Blog Entry

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 If so, Bob Dylan is superceded by Woody Guthrie as he was a great influence on Dylan, the Beatles are superceded  by Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones are superceded by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, etc.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: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 27, 2009 4:45 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Fans, one more thing about Neil Diamond, you've gotta give him some props for appearing in "Thye Last Waltz", if The Band wanted them in their swan song concert, that stands for something.  Either that or he had some dirt on Robbie Robertson...
MJ, Neil Diamond actually was Robbie Robertson's next door neighbor for the last few years before THE LAST WALTZ was filmed and you will find that Robertson has some producer credits on several of Neil Diamond's songs during this period.  I was always puzzled by his apearrance in the film and only just discovered this fact researching my post on Neil Diamond in the past couple of days.



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 27, 2009 4:26 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

      
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p; THE AWFUL TRUTH OF IGNORANCE

      
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  JERRY GARCIA


I asked SLUMPBUSTER to write this post and he responded to me with this very educational PM which I will post here and credit him with.

Hey fan,

Jerry wrote the lyrics and music to some of the early GD songs but the vast majority of the them were written by Robert Hunter, a friend of his he met at a coffee shop/bookstore in the early 60s. Hunter I think only performed live with the band once or twice Jerry's whole life and is mainly a poet/writer who Jerry would visit and Hunter would let him go through his works and Jerry would take what he liked and then mostly Jerry and the rest of GD would put it to music. It was the bands formula from about 1967 on and after Hunter and Weir had problems getting along Weir started working with an old college from Colorado John Barlow who like Hunter is a writer/poet and wrote many of the great songs that Hunter/Garcia didn't. Weir never developed songwriting skills and from what I read about him he didn't want to so Barlow working with him producing lyrics while Hunter/Garcia did there thing made the band what they are today with a deep catalog of great songs.

Robert Hunter was as the GD called him the bands, "Ace in the hole."

Bob Dylan was joined forces with Hunter even just recently.

“Hunter is an old buddy,” Dylan explains in our next cover story, which hits newsstands this week. Dylan and Hunter collaborated on 10 songs, all but one of the album’s tracks. “We could probably write a hundred songs together if we thought it was important or the right reasons were there,” Dylan tells Rolling Stone . “He’s got a way with words and I do too. We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.”

Gotta say that without Hunter the band would of stayed a lot more bluesy and would of never reached the fame it has now.

Gotta pass on writing about Jerry since it was a team effort in the GD and he was mostly a great guitarist and live improvising master making no song sound the same twice it seems after 30 years of live shows. 
I hope that I have not offended nor violated SLUMP by doing this, but I found this to be so educational and that I was so mistaken about Jerry Garcia as I am only a casual follower of the DEAD that I couldn't resist using it. If SLUMP requests, I will remove this, so it is here today and may be gone tomorrow, though I hope not as it is a wonderfully written post and I mean that as the greatest praise to
SLUMP for telling the truth about his favorite band.



Since: Oct 15, 2007
Posted on: August 27, 2009 4:24 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Fans, one more thing about Neil Diamond, you've gotta give him some props for appearing in "Thye Last Waltz", if The Band wanted them in their swan song concert, that stands for something.  Either that or he had some dirt on Robbie Robertson...



Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: August 27, 2009 12:12 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Hi Fans. Great stuff as always. Gordon Lightfoot had that voice reminiscent of someone the Baby Boomers like me grew up - Burl Ives. And maybe a dash of Roger Whittaker too.

Here's a guy who certainly is no balladeer by any means, but I thought of him because he certainly had a lot of hits in the 60s and 70s - Bob Gaudio, a member of the Four Seasons who wrote and co-wrote practically all their hits. His music is certainly front and center since the huge success of the musical Jersey Boys.
He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995, and has done a lot of writing and production work for Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Barry Manilow, and yes, even the original Jersey Boy himself - Frank Sinatra.  



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 27, 2009 6:50 am
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Fans,
That's what is so great about this blog. You are touching on all genres here - not just your favorites. And you are obviously very well versed in a wide range of styles.
I enjoy Gordon Lightfoot quite a bit. His songs are always such feel-good ditties....well maybe not Edmund Fitzgerald. But his voice is so soothing he always puts a smile on my face.
I never fully got on board with either Diamond or Bacharach but they definitely deserve all the respect they get as great songwriters. And I don'tusually hit the button either when one of their songs come on.



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 26, 2009 9:34 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

      
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nbsp;     THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE BALLADEER’S BUTTON


This is about a trio of songwriters who were so dominant on the AM airwaves in the late 60s and early 70s with ballads that I detested at the time that I would reach for the button to change stations after the first few notes of one of their songs. But each has a lengthy legacy spanning to the present, a faithful following and millions of records sold.

      
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sp;    GORDON LIGHTFOOT

The least offensive balladeer of this bunch was everywhere on the AM stations in the early 70s with songs like IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND, SUNDOWN, THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD and CAREFREE HIGHWAY among others. Like Neil Young, he is actually Canadian, but that is why I call this GREATEST NORTH AMERICAN SONGWRITERS. In retrospect, I have come to admire many of his songs and he is still active today having released his 20th album in the last year. He also co-produced most of these albums choosing understated acoustic instrumental accompaniment to his story songs. And he is quite the story teller with songs full of images or peering into his own inner feelings and striking a chord within anybody listening who has felt the same way. One of my favorite lines of his is

I'd walk away like a movie star
Who gets burned in a three way script
Enter number two


This line really resonates with a teenager who knows he will never get the girl of his dreams who prefers the football star.  Ah, but if only I knew then what I know now. Anyway, not really a rock star or a particularly great influence on future artists, Lightfoot deserves some respect for his touching songs, the quantity of songs he has written, almost everyone on his 20 albums, and for his significant success at a time when rockers like Aerosmith and Grand Funk Railroad were trying to push him off the airwaves.

