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THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Posted on: August 2, 2009 2:27 pm
 
My hope here is to create a place where we can discuss what makes a great songwriter, why they are great songwriters and to analyze the aspects of  the many different styles of successful songwriting. I think it is impossible to just name THE TEN BEST or some other form of that style as there are so many ways to measure success. Is it most popular, which is what I believe happens when you have TEN BEST format? If so, ABBA and MICHAEL JACKSON are the greatest  songwriters ever arguably. Is it quantity of songs recorded? If so, Neil Sadaka and Burt Bacharach could be the  greatest songwriters ever. Is it most influential? If so, Bob Dylan is superceded by Woody Guthrie as he was a great influence on Dylan, the Beatles are superceded  by Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones are superceded by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, etc. Do songwriting teams get the same respect as individual songwriters who write both lyrics and melodies? I think the best way to do this is to talk about the different genres of songwriting individually. I have made many friends the last couple of years on the music threads who I think I understand pretty well and who I think understand me pretty well. While I think my taste is pretty diverse and that I possess a pretty deep understanding of musical history, I tend to be pretty mainstream and centered around the 1964-1980s timeframe in a lot of ways and I will offer my opinions in that manner. Others seem to be quite adept at filling in the gaps of having a greater knowledge of pre-BEATLE rock and roll and R&B music from Motown ands STAX. Some are more knowledgeable about writers like Townes Van Zandt and Warren Zevon  or country tinged bands like Gram Parsons. Some of you really seem to like narrative songs that are thought provoking from artists like Springsteen. I believe there is room to explore all these areas and they all deserve to be discussed, but not all at the same time. So I will propose some ground rules.

I will offer up various topics to discuss one at a time. Please feel free to offer up individuals you which to champion or lists of your favorites. However, please try to include a little dialogue about your choices.

I will generally try to comment on the entries made by those who wish to visit here and I invite all participants to feel free to offer their opinions of both agreement and disagreement. However, everyone MUST BE RESPECTFUL AT ALL TIMES . Remember, we are all stating opinions, not facts and I will remove any posts that are inflammatory.

I hope that this will be a long running forum and free flowing forum where everyone is comfortable enough to visit frequently and express their views. I’m using the blog format to control content  to a degree and to promote more in depth analysis of this great subject.

OK, enough of me pontificating. Thanks to anyone out there who reads this and chooses to participate.

Category: General
Comments

Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: August 12, 2009 9:29 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Muffin,
Great insight on a lot of the up and coming bands and songwriters
Thanks!Smile


Luckily(?) I have three teenage children who have kept me up to date with all of those bands that you mentioned


Yes, I would say you are lucky.  The older stuff is classic but some of the new stuff is good too.

I have never seen Good Charlotte in concert.  That might be fun, although they're certainly not #1 on my list of bands to go see in concert.  When you live where I do, you are lucky to see any concerts at all!  Steve Miller last month was my first rock concert ever.  I think I wrote a bit about that in a previous post.


Switchfoot and Yellowcard are two bands that I have heard stuff from them and liked it but don't own any of their music.  I do have quite a bit of Red Hot Chili peppers though. Great songs and great energy. And I also own a lot of Green Day. They have the potential to be Hall Of famers in my opinion.  Three Doors Down are great too. Hopefully they can keep it up.


Switchfoot I would definitely recommend.  Yellowcard it's up to you.  If your children like Good Charlotte, there's a good possibility that they'll like Yellowcard - the two bands are SOMEWHAT similar.


And I would love to hear your views on Yes. I listen to them a lot and love just about all of their records
Ho boy.  OK.  I will have to come back soon.  I only have about an hour right now, and that's probably not long enough to write a post about why I feel that Yes songs are some of the best written songs ever.  Maybe tomorrow.  Definitely soon.


I'd still like to see someone refute some of the things I've written
There are two reasons why I can't really do that.  1. I'm not familiar with many of the songwriters you mention, or at least not enough to counter your opinions and 2. If you have spent a substantial amount of time listening to and attempting to write music in your life, as I have and I'm sure you all have too, you come to respect basically everything.  Writing a hit song that will still be loved by a large fan base years and years later, as many of these songwriters have done multiple times, is REALLY tough.  REALLY tough.


I'm not overly familiar with Paul Simon.  The only song I know at all that he did was "America," and that's only because Yes re-did it and made it into an awesome 10 minute epic.  Was a bonus track on the remastered Fragile album.  I don't even know the real America by Simon.  I like the lyrics though.

More later.

