Why Lyrics Speak to Me

I have spoken a lot about loving music in my blog. This has been a lifelong obsession. From listening to my parent’s records – Sinatra and other standards, to discovering pop music around the age of six, I have been just crazy about music in many forms.

Not having a musical bone in my body for notes, melodies, whistling, or singing, that has not stopped me from enjoying the musicality of a piece. But what gets me singing out loud and thinking about a piece of music are  the lyrics. The lyrics are always the heart of the music for me.

Wordsmith, writer, I guess it is the love of words and language. Poetic or beautiful words coming forth with great musical background is as good as a good book for me. I have been looking for meaning in the words of songs since I was very young.

The bad news is, since my focus is always on lyrics, those lyrics stay with me, never to exit my brain. Like a never ending storage unit of verse, my old brain just can’t forget a lyric, no matter how ancient. Recently I downloaded an oldies radio station app during my vacation and I was enjoying the oldest of oldies. Because my local city doesn’t have an oldies station playing music from the early 60’s, I was enjoying tunes that I haven’t heard in 30, 40 and even 50 years! (Wow, am I old!)

No matter, once the song came on I was singing along as if I heard it yesterday. Those old lyrics came back to me. (Many still incorrect as I pointed out in this funny blog)

You know how some people quote movie lines all the time? I tend to do that, but I also quote lyrics and know others who can use lyrics in the most sentimental way.For the non-lyrical person, this may seem odd, but for those of us who find deep meaning in lyrics, it is appropriate. Once a lyric is quoted, I will sing that loop of the song in my head endlessly it seems. Or at least until the next one comes along.

The power of words amazes me. The lyrics that impress me most are the ones that I can  actually visualize while singing, or the ones that tell me a story. Sometimes I feel like I have been read a story when I hear a song like that. It stays with me.

Sometimes I think about the evolution of the Beatles in their lyrics, going from the simplistic in the early 60’s “Love, love me do, you know I love you, I’ll always be true..” to the heavier Eleanor Rigby and the breakthrough Rubber Soul and Sargent Pepper albums with their deeply meaningful lyrics.

She’s leaving home – eloquently tells the story of a teen leaving home after feeling unloved:

“Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more
She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her hankerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free”

And my very favorite Beatles lyric of all time from their song the end and no truer words were ever sung in my book: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” (Also known as my personal mantra!)

I remember WAY back when, hearing some of Simon and Garfunkel’s stuff (written by Paul Simon) and was so impressed by the poetry of it all:

“A winter’s day, in a deep and dark December.
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island….Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me.”

Or:

 “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence”

Another one of my favorites, whose lyrics have struck a chord with a nation of people, based on the concerts, television specials and copy bands I have witnessed, is Bruce Springsteen.  There isn’t a soul at his concerts that doesn’t sing out the entire set of lyrics to “Thunder Road” – a song about a teenage boy’s longing. In fact in 1975 when Springsteen was on the cover of Time and Newsweek on the same week, he was called a poet for his generation, following in Dylan’s footsteps.

Here’s just a snippet of this incredible song – one of many of his with incredible, telling a story with his lyrics.

“The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways. Like a vision, she dances across the porch as the radio plays. Roy Orbison singing for the lonely, hey that’s me and I want you only. Don’t turn me back again, I just can’t face myself alone again.”

Can’t you just picture the above scene?

Or his Factory lyrics – if this doesn’t speak for a million people, I don’t’ know what does:

“Early in the morning factory whistle blows
Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes
Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning light
It’s the working, the working, just the working life

Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain
I see my daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain
Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life
The working, the working, just the working life

End of the day, factory whistle cries
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes
And you just better believe, boy, somebody’s gonna get hurt tonight
It’s the working, the working, just the working life
Cause it’s the working, the working, just the working life.”

What astounds me most are that some people pay practically NO attention to lyrics. An old song will come on many a time and I will tell my husband about a line coming up or a lyric full of meaning and he will be clueless. He usually responds that he never knew the words or never thought about them! By the way, he plays instruments and is very musical.

I find that impossible to believe, but I guess not everyone is into lyrics like me.

Who agrees with me? What is more important, the music or the lyrics?

 

5 comments

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  • The lyrics always mean more to me than the melody. I love music and am most fond of artists who not only sing but write too. Elton John is a favorite of mine and I’m a huge fan of Rob Thomas. Carol King and Paul Simon. A friend just told me that when her Mom had lost her memory due to Alzheimer’s, she couldn’t believe how if she put on a Conway Twitty record, her Mom could sing that song from beginning to end yet had no memory of ever giving birth to her children. I always find it funny that I can’t remember what I ate for dinner yesterday but can remember every last word to a song from my youth.

    • I am dealing with dementia now with my mom as well and she goes to music singalongs in her nursing home unit which they all seem to enjoy. The words are remembered to all the old tunes! You are right! Glad you are a lyrics person – I really love both but if I had to choose, it is the words that stay with me.

  • very enjoyable blog! And you ask a great question. I do tend to remember melodies more, I guess. We’re always singing Broadway tunes in this house, and usually trying to insert our dog’s name into the body of the song whenever possible, especially if he’s been evil that day, which seems to be every day. But as a person who makes her living by writing custom lyrics to already existing melodies in the form of singing telegrams, I’d say lyrics are more important to me personally. Weird Al never changes the tune, just the words!

    • Another wordsmith and you prefer the tunes! It is a hard choice for me to make, but more than I hum tunes, I have lyrics going through my head!

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