      
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nbsp;  NEIL DIAMOND


What to do with Neil Diamond??   He has sold over 115 million records, which puts him at #3 among billboards popular artist all time. He started out as a serious songwriter and may have had more songs covered by other artists than any one else in history. He was responsible for several of the Monkees hit songs in 67-68 including STEPPING-STONE and I’M A BELIEVER. He had hits of his own like KENTUCKY WOMAN, SOLITARY MAN and CHERRY, CHERRY which were all covered by other artists(I have an album with DEEP PURPLE’S version of Kentucky Woman!!)  All of this before he really hit it big with I AM, I SAID and the album, HOT AUGUST NIGHT. Diamond has gone on to unparallel success in movies, as a Las Vegas act, with tv specials and albums that still are certified platinum the day they are released, including his latest HOT AUGUST NIGHT/NYC released last week. I was a real Neil Diamond fan when he was making those first hits and struggling to find his way, but his turn towards show biz and songs like YOU DON’T BRING ME FLOWERS have really changed how I feel about him. Still, I can’t deny the man’s success and the sheer quantity of songs he has written for himself and others.

      
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nbsp;    BURT BACHARACH

While not technically a recording artist himself except as an instrumentalist, there is no denying that Bacharach is one of the most successful and prolific songwriters of  the last fifty plus years. He has written songs that became huge hits for Marty Robbins, Perry Como and the Drifters before teaming with one of the Drifters backup singers, a girl now know as Dionne Warwick. While Bacharach collaborated frequently with Hal David and others in writing songs, his constant presence and recognizable style forces me to address him in this genre as a solo songwriter. With Warwick’s smooth voice as a vehicle for his smooth tunes, Bacharach’s songs dominated the airwaves in the late 60s. DO YO KNOW THE WAY TO SAN JOSE, WALK ON BY, and I’LL NEVER FALL IN LOVE AGAIN are among the most notable of the fifteen top 40 songs Warwick recorded for him in 8 years. He also wrote the soundtrack for the movie BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID giving B.J. Thomas a number 1 hit with RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD. He is also responsible for writing the Carpenters biggest hit, CLOSE TO YOU. By 1971, Bacharach had divorced his second wife, Angie Dickenson(!!!!!!!) and split with Hal David as well. He released several solo albums of his own material, but never reached commercial success as a performer. After ten tears of near obscurity, he met and eventually married Carole Bayer Sager who he would write the hit ARTHUR’S THEME from the Dudley Moore movie. They also wrote HEARTLIGHT, which would ironically become a huge hit for Neil Diamond. He followed this with THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR recorded by Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Warwick. Later he wrote ON MY OWN, a duet hit for Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald. Although he divorced Sager in 1991, he has continued to compose releasing an album in 2006 and working with Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright.  While I personally detest most of his work, there no accounting for taste and his contributions over the last fifty years to adult contemporary and movie soundtracks is too significant to dismiss as fluff.


IN CONCLUSION:   This is a category of popular music that I personally tend to dismiss because it just doesn’t rock my world.  But I would be foolish to think that that diminishes the talent of balladeers and their place in musical history. None of these three, and they are merely three examples of many others from this genre who achieved substantial success, are going to get any votes from me for Greatest American Songwriters, but collectively and individually, they have enough loyal fans that they may find a place despite my personal feelings.







Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 26, 2009 9:30 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 26, 2009 12:09 am
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Fans,
Once again, you have outdone yourself.
I especially enjoyed your points about Roy Orbison.
He does have the one voice who will probabl;y never be matched.
Many can try but he is The Master!

And I love your ideas for the next several categories. We have a lot of contributors here so hopefully we'll get plenty of points of view.
I do hope that MJ can find the time to do a Dylan review. He is our resident expert on Bob and I think it would be very insightful to hear what mj has to say.

I love that Bruce Storytellers episode. I've seen it several times now.
I would have given ANYthing to be in that small gathering of people lucky enough to watch the show.
And to be able to ask him a question would have been incredible!
I like that story he tells about being at a strip club - trying to maintain the image that he has.



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 25, 2009 7:48 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

I made myself do one of my listening experiments over the last couple of days that I think is interesting in the context of this blog. I rewatched the STORYTELLERS episode of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN from 2005. Bruce is very elloquent and quite amusing talking about his songwriting style and how he arrives at a finished product. He accompanied himself with just an acoustic guitar and had his wife, Patti join him for only one song, a beautiful rendition of BRILLIANT DISGUISE.  Bruce's show was full of insight and an aural pleasure that made me feel puny with my own attempts to play music and write songs.  I then immediately watched CLASSIC ALBUMS on VH1, the episode about the DURAN DURAN album RIO. Listening to the Taylors and the producers of the album among others talk about making the album(which is far from what I consider a classic album) immediately after watching and listening to Springsteen explaining and demonstating was akin to talking about the general theory of relativity with your fifth grade science teacher immediately after talking directly to Albert Einstein.  One is a genius savant, the other is just educated enough to recite what somebody else taught them. That is the mark of a great artist to me, the ability to take something inside of them and express it in a unique way that is innate to them personally rather than just employing techniques they've been taught. Nobody taught Einstein the theory of relativity just as no one taught Springsteen how to write songs.  That is pure genius that is totally different and virtual duplicates at the same time.



Since: Apr 6, 2009
Posted on: August 25, 2009 7:41 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

This as you said is a very ambitious project but sounds like a great undertaking.Your plans sound interesting and i look forward to participating,although I think my music tastes pretty much stop somewhere in the 70's.


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