MM





Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 12, 2009 7:05 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

And just curious. What is your favorite rock and roll song written by an American?
LIKE A ROLLING STONE - BOB DYLAN    Do you know what Bruce Springsteen himself said about this song as he introduced Bob Dylan for his induction into the ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME?  

magazine ranked it the of all time. In his 1988 speech inducting Dylan into the , recalled, "The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to , and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind."
I've been hoping MJ would come back and visit and I could goad him into writing a review of Dylan, but I will do it myself by this weekend if necessary.



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 12, 2009 6:15 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

First off, thank you Fans for copying and pasting my post into a much more legible message.
And thank you very much for all of your kind words. I definitely appreciate that very much.

You are very right about the guitar playing in the E Street Band. There are 3 guys there that play lead guitar and there are only so many leads to go around. Little Steven has every right to be upset with his limited time in the spotlight but he has fully embraced the addition of Nilds Lofgren (25 years ago already!).
And Nils is outstanding himself. On tour Bruce always lets him do extended solos on Because The Night, Youngstown, and the Ghost Of tom Joad. He can really, really shred. Plus he still is doing all those flips on stage while playing his guitar. Quite the crowd pleaser.
But Bruce also "learned how to make his guitar talk". There are a lot of old videos on youtube of Bruce playing lead and they're awesome too.

And I totally understand you putting Dylan and Young ahead of him. Pretty great company I'd say.

And just curious. What is your favorite rock and roll song written by an American?



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 12, 2009 5:53 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

RHINO, I have only one gripe with Bruce Springsteen.   To me, he seems to hold back some of the outstanding musicians in the E Street Band and their obvious virtuosity(Little Steven’s solo efforts allow Steve Van Zandt to showcase his guitar skills and Nils Lofgren is a legendary guitar wizard) within the context of HIS songs. Instead, most of his songs seem to have that Phil Spector/Rolling Stones “WALL OF SOUND” feel.  Perhaps that is why I am so fond of NEBRASKA and its starkness. But Bruce doesn’t just follow a formula because its successful. Quite the contrary, with his voice, you know that its him no matter how the music is produced. I watched BRUCE SPRINGSTREET AND THE E STEET BAND IN BARCELONA from 2003 yesterday and it was 3 hours of  truly great performance. THUNDER ROAD is the second best rock and roll song written by any American, a true masterpiece. Springsteen personifies the true values of an artist who writes music from the soul and the heart, not to be popular. Only Dylan can write lyrics as dense and socially relevant without becoming redundant as well as Bruce has. Few artist have achieved his longevity and success without compromising their integrity. So I get the fact that the words are the message and that Bruce always wants to get the message across, making the music secondary. His storytellers DVD is amazing when he talks about THE RISING and the movements within the song and how the music coincides with the meaning of the lyrics they accompany and I just marvel at the depth of his artistry. When he’s talking about BLINDED BY THE LIGHTS  and the rhyming dictionary is in flames is almost beyond my comprehension, but again is the mark of a true artist who takes his craft seriously but is not too serious about it. While Springsteen is my least favorite GREAT SONGWRITER to listen to on this list, my respect for his importance, my admiration for his artistry, my everyman roots that pervade so many of his songs that I can truly identify with. BORN TO RUN  has to be included an any list of 10 best albums ever. For reasons that I will explain in another post, I put Bruce on my Mt. Rushmore at #3, trailing only Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and the gap between Young and Springsteen is so miniscule that they are virtually interchangeable. I base this ranking mostly on Neil’s ability to speak as well through his guitar as through his lyrics, which are a notch below Bruce and Dylan. I don’t know how to give someone higher praise than to expound on all the reasons I don’t like him and then put him in a virtual tie for second best songwriter ever in the same sentence. He is the best poet of Americana to not be named Bob Dylan(and that gap is very small) and I really wouldn’t argue with anyone who said he is the GREATEST SONGWRITER OF AMERICAN ROCK EVER.

Thank you for writing that wonderful, heartfelt post and all of your support.  To quote my favorite Springsteen song and to show how much meaning there are in his songs that are not so obvious because of their seemingly simplicity:

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don't know where it's flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going






Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 12, 2009 4:40 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

This outstanding post was actually written by RHINO3434.   It posted a bunch of gibberish initially so I have copied it and reposted it in a more legible form.  But I wanted to be sure to thank RHINO for this great peice of reading and also to be sure that credit is given to the actual author.

      
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sp;   BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN


Well, I guess it's about time that I got around to my Bruce Springsteen review.

 

First, a little back history of my life.

 

I am the youngest child in my family - born in 1961. I have 3 older brothers and 3 older sisters. The two oldest - born in '49 and '51 were very much into rock and roll music and as a very small child I can remember hearing Beatles music constantly and all of the wacky Peter Maxx posters and things. But the other 4 brothers and sisters never really got into music - even to this day. That to me seems very strange because music is such a vital part of my life.

