A musician's perspective

I wanted to share a story with you all, because it is something that really impacted my life musically. When I was growing up, I listened to a lot of music. All sorts of genres. I’d learn the catchy chorus parts of songs, but never much more beyond that. Then in university, I met who would become my best friend. He was a musician. He used to write songs and they were all pretty good. Never really connected with them though.

Then, something happened.

I saw him go through a heartbreak. It hit him very hard. He started writing songs about it. Knowing what he had gone through, I saw the pain and sorrow in his songs. When he sang about the relationship, I could connect all the dots about the words and the emotions behind them. I began to understand that lyrics aren’t always just words that go together and rhyme. To some songwriters, the words truly tell a passionate story. It may be about them, or others, or some other thing they care to write about.

So now, when I listen to a song. I try to listen to the lyrics more. I try to connect with the songwriter. It has made a big difference in my life. I’ve started to appreciate good song-writing a lot more. I try to put myself in their shoes and feel what they felt.

Anyway, just wanted to share that with you. It was really like a switch flipped in my head when it happened. Anyone else experienced this sort of thing?

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@JT

I think the majority of songs are based around the song writer’s life experiences.

I also think this really stands out in country and western music.
I mean if your truck hasn’t broken down, or your dog been shot, or somebody stole your woman, I don’t think it is classed C&W. :smile: :smile: :smile:

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Reminds me of Phil Collins when he made ‘Hello, I Must be Going!’. Such a good album and I think most good albums have some kind of life experience in it. That’s why people relate to some songs on such a personal level. This song always got me a bit emo…

Then this one from Zappa came after Collins :rofl:

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Yeah, I heard all the words in country songs (I grew up in Texas), but I never felt the words. That’s the difference. :slight_smile:

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@JT

Would that be because most Texans drive pickups with gun racks in the back window.
So badass :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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Lyrics are something that have never resonated with me, although I know they are deeply impactful at times and some folks connect with them intensely. I like a lot of New Orleans music that is very much rooted in brass band and lyrics are almost like the ‘head’ of a jazz song to the tune. I have a friend that hates all music like this, but can also sing the words to a song after listening to it once or twice.

I am much more of a ‘lyrics are melody’ guy, and music for me is the overall sounds/tones/riffs/etc. Some of my most favorite music is what I call “multi-layered”. Rebirth Brass Band and the ‘collective improvisation’, Kate Bush and her layering of music/sound/words, almost when like each part is something on its own.

Things like Motown music, with very upfront lyrics, I still listen for all the parts that make it a lot more complex than it appears on the surface.

Sadly, lyrics still are a bit wasted on me, but I get the impact to others.

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Yeah, I used to be the same. And, for many songs, there is no deep meaning in the lyrics. Sometimes lyrics are simply used as a catchy melody. It can be hard to work out the difference sometimes, unless it’s Baby Shark or something. :slightly_smiling_face:

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every now and then I encounter a song with lyrics that I connect with, I’ve always find it easy to remember them, but I don’t feel most of them… I think that knowing the background story of a song helps understand, but not all songs have a real story or a life connection with the person, there are many professional song writers out there, they can put lyrics and music together on demand, I think that’s why one does not feel most songs because there’s nothing real to them… that might be part of the “second album curse” after a band has initial success, the next one “has to be done” while that first just happened more naturally…
but then professional composers can create big hits also, very subjective and complex the feelings are (Yoda not intended :smile:)

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Indeed! In fact, when I am learning a song, one of the things I like to do is research it’s history, and learn the genesis for the music and the lyrics. I find it quite interesting knowledge, plus it actually helps me learn the song.

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I plead guilty to not paying too much attention to song lyrics, @JT . . . :neutral_face:

You do make a good point though, about your friend and how he expressed his heartbreak through his music. That’s why they call it the “Blues”, right?

However . . . since I’ve gotten back to bass and attempted to learn (and re-learn) some of the 70’s stuff we used to play, I’ve seen the lyrics printed out with tabs, and have a real appreciation for those lyrics today.

