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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A 3:00 Short Story

I genuinely enjoy good song lyrics about love. A world without "If I Fell" would feel like a smaller place. But I get a huge buzz when more offbeat subjects are turned into lyrics. Some of these offbeat lyrics have been transformative for me.

I clearly recall the first time I heard John Prine's "Hello in There". For many years after, I went out of my way to greet elderly people who crossed my path. Now that I'm quite a bit older myself, it's not implausible that some young person hearing Prine's poignant lyric may say hello to me unprompted. The lyric to "What Shall We Do With The Child?" , by Nicholas Holmes & Kate Horsey, has haunted me since 1969. If anyone else has ever written about how newborn children are affected when a couple splits up, I haven't come across it.  More recently, Joe Jackson's lyric on "The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy" inspired me to begin building a creative legacy. Which offbeat lyrics have similarly transformed you?

Many songwriters have captivated me this way. Arguably, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon were among the earliest to do this well with lyrics like "Positively 4th St." and "Dangling Conversation". Just like the three songs mentioned above, these lyrics strike me as popular music's version of a 3:00 short story.    

2 comments:

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  2. Pat, as a young boy Laura Nyro was my musical poet. I guess i was pretty dark when i was little. I loved her darkest stuff, Lonlely Women, Poverty Train, the entire New York Tendaberry album. Things got a little lighter and more pop but now I am in love with Miss Nancy Wilson and her ability to phrase a lyric so beautifully. Two I love are Guess Who I Saw Today by Murry Grand. The entire song leads up to one word at the end. Another i love is When October Goes and before you vomit the lyric was written by Johnny Mercer who never finished it, His widow gave it and a bunch more lyrics to songs to Barry Manilow (yes ok you can vomit a little). Manilow made an album with Nancy called With My Lover Beside Me and it is the last cut. She is beautiful on it.

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