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Monday, February 24, 2020

Words For The Ages, Line Thirteen

"The more I know, the less I understand" - from The Heart of the Matter

Although Don Henley was speaking of a love affair gone wrong, for me that lyric contains a universal truth with the potential to far outlive its place in a mournful pop song. It jumps right out of its vessel, carrying it with the ability to stand alone as a timeless aphorism like the twelve earlier lyric phrases I've used in this series. Just eight simple words for the ages. 

Upon hearing The Heart of the Matter in 1989, my reaction was immediate and intense. I was first struck by the way Henley and his co-writer JD Souther extracted learning from the searing pain of heartbreak. Til then, my own lyrics about the same subject were maudlin, at best. Approaching my fortieth birthday and my only child's first, I vowed to avoid playing any of my own past or future heartbreak songs until those songs matured past mawkish self-pity. 

And the more I listened to The Heart of the Matter, the wiser the song grew. Those eight words are immediately followed by "All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again" and soon after that, the capstone - "It's about forgiveness."  I felt a shift listening to those three words unlike anything a lyric had ever delivered to that point. What terse phrase from a song lyric has had a similar effect on you?

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