You got some time? Good, pull up a chair.
In my younger days, I fancied myself a songwriter. 🎵 I even imagined making a living at it, until I realized just how tough a profession it is in which to succeed. I’ve never been the kind to take rejection well, and there’s a lot of that in the music business.
Besides, I can be more critical of my work than anyone else can. Many times, I wrote something thinking it was pretty decent, only to later dismiss it as utter garbage. I still go through that sometimes with this darned blog, actually.
And, if I’m being totally honest, I just wasn’t willing to work that hard at it. It’s a character flaw of mine.
But I’ve always appreciated a well written song, and there are plenty of lyricists and composers I greatly admire. They are master craftsmen, (is craftswomen a word?) experts in creating a story or an image that moves me in some way. 🎶
In my life, I’ve heard plenty of songs I enjoy, and a great many I love and want to hear again and again.
And once in a while, I hear one that’s just so beautiful and powerful, I’m left sitting there with my jaw hanging down, thinking to myself…
I wish I’d written that.
Not for monetary reasons, though that would certainly be nice. But for the satisfaction that comes from creating something so brilliant. To take a poem, a melody and a rhythm, and assemble all those pieces so they fit together as a perfect work of art, must feel indescribable. I’ve known just a hint of that feeling, and it’s pretty cool, I admit.
Here are some songs that got a wow out of me when I first heard them, listed with their writers:
I Can’t Make You Love Me/Allen Shamblin and Michael Reed. First time I heard Bonnie Raitt sing this, I knew it was something extraordinary. Nobody does heartache better than Bonnie, anyway, and this song rises to her level. Props also to Bruce Hornsby for his just right piano accompaniment. The whole thing is flawless, and the best set of lyrics I’ve heard in ages.
Say Something/Chad Vaccarino and Ian Axel. Absolutely devastated when I heard this piece by the group A Great Big World, made up of Vaccarino and Axel. It hooks you right at the outset, with the opening line, “Say something, I’m giving up on you.” The words and the melody, piano and vocals, all combine into a stunning and unforgettable piece of work.
Ticking/Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Elton ends his Caribou album with this compelling drama of a young man who comes unhinged, and the horrifying consequences. Some of Bernie’s very best lyrics; a story of mass murder, written in 1974, that has only become all too familiar in our time.
Make You Feel My Love/Bob Dylan. Dylan, as we all know, is a Nobel Prize winning songwriter, and his work includes many great pieces, but this one in particular resonated with me. Obviously he has more complex material in his oeuvre, but the simplicity of this song makes it more approachable. The first time I heard it was a performance by Billy Joel, and I like his voice better, so that probably made it more appealing to me, too.
(According to some, this song was written from the point of view of Jesus, impressing upon all us sinners the totality of His love for us.)
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant/Billy Joel. Speaking of Mr. Joel, I’m a longtime fan of his songwriting. This track, from his The Stranger album, is a wonderful little vignette of two old friends catching up and reminiscing. You can see these characters in your mind, and the music moves the story along perfectly.
Nether Lands/Dan Fogelberg. I’d never heard the late Dan Fogelberg before I listened to his album, Nether Lands in 1978 or ’79. But from the opening notes of the majestic title track, he had me. Dan was, to me, a true poet, a skilled wordsmith, as well as an extraordinary composer. I’ll always remember how awed I was listening to this beautiful piece.
You Say/Lauren Daigle, Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury. “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough”, goes the opening line of Lauren Daigle’s powerful reaffirmation of her identity as a child of God. This song, delivered by Lauren’s amazing vocals, became a hit on both the pop and contemporary Christian charts with its universal message, “The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me.”
Tonight/Elton John and Bernie Taupin. From Elton’s Blue Moves album, the sound of a marriage gone sour. You can hear the weary resignation, yet a still barely burning ember of hope, in the earnest plea of the protagonist for just one night of truce. One of Elton’s most classical compositions, along with James Newton-Howard’s orchestration, gives us this splendid work.
Of course, there are so many other great songs by so many other great artists, more than I could name here, and more from around the world I don’t even know about, and they all have my sincere respect and admiration. Not just because they write songs, but because they write them so well, and so consistently, then share them with the rest of us lucky folks.
So we listen, we laugh, we cry, we think, we feel, we remember, we dance, and we sing along. 🎶
And how much richer are our lives for that?
Now, tell me: have you ever heard a song that just stopped you in your tracks, made you catch your breath and say Wow?
I’d love to hear it.