My other 2 brothers were very into sports however and I of course followed in their footsteps and benefitted greatly because I was usually about 5 or 6 years younger than the rest of the guys playing. Alas, I never did make the major leagues and have spent the last 28 + years delivering mail.

 

  So for many years I was pretty oblivious to all of the great music that was coming out at the time. Of course I was aware of a lot of it but owning it was not a top priority. I finally rediscovered music when I met my first girlfriend in '76. She was very into Bob Seger and I remember thinking "Wow! This stuff is amazing!" I went out and bought all of his old albums and listened to him religiously - and I still love all of his music today.

 

But then my buddies at school told me "Seger's alright, but Bruce Springsteen's The Boss". At that time I wasn't even aware of his music and was given the Born To Run album on my 16th birthday. I am not lying when I tell you that from the moment I heard that "screen door slam" on the first song - Thunder Road - I was completely hooked! And 33 years later that is still my favorite song and as you guys can probably tell, he's by far my favorite artist.

 

That whole Born To Run album is spectacular.In the days of albums Bruce always liked to start each album side with songs that are like an invitation to the rest of the songs. And he usually liked to end album sides with his epic, drawn out story songs. He did that quite well here. Thunder Road is a great invitation to throw caution to the wind and see just what's waiting out there.

 

The album starts off with Roy Bittan's beautiful piano playing under Bruce's soulful harmonica on Thunder Road. Then the lyrics start. And what a story Bruce tells. All of the songs on the album are somewhat connected with the same recurring themes. Girls, cars, being on the road, the night, Americana at it's best.

 

But a lot of the songs have tragedy and/or fear interwoven through them. The characters are always looking for a better life but they're also not too disappointed with what they've got. Like in Thunder Road when he says, "You ain't a beauty but hey you're alright."

Bruce does a great job of singing for the common working man. Songs that we can all relate to.

 

You've got the story of friendship and betrayal in "Backstreets". Lovers on the run, taking chances in "Born To Run". The autobiographical forming of the band in "10th Avenue Freeze Out". The power and joy of "Night". The primal lust and energy of "She's The One". The gang war in the epic closer "Jungleland" - which also includes the best saxophone solo these ears have ever heard. The Big Man really wails away on this one. And Bruce himself wails away as the song fades out and the album comes to an end.

 

A true piece of art in my opinion.

 

So then of course I had to go back and buy his first two albums and was amazed to find so many great songs - usually involving plenty of wonderfully wacky characters. Rosalita especially stood out as an anthem type song. But there are a ton of hidden classics on those two albums :Blinded By the Light, Spirit in the Night, Lost in the Flood - and more -  all from his debut album. And then we get Sandy, Kitty's Back, Incident on 57th Street and Rosalita - among others - on his second album.

 

Then when Darkness On the Edge Of Town came out in '78 there was just no denying that this guy is something special. Great, bitter lyrics and some blistering guitar work.

Then came the double album The River and I was shocked that this guy just keeps getting better and better.Not to mention his amazing live shows. Sometimes they would approach 4 hours! Completely unheard of! Even today - as he approaches 60 - he still puts on shows of nearly 3 hours night after night after night.

 

So just when he's really starting to get noticed as this great rock and roller he surprises everyone with an acoustic album that he made all by himself at his house - Nebraska. I still remember very clearly a couple of my friends telling me, "Don't bother getting Bruce's latest album. It's all a bunch of slow crap."

Wow! What do they know? Of course I already owned the album and knew better.   Nebraska is another masterpiece!

You want to talk about stark? Here it is. Much of it was written with the point of view of Charles Starkweather – a mass murderer. And it is done quite well. Chilling even. Johnny 99 is definitely a song for the ages but really the whole album is.

 

Then came 1984 and the floodgates opened up. Born In the USA made Bruce Springsteen a household name. Even though the songs on this album were more pop oriented he still wrote from the perspective of the common man. Nobody else but Bob Dylan even comes close to singing for the everyday Joe like Bruce does. I can relate to just about every song he’s ever written!

Take the song Born in the USA. So many people mistook the song as a patriotic flag waver. Even Ronald Reagan wanted to claim it as such. When you listen to the lyrics you see that it really is representing the things that were wrong with America at the time. And there is plenty of despair throughout the album that gets overlooked because of the driving rock beat throughout the album.

 

Then in ’87 we get his most personal album – Tunnel Of Love. Bruce had recently married actress Julianne Phillips. Nearly all of Bruce’s fans could tell by the subject matter on this album that there was trouble in paradise. More than half of the songs involved self-doubt, betrayal, cheating – not exactly a happily married guy. Even though they denied there was anything wrong, WE knew!

Sure enough, less than 2 years later Bruce gets divorced and marries his backup singer Patti Scialfa. 20 years and 3 kids later I think he made the right choice.

