Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dylan on a Sunday

I try to write songs. I have lots of half written songs. For most of them I have a melody, a chorus, even a bridge. I even know what they’re about. They’re not finished because I can’t find the lyrics. It’s not that I can’t find words that make sense or match the rhythm, etc. They’re just not good enough.

Mostly, I’m afraid of the trite, or worse, the cliché. Why write a song if its been said before, oversaid, and will be said again? But then I listen to some of my favorite songs and they’re full of clichés. In Brandi Carlile’s, The Story, she sings, “even though I was flat broke you made me feel like a million bucks.” Ugh. What a horrible lyric. But I love that song. And so I think I’m too hard on myself. Just finish the stupid song. It’s not like anyone’s ever going to hear them anyway.

Then I listen to Dylan. And his lyrics are sometimes obscure and non-sensical, but they’re never anything you’ve heard before. And often, they’re jarring, creating brand new images, fulfilling the true power of metaphor.

I just heard Standing in the Doorway, not one of my favorites, but some great lyrics. For instance...

Don't know if I saw you, if I would kiss you or kill you
It probably wouldn't matter to you anyhow
You left me standing in the doorway, crying
I got nothing to go back to now

The light in this place is so bad
Making me sick in the head
All the laughter is just making me sad
The stars have turned cherry red
I'm strumming on my gay guitar
Smoking a cheap cigar
The ghost of our old love has not gone away
Don't look like it will anytime soon
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Under the midnight moon

So, Dylan makes me a purist. It's worth straining for just the right combination of words, even if it means many of my songs lie around half finished. Some things just need to be perfect, and some things are.


Lisa Gonzales-Barnes said...

Think of song writing as a spiritual practice and finish just one. You'll feel great.

Mark Love said...


I've finished more than a few, and it is quite satisfying. When I sign my music contract, then I'll just throw them together. Commerce always trumps art, and, therefore spirituality.