Who gets the Trophy for Best Lyrics?

The other day a Facebook friend asked folks to share their favorite music lyric. The question put me into a mind coma. I wanted to play. I wanted to include a few lines from the collection of words set to music which reside in my brain. For far longer than I will admit, I sat, staring out the window, and tried to cull out what I was going to contribute to the quickly-growing list. Looking at the other entries, I saw songwriters I loved and lyrics I knew. I thought to myself, “Obviously. That one didn’t take any thought.” My internal comment was less of critique of the inventiveness of the participant in the survey and more of a way to justify having wasted close to an hour (at that point) attempting to find inspiration in the trees on the other side of the picture window in my writing space.

I ended not not participating, explaining my absence from the online game to not being able to come up with something quickly enough. (I think after an hour  and a half, most would agree surrender appropriate.)

But that wasn’t the real reason.

I couldn’t come up with my favorite because there are too many. When I recognized this, in the face of picking out “the best,” I was initially angry, that morphed into explainable jealously.

How is it possible to tell a whole story in four or five hundred words where the characters are presented, the crisis is laid out, the struggle emerges, and the conclusions are drawn? How is this possible?

I’m not referring to songs which appeal to the commercial masses. I found a study where Andrew Powell-Morse took a look at the last ten years of pop, r&b, country, and rock hits and analyzed their “intelligence.” His results on how the popular artists of the last decade have become either dumber or believe their audience needs simplicity can be found here.

When I think of great lyricists, I think of Paul Simon, Adam Duritz, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel, Diamond/Yauch/Horovitz, Chrissie Hynde, John Lennon.

These folks tell stories. How they manage to describe time, place, and action with such detail and with so few words is quite amazing.

There have been lot of times when I hear a song and think, “This would make a great book.” I like the idea of changing several hundred song words into a 100K-word novel. But I could never go the other way. I could never reduce the time, place, and action of a full-length novel into compact lyrics. No way. Several of the upcoming writing contests are for short stories of 1,500 — even 1,000 — words or fewer. I’ve decided to stick with the longer ones, i.e., 3K-12K, for were I to be tasked in creating something of value and interest in so few words, I’d be taking many ninety-minute thought-vacations looking out my window for help which isn’t coming.

My favorite lyrics?

Today, I’ll nominate “Home” by Sheryl Crow.

Product Details




16 thoughts on “Who gets the Trophy for Best Lyrics?

  1. I agree with your list of musical storytellers. For my own list, I’d probably add U2, The Cure, and David Gray. I also could spend a good 90 minutes trying to pick out the best lyrics, but I won’t. They’re all great.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Because there are so many to choose from, and because some of my favorite music is classical where the instruments have voices to tell the story, I’m going to submit two lyrics from two different songs which are expressly meaningful to me since becoming a mom:

    One eskimO “Amazing”, specifically:

    I’ve wanted this for so long
    Now the deed has been done
    We shall rise with the sun
    And spend our time as one

    This song played as we drove home from Cedar-Sinai with each of our three daughters after their births. It also played at Zo’s memorial.

    And, of course, Grateful Dead “Ripple”, specifically:

    There is a road, no simple highway
    Between the dawn and the dark of night
    And if you go no one may follow
    That path is for your steps alone

    This song also played at Zo’s memorial.

    And now tears are streaking my cheeks. Music is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting and ironic that this was your post today. As I was getting out of the car this morning, “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow was on and it made me recall how an old boyfriend was kind of blown away by “the bartender looked up from his want ads.” I recall him saying that so much was contained in just eight words.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Being from a different generation from most your respondents, my choices are from another era. I mentioned to you, My Funny Valentine. Moon River and My Way (sung by Sinatra) say so very much with simple words.
    People who can create beautiful music, and those who are touched by it, are very fortunate.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally agree on not being able to pick one single artist. Cohen comes to mind I guess. I was initially irritated too. Perhaps we are more open than those that put one individual up on a pedestal, that nobody will touch with their lyrics. I know I am always open to new artists and one of the benefits of not having that pedestal lyricist, is “I might like something in the future a little bit more.” I really like Hayes Carll. As far as music goes, I really really don’t like most country. I guess he is country, but he goes across genres, I think. I like Asaf Avidan, too. For another fairly recent artist. He’s depressing as hell, lol. I agree with Paul Simon. I like his newer stuff, too. All I know is Graceland and the Afterlife, but I really like both. And “Me and Julio.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. :). Josh Rouse has a song called “I will live on islands.” First time I heard it, I was about 100% sure it was Paul Simon. I was still wrong, though. I guess “about” counts for a lot. He sounds a lot like him in a lot of songs. That’s a great song, too. It sounds so happy, but it’s not. It’s a song you could listen to with someone and tell if that person pays attention to lyrics. It’s not difficult to understand. Could get lost in happy land if you don’t listen. I will listen to “Home.” Thanks for the recommendation.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve always thought Sheryl Crow to be wise in her lyric “it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”. I also recently heard “Be Still” by The Fray during a yoga class. Gives me chills. “Be still and know I Am”

    Naming a favorite seems so final. I can’t commit to that! These are just a couple that popped into my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s