Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

More on lyric tips for songwriters

Wow, I got some great comments on my last post about writing lyrics. Before going on to writing music, I'd like to post on my commenters' thoughts about lyrics.

Leigh Ann, you ask about my favorite song lyrics and songwriters:

There are so many truly great songs now... I can't think of all but some of my favorite best written lyrics, in no particular order, are for the songs:
  • Amazing Grace (written by John Newton, sung by everybody)

  • I Can't Make You Love Me (written by Mike Reid/Allen Shamblin, sung by Bonnie Raitt)

  • She Is His Only Need (Written by Dave Loggins, sung by Wynonna)

  • Fire and Rain (James Taylor)

  • I Can Only Imagine (written & sung by MercyMe)

  • God Bless The Broken Road (sritten by Marcus Hummon, Jeff Hannah and someone else, I think, sung by Rascal Flatts)

  • I Will Always Love You (written and sung by Dolly Parton)

  • Hurt (written by Linda Perry, sung by Christina Aguilera)

  • Hurt (written by Trent Renzor, sung by 9 Inch Nails and Johnny Cash)

  • Chiseled In Stone (sung by Vern Gosdin, written by Max T. Barnes/Vern Gosdin)

  • Memorial Stones (written and sung by Mat Kearney)

  • You Can't Always Get What You Want (But You Get What You Need) (The Stones)

  • Undeniable (written and sung by Mat Kearney)

  • Respect (written by Otis Redding, sung by Aretha Franklin)

  • Fields of Gold (written and sung by Sting)

  • I'm Not Supposed to Love You Anymore (written by Skip Ewing and Eddie Keys, sung by Bryan White)

  • On A Bus To Cloud 9 (written, as Leigh Ann noted, by Gretchen Peters, sung by Trisha Yearwood)

  • Your Cheating Heart (written and sung by the great Hank Williams, Sr.)

And yes, I like Simon & Garfunkle (master songwriters), Amy Grant too... much of her songwriting is great, but she cuts those mindless pop ditties probably because somebody tells her she needs to have some commercial songs for the radio. It's unfortunately the business of being a megastar.

Some of my favorite songwriters happen to be all the writers I listed who wrote the above songs. I am also a big fan of Nancy Griffith. Bob Dylan, it goes w/o saying. And Bruce Springstein.

Billy, you had some great points... here are my thoughts:

Yes, I agree that its best to get a "hook line" that is memorable. It is important that this line be unique, and powerful enough to catch the attention of the mind. A songwriter does indeed do well to look for "hooks" and central song ideas in the lives of those around him or her. Many hit songs have been inspired by the offhand comment of a stranger.

But it's also important to be keenly observant, so as not to write a superficial lyric. I, for instance, find it hard to write a male lyric. I have done it, but usually need a male co-writer. My mind thinks like a girl. Some writers are better at "getting into other peoples' skin". Dave Loggins comes to mind. I think he could write like a Martian if he had ever met one!

Though it can be a jumping-off point to write, I don't think it's important to have the final title of the song until it's written, because I've frequently had the song I was writing take a different direction than I thought, and a better title made itself known. Sometimes what I thought was going to be the title just ended up being an important line (sometimes the first line).

Come to think of it, I may do a post listing some jumping off triggers for songwriting. Whatdya think? I am always grateful for your comments!



  • At February 18, 2008 at 11:00 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Good tips. Thats why I always have something with me, be it my phone or a pad and pen to write down the little one liners and anecdotes that spark interest. I figure if they spark interest in me, they'll do the same to the listener.

  • At February 18, 2008 at 3:11 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Yes, actually that's a great touchstone to hit... if a song idea or phrase really interests you, it will interest someone else. And I say go for the emotional response, not just the cerebrial one. Thanks for commenting, Santino!

  • At May 24, 2008 at 8:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I agree. I always carry pen and paper with me, as I write a lot of poetry. But as for the "hook line" in a song, a song sung by Garth Brooks and written by Victoria Shaw I believe is the song "The River." The 'hook line' for me was "choose to chance the rapids, dare to dance the tide.' A song by one of my other favorite artists Chasrly McClain called "A Matter Of Time" written by D. Duncan the line was "feed me love in a flowered rhyme," I thought what a clever way of saying a 'poem.'


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