Updated: Dec 19, 2022
It’s the composer’s hand which turns notes to melody. The succession of sounds forming a tune.
But it’s the addition of lyrics which turns tune to song.
Meaning if you pull up to a red light next to this Tik Tok creator, she won’t be humming Mozart!
What He Said
In 1991 guitarist and songwriter Eric Clapton penned Tears in Heaven after discovering his four-year-old son Conor had fallen from an opened window in the musicians 53rd-floor New York City apartment. The lyrics “Would you know my name” questioning whether his young son had even lived long enough to commit his father to memory.
But it’s the lyric, “Time can bend your knee” which added a visual dimension to the song. An image of a father, forced to kneel before that window, and the reality of that dreadful loss.
With the average song running just three-minutes and 30-seconds, more than half of which is likely spent of instrumental riffs and other non-singing components, the great lyricists select words which infuse multiple levels of meanings, which allow for deep understandings from a paucity of verbiage.
In Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence, the opening lyric, “Hello darkness my old friend” is so efficient writer Paul Simon needed just five-words to represent the color of his despair. The salutation going further though, exposing Simon's intimate relationship with his inner murk.
THE master of the lyric in the rock and roll era is former Beatle Paul McCartney. McCartney’s ballads Hey Jude, Yesterday and Let it Be, are known for their wise, loving and compassionate lyrics. The trio of songs are the Holy Trinity of rock's greatest repertoire.
But a scan of his hits won’t help you find Sir Paul’s greatest lyric; THE words laying buried in the final second of THE band’s final album, Abbey Road.
In The End, Paul says little. The paucity of lyrics allowing the Beatles to show guitar and drum skills for most of the song which goes a diminutive 2:22.
But in the words he does use, McCartney distills love down to a mathematical equation a fourth-grader could understand.
I see Christmas and New Year’s falling on Sunday’s as a sign that fate (and Dan Calkins!) had heard enough from me this year, so I'll be back in two-weeks!
To everyone who finds comfort, humor or wisdom in my words, and all my friends in the independent retailer channel, have a safe and peaceful holiday season–Mark