Booking Through Thursday for January 15, 2009
Sing! Sing A Song
“But, enough about books … Other things have words, too, right? Like … songs!
If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.
So, today’s question? What songs… either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer… have words that you love? Why? And… do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?”
One that immediately comes to mind is Loreena McKennitt’s song “The Highwayman,” which sets the poetry of Alfred Noyes to music wonderfully. She is very good at that, of course, and one reason she is so popular.
Many of Cole Porter’s songs from the 20s and 30s have extremely clever lyrics that I’ve always enjoyed, like “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “You’re The Top,” and “Begin the Beguine.”
In the same vein, many of the popular songs of that era were quite silly, of course, but some were designed to be uplifting and positive and their lyrics are quite nice, like “Happy Days Are Here Again” by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics) and “The Sunny Side of the Street” by Jimmy McHugh (music) and Dorothy Fields (lyrics).
I am a big fan of Sting and I have admired his lyrics a great deal. Just two of many examples would be “Fortress Around Your Heart” and “Whenever I Call Your Name.” The lyrics and music are written together, of course, so they flow perfectly.
I do have to add “Bill Paxton, Help Us Escape” from BC and the Blues Crew simply because the lyrics evoke an emotion we all feel at times, and it’s funny.
One song that has beautiful lyrics and music but which don’t match very well is “I Vow To Thee, My Country,” which is a patriotic hymn in the UK. The lyrics were originally a poem by Cecil Spring-Rice and 20 years later Gustav Holst adapted his Jupiter from The Planets suite to fit the words, and it’s a square peg in a round hole, if you ask me. Of course, it’s still wonderfully British, and you would recognize it if you heard it.
© Jan McClintock of We Need More Shelves