Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lyrics: Song Lyrics

Song lyrics inspire me. Certain lyricists have an uncanny ability to convey powerful feelings and complex ideas in few words. How do they do that?  How do they register with us on an emotional and intellectual level so quickly.

Due to my fascination with song lyrics, I can't listen to music when I write. I write in complete silence. If there's music playing anywhere, my concentration goes towards the lyrics; studying the phrasing and the word choice, listening to the story.

Do you write with music playing?
Are you distracted by the lyrics?

Even though I am a song lyric junky, music matters. There are songs that I love even though I cannot identify any of the words; Pearl Jam's Yellow Ledbetter springs to mind. By the way, if you've never seen the Misheard Lyrics Guy's YouTube vid, do yourself a favor and watch this. Be prepared to laugh, it's hilarious. 

Granted, this is a subjective topic but here are a few of my favorite lyricists: Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Amy Ray & Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls), Wilco, Joanna Newsom, Paul Simon, James Mercer (The Shins), John Prine, Neko Case, Tom Waits, Issac Brock (Modest Mouse), Bruce Springsteen, Laura Marling, Bright Eyes, PJ Harvey, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, Amy Winehouse, Neal Young, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, John Lennon... I could go on and on.

Who are your favorite lyricists?


  1. I love music and I could not live without it! I especially love powerful, funny, and thought provoking lyrics. :) great L idea!

  2. I *can* write with music on, but usually the sort with no lyrics lol. Classical piano, for instance. Way, way too distracting, I agree.

  3. I love music. I love to write songs, I love to sing, I love to listen to music while working.....I could go on and on. And, there are some lyrics that speak to me and fit exactly where I am at that moment in time. Great post!

  4. I absolutely cannot have any music on while I'm trying to write. Even instrumental music distracts me, probably because I'm a musician. I can handle regular household noise or distant white noise, but that's about it.

    My favorite lyricists? Hmm. I'll have to think about that.

  5. I am also a lyricist. I've been writing songs since I was a teenager, and now have 3 albums out with my songs on them. I'm not great or anything I just love living my dreams. Taylor Swift is someone whose lyrics I have surprisingly enjoyed. I love Harry Chapin, James Taylor, Tracy Champman, Cheryl Crow and Jim Croce, not that they all wrote their own songs but those are the songs I like the best, equates to story telling. I'm working on a new CD right now, that ties into my book. I thought we would be done but getting those notes and annunciations just right is work. (

  6. I enjoy Jim Croce and Harry Chapin too. Taylor Swift has some honest relevant lyrics for teenagers. Some of the early Tim McGraw songs have tugged at my heartstrings.

  7. One of my favorite lyricists is Pink! Honest, raw, always inspiring! Nice post buddy!

  8. As adolescents, my friends and I use to pen silly little poems that we thought would make great song lyrics and I think we even sent some in to someone once or twice.

    We sucked.

    Popping in by way of the A-Z Challenge. I’m blogging at:
    Write, Wrong or Indifferent
    Marie Anne’s Missives
    In the Garden With Sow-n-Sow
    Every Day Crochet

  9. Music distracts me when I write. I tried listening to several different types of music but I only became irritated.

  10. I sometimes write with music on, but only classical or other wordless stuff. If I could pick, I'd turn on a light rain when I want to write. That so works for me.

    My “L” post is right here:

  11. I could never write with music...but loads of folks do, with a lot of success! I listen to music when I cook...go figure :)

  12. Silence is my background of choice, but even I have to admit that there are times when music helps me tune out the excess chattering in my head so that I can actually concentrate on one task.

  13. hysterical, thanks for sharing! (Another A-Zer here, found through random button - but I'll be back!

  14. I usually can write with music on. It's TV playing in the background that I can't write with. I just can't focus because I get sucked in with the dialog. My daughter likes to play old seasons of Little House on the Prairie. Someone is always crying and there is always some crisis. I can't write with that on!

  15. I cannot write articles with music on but I can do so when I'm editing pages (blog, website) etc. Music does distract me but in that way, gives me a boost to be extra creative (I hope, lol).

    I'm also not a big music guru, having grown up in a strict house and listening to whatever my parents were into; I admit a huge lack of music knowledge. I do like to sing along though, so lyrics definitely matter :)

    Thanks for a great post, Langley and for inspiring some music memories :)

  16. When I'm intensively focused on writing it has to be classical for me. Words distract me too much and I tend to start listening to the songs.

    One of my favorite lyricists is Bruce Cockburn --he writes with some beautiful imagery. I don't know if they write their own songs, but I also like a lot of the lyrics in the songs by Lady Antebellum.

    Hilarious video -- those were the words I was hearing. Now I want to know what the real lyrics say.

    Tossing It Out

  17. This reminds me of Jimmy Hendrix's Purple Haze song where many people thought he was gay when he sang "excuse me while I kiss this guy" --not sky. LOL!



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