They didn’t have YouTube back then . . . that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it :slight_smile:

Cheers
Joe

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I try to listen to the lyrics, I used to lie on my bed listening to music while leaving through the booklets and reading the lyrics :relaxed:
The thing with lyrics is that sometimes, they may just be there to accompany the music while in other instances, they are expressing emotions or telling stories. In those situations, I see the singer in the same way I see an actor. He has to be able to relate to the text and get the content over to the listener.
To write such lyrics, one has to either have lived a specific situation or at least be able to relate to them.

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I agree with the comments around lyrics.
Thats why I really like a lot of Cyndi Boste songs.
Her song writing is IMO amazing, she tells great stories of life experiences and her emotional connection sends shivers down my spine.
My cover of her great song “Lasted so long” is right up there.
Another of my favourites is Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, her lyrics and emotion goes right through you.
Cheers Brian

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Here is the link to Cyndi’s song if you want to check it out, I chose to include the lyrics when I did the final mix in iMovie,
Cheers Brian.
https://bilgerats.billlanahan.com/2020/10/08/lasted-so-long/

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I do listen to the lyrics of some songs. This one was written by the guitarist when his mother passed and I found it very hard hitting

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i can think of song lyrics that have made me laugh, made me cry, enraged me, made me hopeful… yeah. a ton of song have changed my life. and it’s usually the lyrics.

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There have been song lyrics that have literally changed my life.

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There are bands that have changed my life, I don’t know that there are lyrics. I am much more responsive to the music, the solo in Comfortably Numb says more to me than the lyrics do.

A singer gets me often with the emotions they project in their voice. I am not lyrically driven, although I do like songs that tell stories. Nancy Griffith caught me with the stories she tells. But then I am a writer too and a sucker for a good story.

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Bands that have changed my life in order.
It is a combo of both, I relate to music and lyrics, together or separately.

Sex Pistols
The Vandals (made me want to be a bass player back in like 1983)
AC/DC
Stray Cats
The Beastie Boys
Violent Femmes
The Doors
Primus
Pantera, Motorhead, Slayer and White Zombie (only La sexercisto)
GutterMouth
Chaos UK
US Bombs (AA sometimes)
NOFX (Smelly is AA)
Smut Peddlers (AA )
Kicker
Fang (NA)
and now
Get Dead

There is way more that would fill in all the cracks, but I can recall where I was, and what I was doing the first time I heard any of these bands, and / or I had major life influences and events around them.

AA and NA are Anonymous. These are bands I found about in recovery and they are in recovery, and they impact in a positive way, even tho it is heavy shit they sing about, its things I relate to very well.

Good energy and emotion singers are awesome. This is what I fell in love with Get Dead for. That singer goes off life. No, I can’t understand half of the lyrics until I read them, but so what, it is raw and energy, and drives me, pumps me up, energizes me. But I do appreciate the lyrics, and I highly appreciate good song writers, possibly better than good musicians. IDK, its a close tie. Some good musicians are lyrical with their instruments.

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123 slam!

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I was the same in general until I started playing in the band I’m in now. What normally happens once we’ve got something going is me concentrating like mad with the drummer, but now, our drummer also sings along with our female lead. So we have individual discussions on how the lyrics might go and we all get involved.

I’ve just posted a track in the show us your compositions thread, and I was talking to the singer about the lyrics and she came up with this imagery in her head about what the song is making her sing about. It’s quite dark, that song, lyric-wise but it just fits. She normally just waits until the song comes out into the open, and then applies what she feels on top, and then the other singers either support her or they all swap some of the lyrics between each other.

Now, as the only non singer, and now I’ve got the bass roughly down, I can focus on the lyrics too and it makes you feel even more involved.

I’m still in that process of trying to hear the whole band as opposed to just the rhythm, and now that we have these open conversations about the lyrics, it really helps get my head around what’s being sung. And why.

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