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Friday, November 20, 2020

Words For The Ages, Line Sixteen

 "Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes.": Billy Joel 

Although both Paul Simon and Lennon/McCartney preceded Billy Joel with this sentiment (Paul Simon in the last stanza of Leaves That Are Green and the Lennon/McCartney composition entitled Hello Goodbye in its entirety), Billy's succinct phrase - from Say Goodbye To Hollywood - has more of an aphoristic ring to it. And that's what I've been aiming for since introducing Words For The Ages over three years ago. What terse Billy Joel lyrical phrase - one that can stand alone - would you nominate as words for the ages?

Despite the way the rock press has pilloried Billy Joel - and his crybaby response to the critics - his music has always appealed to me. Though he's not my favorite popular song lyricist - that distinction belongs to either Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim, or Paul Simon depending on the day - he's in the top fifty for sure. End-to-end, my favorite lyric of Billy's is a tie between Summer, Highland Falls and Until the Night. How about you? Got a favorite end-to-end song - musically or lyrically - from Billy Joel's catalog?

While we're on the subject, which lyricist would you like to see featured next in my august series? So far, in order, I've covered Kris Kristofferson, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Pete Townsend, Tom Waits, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters, Don Henley & JD Souther, Paul Simon, and Dan Fogelberg. After listing those, it's hard to overlook how old and white that group is. I will rectify that in iteration number seventeen. In the meanwhile, keep your suggestions for lyricists and/or pithy phrases coming.


9 comments:

  1. Probably too rhyming for your liking, but one of my all time fav Billy Joel Songs...

    But if my silence made you leave
    Then that would be my worst mistake
    So you can share this room with me
    And you can have this heart to break

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    1. JM: "And So It Goes" is one of my all time favorite Bill Joel songs. And that quatrain is by no means "too rhyming"; it's actually quite perfect. The only reason this beautiful lyric wouldn't qualify for this series is because of its length. I'm aiming here for short pithy phrases (rhyming or not) that can be easily recalled yet still reveal a universal truth. But, thanks for the comment and especially for reminding me of that exquisite song.

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  2. Having a very lazy bent of mind I generally stumble across beloved musical gems almost by accident. Usually, I'm watching TV and a commercial comes on that is using a familiar pop/rock melody from the past which I had completely forgotten how much I used to love hearing it after which I will download a copy from iTunes (which I know is so very early 2000's now - we don't buy to own anymore, we stream). Anyway I usually never remember the product being advertised. The latest instance of this phenomenon is the Billy Joel song, "A Matter of Trust". One line from the lyric which I think meets the criterion for a stand alone phrase is "It took a lot for you not to lose your faith in this world" which seems apropos for the moment/year/epoch were are living through. Thanks again, Pat for keeping the creative embers fanned. My recommendation for another lyricist who merits our attention is George Harrison. His body of work may not be as broad as John's and Paul's but he left behind some lustrous lyrical gems from "Taxman" to "Beware of Darkness", "Here Comes the Sun" and of course "Something".

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  3. Steve; The Billy Joel lyric you cite from "A Matter Of Trust" is a good nomination for words for the ages; thanks for the thought, no matter that you "stumbled" across it. And although I've had George Harrison in my queue for this series for a while, I haven't yet landed on a terse phrase from his catalog that has struck me as quite right. But your suggestion will ensure I return to the four songs you mention to see if I can extract an aphoristic nugget from one of those. First order of business though, has to be uncovering something by someone NOT old and NOT white. I'm afraid my biases have crept into this series, if quite by accident. But, isn't that exactly what biases do? Yike!

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  4. OK .. so after overthinking this, and coming up with far too many choices ... some good, most probably stretching it a bit ... I kept coming back to song lyrics from Neil Young. Especially from his song 'Old Man' - 'I've been first and last, Look at how the time goes past, But I'm all alone at last, Rolling home to you'. There are so many more, but ...I'm going with this one. Ask me again in 2 minutes and I'll probably go with something else. So many to choose from ... from so many artists. As an aside, I agree with what you said about Billy Joel. But when I listen to his music there are times I believe he may be underrated ..
    Thanks Pat .. Be Well ..

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    1. RRGRMG; First off, it would be impossible to overthink this matter of utmost significance. Second, thanks for the Neil Young nomination; I'll keep Neil on my radar for a future iteration in my learned impossible-to-overthink series. And though I too like that particular Neil Young lyric you cited from "Old Man", as with the Billy Joel lyric cited by JM above, a quatrain, no matter how good, is a bit too long based on what I'm aiming for here. Need a lyrical phrase terse enough for anyone to easily remember yet something that speaks a universal truth in its brevity. Last: Neil will definitely NOT be next in the series but only because, as I mentioned in the post itself, my next iteration for "Words For The Ages" must be an aphoristic-ready entry from a lyricist NOT as old and/or NOT as white as Mr. Young and my first sixteen. So if you've got any concise lyric nominations from someone young and/or non-white, bring them on. As we speak, I'm mentally scouring the extensive catalogs of Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Holland-Dozier-Holland, etc. Talk about over-thinking!

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  5. I don't want clever conversation, Never want to work that hard. I just want someone I can talk to, I want you just the way you are.

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  6. Never thought of these FO lyrics being applicable to culture as a whole. Cool interpretation :)

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