 

I know that I’ve already gone on way too long and I doubt that there are any of you guys still reading this but I’m still 22 years away from the present. I’ll try to be quicker here at least.

In ’92 Bruce gave the E Street Band a break and put out a couple of albums with some “other guys” including American Idol’s Randy Jackson on bass guitar. Human Touch and Lucky Town contained a lot of excellent songs but they were missing that special chemistry that he had with the E Streeters.

Next came another solo acoustic masterpiece – The Ghost Of Tom Joad. It was inspired by a motorcycle trip Bruce took through the southwest with 3 friends and has some of his finest songwriting achievements to date.

 

Then they had the Reunion Tour with the E Street Band which was so great. Really wish they’d never separated. Then came The Rising in 2002 which still to this day stands as the best therapy for the 9/11 disaster. 15 amazing songs written with the gut wrenching knowledge that our world and our country were forever changed.

Then came three more albums in this decade – each one with its own merits.

Magic from 2007 is especially great. It’s amazing to me that he can still write such extraordinary songs in a way that touches so many people.

His album from this year – Working On a Dream was his first album that contained almost all “happy” songs. It really shows that he is pretty content with his life right now and actually can write about things besides cars, the night, faith, or girls.

 

OK I’m done. Sorry to ramble on so much. But believe me – THAT was the condensed version!





Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 12, 2009 4:26 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 12, 2009 4:09 pm
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Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 12, 2009 4:06 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Well I know that you are looking for people to disagree with you more Fans but I feel the same way about Paul Simon. Other than the Rhythm of the Saints I really only listen to the stuff he did with Garfunkel.
But that doesn't mean he is not one of my favorites. I love just about every Simon and Garfunkel song ever made. I just haven't really gotten into his solo career like I thought I would.



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 12, 2009 2:58 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

      
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sp;     &n
bsp;     &
nbsp;     
      
;     &nbs
p;     &nb
sp;     PAUL SIMON


I wish I were a bigger Paul Simon fan. Having said that, Paul Simon’s stature in rock and roll history is just too significant to ignore. He is one of a select few musicians top have a longer recording career that Bob Dylan. There is no arguing with Simon’s popularity. He sold more records as part of SIMON & GARFUNKEL in the late 60s than any other American artist.  Songs like THE BOXER, MRS. ROBINSON,THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE, CECILIA  and  BRIDGEOVER TROUBLED WATER are renown world over and reflect his diversity of styles. As a solo artist, Simon enjoyed just as much success and considerably more diversity. It’s hard to compare RHYMING SIMON with all it’s pop hooks and GRACELAND with all it’s African influences.  STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, written during Paul’s divorce from his first wife, remains one of the most introspective and significant records of the mid 70s. GRACELAND dared to go places where popular music had never been before, and while I don’t personally really “get” the record, I truly admire the chance he took straying so far away from the success of songs like SLIP SLIDING AWAY and KODACHROME. Simon continues to record the occasional album even to this day, though he certainly doesn’t  need to considering the legacy he has left behind. While most people would remember him for his catchy musical hooks, it is his talent as a lyricist that is most impressive and disappointing to me. Only a couple of rock’s best poets have written more words in their careers and his lyrics are truly poems. However, his insistence on making his songs true rhyming poems, Simon’s lyrics sometimes become nonsensical. This is a pretty small point to pick at, but if we are considering true greatness, you have to compare his lyrical skills with those of Dylan and Springsteen, both prolific poets who craft lengthy, wordy songs that tell image filled stories without losing a sense of reality or make you think “what does that mean??”  And while Simon is quite an accomplished guitarist, he lacks the soloing ability of songwriters like John Fogarty and Neil Young who have the ability to stretch a song out with their instrumental skills.

In conclusion, I have to admit that Paul Simon is too important and too good of a songwriter to ignore. His career includes amazing diversity, introspection, longevity and popular success and social influence. I can’t put him on my Mt. Rushmore, but I certainly have no problem sliding him into that 6-10 slot.




Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 12, 2009 2:57 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Thank you for your comments, RHINO. Nice to know I'm not doing all this writing for my own amusement. I'd still like to see someone refute some of the things I've written as I have tried to take a real stand on my views rather than writing bland vanilla reviews. I still have several more songwriters to ramble on about before I'll propose a vote or runopff of some kind, which will probably attract more people. I try to do an artist every day or two to give people time to digest and discuss individuals one at a time, though this hasn't happened as often as I'd hope. But enough complaining!!!  It is MY BLOG and my responsibility to make it's content desirable. So on we will trudge for a while in this current format. Thanks to all who have visited and hopefully enjoyed this little shop of horrors I've created here.


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