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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 If so, Bob Dylan is superceded by Woody Guthrie as he was a great influence on Dylan, the Beatles are superceded  by Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones are superceded by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, etc.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 17, 2009 6:47 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

      
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     ARE YOU READY FOR THE COUNTRY??


Well, I had great plans to write a little something about several of the outlaw country songwriters, but the more I read and researched, the more I began to feel like Don Henley when he sang

“the more I know, the less I understand.”

There are so many really great American country songwriters that I think they deserve a forum of their own. One of the most difficult things I ran into is that the best songwriters often give their songs to better singers to perform. The only real singer/songwriters that I know about are MERLE HAGGARD, HANK WILLIAMS, JR., JOHNNY CASH and WILLIE NELSON. And most of Willie’s best songs were really recorded and hits for other people.  KRIS KRISTOFFERSON and Merle Haggard are probably the most prolific and introspective country songwriters, but I must confess that I am completely ignorant of artists like GEORGE JONES, GEORGE STRAIT, and TOM T. HALL who enjoyed great popularity recorded a mixture of self penned and songs written by others. JERRY REED is another prolific songwriter who has had minimal recording success himself while writing some of country’s biggest hits. Given that I readily admit that I am in way over my head in this genre, I think I will stick to what I know best, mainstream rock and leave this for another blog at another time. For example, when looking at song of the year winners, grammy awards and country music academy awards, it appears to me that ROGER MILLER  is a more significant artist than WAYLON JENNINGS, a fact that I just can’t accept given Waylon’s effect on the whole OUTLAW COUNTRY music movement. So in the interest of not offending those of you who do know this genre of music and prefer it, I will amend my blog to

THE GREATEST AMERICAN ROCK & POP SONGWRITERS.




Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: August 17, 2009 2:39 pm
 

LUCINDA WILLIAMS

I had planned to be the first to write extensively about a female songwriter on this thread, but I got busy and Fans beat me to it.  Anyway, here goes:

Who always seems to be the first to appreciate a great songwriter?  Other great songwriters, of course!  One of my two favorite female songwriters(Carole King is the other), Lucinda Williams is no stranger to this pnenomenon.  Her sngs have been covered by at least 3 of the greatest songwriters around, all of who have already been profiled here:  Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Elvis Costello.  Costello, in fact, is a frequent collaborator; if you ever get a chance, watch the episode of COuntry Crossroads featuring Elvis and Lucinda.  It is a revelation.

The greatest thing about Lucinda is the range of emotions and subject matter that she tackles in her songs.  She can be tough, vulnerable, sweet, sarcastic or downright weepy as the song dictates.  She can write about suicide, marturbation, abusive relationships, death, or nostalgic childhood memories with equal success.  Her music typically contains elements of rock, country, blues and zydeco.  Lucinda's album, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, makes my All-Time Top 5 List, alongside albums by Warren Zevon and Elvis Costello.   It is also one of the 2 best Americana/Alt Country albums ever recorded(Son Volt's Trace is the other). 

Here's a starter list for Lucinda's music:

"Lake Charles"
"Metal Firecracker"
"Changed The Locks"
"Lafayette"
"Pineola"
"2 Kool 2 B Forgotten"
"Jackson"
"Lines Around Your Eyes"
"Joy"

Don't forget to come back and thank me when you discover just how great this lady is!



Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: August 17, 2009 11:00 am
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

I heard that he let the F-Bomb fly talking about Facebook.

Yeah, that's one of the reasons that I wasn't sure it was actually him...It was a pretty strange movie.  All the online reviews are misleading, but if your friends liked it then I suppose there's no reason you'll not like it...Idk I thought it was OK...Definitely not the best.

But anyways, JT is still a great songwriter...



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 16, 2009 11:18 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

I have not seen the movie yet MM but I have heard a lot of good things about it from my friends.

And yes that is JT himself who made the cameo appearance. I heard that he let the F-Bomb fly talking about Facebook.



Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: August 16, 2009 10:29 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Sigh.  Have to agree with you all again!  James Taylor is a great songwriter, although I am only familiar with his "best of" album.

Did anyone else see the new movie "Funny People"?  James Taylor was in the movie, although I'm not sure if it was actually him or not.  Does anyone know?



