do you hear lyrics like this nowadays? Not that they were all that common then. Who uses alliteration in lyrics? Usually no one.

There’s a country song out now that I like for its word play, She’s Got a Way With Words, co-written by Wyatt Earp, Andy Albert, and Marc Beeson, and recorded by Blake Shelton:

She put the her in hurt
She put the why in try
She put the S.O.B. in sober

Co-writing; it's not common for more than two writers to collaborate on a book. Songwriters will get together in groups to write the lyrics and the music. They work to weave words, notes, chords, voices, guitar and piano together to create songs. 

I salute songwriters and musicians. I envy them. And I can’t image living without their creativity enriching my life.

How about you? What songs resonate? Is there a musician with whom you always connect?


JC Lynne said...

As a writer of prose, I bow to poets and songwriters because it's just a thing I cannot do...well. One of the things I loved as an English teacher was introducing poetry to students via songs. I know my preference for music is tightly bound up in my mood of the moment.

Lately, I've been catching more of the lyrics in familiar songs that surprise me. I don't know if it's because I'm ... cough cough ... older or just more tuned to word play.

And it's not just the song, but the sound of the voice. Kristofferson has always been a favorite for the flavor of his voice...Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen all resonate right under my sternum.

Lynn said...

In another life, I'd like to be a songwriter. I admire their brevity and study lyrics for clues on how to nail an emotion in just a few words. Not surprisingly, music is also one of my muses. Thanks for the insightful post!

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