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 If so, Bob Dylan is superceded by Woody Guthrie as he was a great influence on Dylan, the Beatles are superceded  by Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones are superceded by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, etc.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: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2009 10:29 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

His concert presence was quite impressive, but you see, I wasn't very familiar with Steve Miller prior to it.  Of course I had heard most of his hits on the radio before, but I didn't really know who they were by and stuff.  Since then I have acquired CD's of these hits and familiarized myself.  So possibly that is why my judgement was not clouded...




Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2009 6:49 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

LANDSHARK, nice to seenew blood here.    Billy Joel has been dissected a few pages back.  You and Norman come back anytime and sit a spell.

MUFFIN, I'm glad you agree about Steve Miller's lyrics. I was afraid that his concert prescence, which is impressive, would cloud your judgement. I guess my biggest griipe with him is that he obviously spends a lot of time crafting these great melodies and effects, which in the 70s all had to be done live or with tape loops which are both rather difficult, and then can't find time to write three good verses in the same song. Thanks for all your visits and contributions. And KEEP ON ROCKING ME BABY.



Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2009 6:12 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

I haven't gone through all the comments but I'm sure Billy Joel has been mentioned.  As far as Jimmy
Buffett the "calypso" thing is what sets him apert from all others.  It's time to go home Norman.



Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2009 6:03 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Steve Miller lyrics are pretty strange.  I'm sure there is a message, but it's nothing us humans can ever get our head around...Innocent  I'm a midnight toker, indeed!



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2009 3:42 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

      
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p;     THE LUNATIC FRINGE


This is about talented songwriters who were just a little too eclectic or sporadic in their songwriting to make my top ten.

      
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;   LEON RUSSELL


Many of you are well aware of just how much I personally like Leon Russell. Still, even with having said that, I can’t deny that outside of his relatively brief recording success, Leon has been his own worst enemy. As great as his best songs are, such as DELTA LADY, PRINCE OF PEACE, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, A SONG FOR YOU, & TIGHTROPE, Leon would allow his own excesses get in the way on songs like TRYING TO STAY LIVE and LADY BLUE. Leon was at his best and worst when he was being edgy. I think he is the best piano player in rock and roll and he was a significant songwriter and arranger for Phil Spector in the 60s. But his latter career recordings have mostly been country covers recorded as HANK WILSON and they range wildly in quality. When Leon was at his best, he wrote as well as anybody and recorded with the premier musicians in the English music scene in the early 70s. When he was at his worst, I wish he would just go BACK TO THE ISLAND.

      
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;     STEVE MILLER


Steve Miller is THE WORST LYRICIST ever to be considered a great songwriter. He is an immensely talented guitarist and made sounds with synthesizers that computers can bare replicate today. But if you really listen to his songs which are lade with marvelous guitar hooks and smooth singing, you find that the lyrics have no substance. Several of his songs resort to just repeating the verse the same way you would treat a chorus(ROCKING ME BABY, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN.) And if you can find some actual meaning when listening to JUNGLE LOVE, please explain it to me. JET AIRLINER, DANCE DANCE DANCE, THE JOKER, what message are in these songs??    Now I love listening to every one of the songs I just named, but they have no introspection or social significance. Some are downright nonsensical. REALLY LOVE YOUR PEACHES, WANT TO SHAKE YOUR TREE!!!!!    In a perfect world, I would introduce Steve Miller to Don Henley, a true wordsmith who can’t write a decent melody without a collaborator. As scathing as this sounds, I wouldn’t even be discussing Steve Miller if I didn’t find his music irresistible or I didn’t think he was a significant influence on rock and roll. Unfortunately, he was born the SPACE COWBOY and never really grew up.

      
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p;      JIMMY BUFFET


I would rate Jimmy Buffet much higher if we could just eliminate that calypso streak he has in him. He is capable of writing novelty songs(PENCIL THIN MUSTACHE),  introspective songs(A PIRATE LOOKS BACK AT 40), road songs(COME MONDAY) and nonsensical rockers like FIN and CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE. Again, as much as I’m complaining, I’m not insulting Buffet. He has longevity to his career, variety in his style of songs, personal revelations and a willingness to expose himself in his lyrics. Still, I just can’t take him seriously enough to elevate him into top ten status. I really like many of his songs, his obvious love of the sea (SON OF A SON OF A SAILOR), his ability to not take himself too seriously(MAGARITAVILLE), and his ability to make a joke(WHY DON’T WE GET DRUNK AND….)
But extended listening tends to make all his songs run together and he doesn’t have the legacy of provided a prolific number of songs for others to record. To the contrary, he seems to be constrained by his own sense of style and choice of settings. Still, there’s not many things better that sitting on the porch with your feet propped up listening to

Nibblin' on sponge cake
Watchin' the sun bake
All of those tourists covered with oil
Strummin' my six-string
On my front porch swing
Smell of shrimp dip beginnin' to boil





Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2009 1:58 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Thanks for the contributions, fellows.  