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 16, 2009 3:47 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Ahhhh, James Taylor.
Now there is someone who I never get tired of listening to. His smooth voice and sweet guitar playing - along with his tremendous songwriting - does indeed put him in my personal Top 10.

I've seen him in concert a few times and he is quite the entertainer. He has a great sense of humor - often self-depreciating. His voice always sounds even better live than on the record somehow.
Sweet Baby James and Fire and Rain are two of my favorites too. The tragedy in F&R is especially heartbreaking. I'm so glad that he was able to overcome his drug addiction - even if it did cause some problems in his personal life.
And I love that story in Sweet Baby James about the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston.
And the album "Dad Loves His Work" contains some amazingly personal songs. It really details a lot of the problems he and Carly were having at the time and it's too bad they couldn't reach some sort of compromise instead of divorcing.

A few other gems of his that I really enjoy are Mexico, Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, and his great duet with Mark Knopfler - Sailing To Philadelphia.

Great job again Fans!



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 16, 2009 2:01 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

      
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p;   JAMES TAYLOR


Regardless of your opinion of James Taylor, no discussion of great American songwriters can exclude him. His career continues to flourish to this day and started in the very late 60s spanning 40 years. His status as a member of several musical hall of fames and multiple grammys are as much a testament to his importance as his record sales are a testament to his popularity.

James Taylor may be the most personal and introspective songwriter in rock history. He has recorded a few throwaway songs like STEAMROLLER and TRAFFIC JAM, but even they tend to reflect personal experiences we can all relate to. It’s hard to get more personal than songs like FIRE AND RAIN, SWEET BABY JAMES, and CAROLINA IN MY MIND. Taylor doesn’t really fit into the typical niche I judge most rock songwriters by. Instead he has stuck to his acoustical roots and is probably closer to the folkies of the early 60s than to the electric rock of most of his contemporaries. He is quite a gifted guitar player, albeit in a classically trained finger picking style that loses its subtlety when transferred top the typical electric rock setup.  I guess I have to admire him for recognizing this and sticking to  what he does best rather than writing more mainstream pop songs. Hard to argue with his decision as he has sold more than 30 million records as well as recording some of the most memorable songs  in popular history. Taylor  has inspired many of the best songwriters of our generation to look inside themselves for inspiration and to believe in their ability to succeed with just a guitar and some vocal talent. Ironically, many of Taylor’s biggest hits later in his career were actually covers such as MOCKINGBIRD and HANDYMAN. Still, 90% of his recorded material is self penned excluding his last release COVERS. He tours continuously and remains a force in the music business.

I guess I have to sum up James Taylor as the preeminent soft rock artist, the type who others like Dan Folgelberg and Chris De Burgh try to emulate. I can’t quite put him into my top ten, though I also couldn’t argue with those who would. Personally, I rank him between 10 and 15, but I readily admit that I am probably doing him a discredit and he deserves a better ranking considering his strong debut and consistent quality throughout his long and distinguished career.




Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 15, 2009 7:08 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

POETZ!!!!    Nice to cross your path again. Wish you would come by more often as I've always enjoyed your posts. Leiber and Stoller are indeed GREAT songwriters from the pre-Beatle period, but they are a songwriting team. In this particular forum, we are discussing songwriters who work alone primarily.  We will get to best songwriting teams and they will be discussed in that blog.

As to Brian Holland, I am not personally familar enough with his works to write an intelligent post. From what I can tell, he also primarily wrote as a team with his brother and Lamont Dozier producing a high percentage of the songs that became the biggest hits from Motown. If he has some works of his own, please feel free to enlighten us about them. As it stands now, he would be a better fit in the blog I plan to do on songwriting collaboratoration teams.

Once again, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Please come back and share your opinions with us as I personally would like more diversity here than I am capable of myself. I hope to wrap this blog up by next weekend and move on to my next catagory.




Since: Feb 25, 2007
Posted on: August 15, 2009 3:42 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Should have put this in the previous post:  for pre-Beatle rock I would nominate Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.



Since: Feb 25, 2007
Posted on: August 15, 2009 3:40 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Seven pages and not one person has mentioned Brian Holland, both by himself and with his brother and Lamont Dozier; by popularity and quantity of songs recorded, he surpasses the wirters you listed in those areas.  To use a sports metaphor, I don't believe anyone so far mentioned can carry Brian Holland's jock.


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