Thursday, March 3, 2011

Music to sooth the savage beast

It can be said that a song is poetry set to music.  That is basically true, but with a disclaimer; not ALL songs are poetry.  Repeating “I Feel Love” over and over and over again is not poetic, and while “Staying Alive, Staying alive, a..a..a…a..Staying Alive” has a great beat and can be easily danced to, its lyric is not genius.
There are, however, great examples of brilliant writing for the purpose of song.  There is the mystical and cryptic:  “Been through the desert on a horse with no name” or “She’s buying a stairway to heaven” and “I am the walrus.”
The beautiful:  “Hello darkness, my old friend” -“I’ll stand by you” and “You are the wind beneath my wings.”
The whimsical: “You can call me Al” or “You don’t mess around with Jim” and “Itsy Bitsy yellow pokadot bikini.”
Country music likes to be punny and mix metaphoric.  “We buried the Hatchet, but leave the handle sticking out.”  “I’m much too young to feel this damn old” or “You ain’t much fun since I quit drinkin.”
There are songs that are complete stories in themselves:  "Abraham,Martin and John" "Harper Valley PTA" and what exactly did Bobby throw off the Tallahasse Bridge? 
The granddaddy of them all is probably the Moody Blues whose Knights and White Satin even ends with spoken poetry as the strings swell in the background.  “Cold hearted orb rules the night, remove the colors from our sight.”  Wonderful..... good stuff.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of those kinds of lyrics anymore.  Popular music today seems to be driven by a dance beat, more than the thought provoking refrains of say Dylan, or Crosby, Stills and Nash, but I must say I enjoy almost ALL popular music.
I am often inspired by good lyrics.  Poetry set to music that elicits an emotional response.  I enjoy good lyrics almost as much as good prose.  I just wish there were more Moody Blues and less Gaga to be inspired by.

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