CLEAN, excellent call on Buddy Holly, who I confess I had overlooked. going to do a post on short lived artists like Jimi Hendrix, Harry Chapin and Jim Croce who were great songwriters but their legacy was both enhanced and stopped by their untimely deaths. Buddy Hoplly is probably the most influential person to belong in that group and I was going to skip him completely. Thanks for alerting me CLEAN>

ROCK, once again your post is as educational as it is interesting. You are the master of championing great songwriters who work under the radar for the most part. If you have the time(and I know as well as anybody how long it takes to write these things), Kris Kristofferson is someone you have mentioned previously that really deserves some discussion, but I am just not qualified to expound on his massive vault of songs.

RHINO, as always, thanks for your encouragement and kind words. There have been a couple of periods where I almost let this die because I felt like I was the only one reading them. Nice to have such company whose opinions I respect so much as yours and the others I addressed in this post(actually, I mean that for everyone who has visited so don't anyone feel snubbed.)



Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: August 18, 2009 8:16 am
 

JOHNNY HORTON

I'll take you up on your country music challenge, Fans, but I'm gonna choose a songwriter you may not have thought of.  I know many of you are familiar with Johnny Horton's work, because his songs routinely show up on the lyric threads.  One of my earliest musical memories is listening to old country LPs with my Aunt Lucille.  Aunt Lucille was the person responsible for introducing me to country music at a very early age and probably for creating such a love of music in general.

Her favorite singer was Charley Pride, but Johnny Horton was another favorite of hers and the one that really grabbed my attention as a child.  I have always loved songs that told a story, songs that had something to teach us; love songs and blues songs bemoaning the fact that "my baby done left me" can be works of art on their own merit, but there's something about a great story-song that always grabbed my full attention.  Some of these songs have burrowed their way so deep into my soul that I can sing them word for word today, some 40 years later.

Put quite simply, Johnny Horton wrote and told historical songs better than any other songwriter I've ever come across(Sorry, Bob!).  I learned more about World War II, George Custer, Jim Bridger and the Alaskan Gold Rush from Johnny Horton than I ever learned in school.  His songs were catchy, accessible and easy to follow, but were intelligently and thoughtfully written. He didn't mind using humor to tell his stories, either, as you can see in "The Battle Of New Orleans".

Other Johnny Horton songs to check out:

"North To Alaska"
"Commanche, The Brave Horse"
"Sink The Bismarck"
"When It's Springtime In Alaska"
"I'm A One Woman Man"
"Honky Tonk Man"
"Whispering Pines"
"Jim Bridger"



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 17, 2009 11:26 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Rock,
Thankfully my older sister burned a coyuple of Lucinda Williams CDs several years ago for me and I have been enjoying her ever since.
I bought her latest CD - Little Honey and it's really great! I especially like the song Honey Bee. It's so different that I can't describe it - you guys need to check it out yourselves.
I also like the duet she does with Elvis Costello and the cover of the SC/DC song "Long Way To the Top".

Clean,
Thank you for bringing up Buddy Holly. Not only was he an awesome songwriter but he had that wonderful quirky style that made his songs stand out as his own. A real tragedy that his career was cut way short on the Day the Music died.

Fans,
Even though my Mom had the country music playing during my entire childhood I also do not feel qualified to expound on the virtues of all of those country songwriters.
Someone who wants to probably should do it right here on this blog since we all know where this one is.
Great blog!!



Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: August 17, 2009 8:23 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Here's one I'm surprised didn't get mentioned yet - Buddy Holly. I mean, think of those iconic songs like Not Fade Away, Well Alright, It Doesn't Matter Anymore, Oh Boy, Peggy Sue, Raining in My Heart, Maybe Baby, Peggy Sue, Words of Love, Every Day.

With all due respect to the King, just about all of his hits were covers. Holly was the anti-Elvis, kind of nerdish and shy, and how many more songs were lost when he went down in the plane crashi 



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 17, 2009 6:51 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

ROCK, thank you for your post on LUCINDA WILLIAMS.  How appropriate that you would write an intelligent post on a predominantly country artist just as  I was bemoaning my own inability to do so. I'm sure that you could be much more expansive on many of the great songwriters I mentioned in my last post(you've already made a good case for MERLE HAGGARD), but I'm not sure that this subject isn't so expansive as to deserve its own forum. But if you want to take the time to make a case for any country songwriters,. please do.  And thanks again for your insightful contribution.


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