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#1 2010-12-17 02:54:37

Artless
Member
From: Sioux City, IA
Registered: 2010-11-22
Posts: 71

Narrative Voice and Songwriting

I'd like to hear from writers who have written songs from different narrative voices. For example, most people write from first person ("I love you," "we love each other," "my love is strong, "our love is strong") or second person, ("you make loving fun," "your love is like an ocean")  but what about THIRD person, in which the narrator is telling the story but is not in the story, "they loved all night long," "he/she has a love that will last forever,") etc.

I can think of only a few popular songs written in the third person, the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" Bob Dylan's  “Hurricane,�  "Lilly, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts," and Steve Miller, "Take The Money and Run," Gordon Lightfoot's,"Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."Can you add to this list?

Also, has anyone ever written a song from the perspective of a different sex? For example, if you're a guy, have you ever written a love song from a girl's point of view?

Thanks in advance for your input!

Last edited by Artless (2010-12-21 14:47:38)

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#2 2010-12-17 02:58:50

dino48
Honoured Member
From: los banos,california
Registered: 2007-04-06
Posts: 4498

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

I  think jack and dianna by john melloncamp would fit in here.


my papy said son your going too drive me too drinking if you dont stop driving that   Hot  Rod  Lincoln!! Cmdr cody and his lost planet airman.

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#3 2010-12-17 19:40:39

KAP54
Honoured Member
From: London Ontario Canada
Registered: 2008-06-04
Posts: 1728
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Hi Artless, lots out there in the third person, I written a few myself. Here is the link for one I wrote with the re-write directly under the original.
Check it out if you wish. smile

Kap



http://chordie.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=49457#p49457


Just Keepin on Keepin on
Martin DC15E
Cort MR710F

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#4 2010-12-18 00:33:42

Artless
Member
From: Sioux City, IA
Registered: 2010-11-22
Posts: 71

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

dino48 wrote:

I  think jack and dianna by john melloncamp would fit in here.

Yes, that's a good one. Thanks for suggesting it!

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#5 2010-12-18 00:36:12

Artless
Member
From: Sioux City, IA
Registered: 2010-11-22
Posts: 71

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

KAP54 wrote:

Hi Artless, lots out there in the third person, I written a few myself. Here is the link for one I wrote with the re-write directly under the original.
Check it out if you wish. smile

Kap

Thanks for the link to your songs. They are great examples of what I was looking for, and they give me some good ideas to work with!





http://chordie.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=49457#p49457

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#6 2010-12-18 03:53:14

Dirty Ed
Senior Member
From: Chillicothe, Ohio
Registered: 2010-08-17
Posts: 460

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Interesting question.  My first reaction was that I haven't written very many.  Then I looked at songs I've recorded on CDs and was surprised that out of 50 songs I've recorded, 16 of them are in the 3rd person or "neutral" (about rivers, sunrises, etc). None, however were from the opposite sex's point of view.

I used to attend a songwriters group.  One of the interesting exercises we would do was read an article in the newspaper and then write about what happened from different points of view.  For instance, there might be a story about a teenage couple being in a car wreck.  Each writer had to write a song from the view of a different person, such as the girl or boys mother or father, the police officer that arrived first on the scene, a witness to the accident, the hairdresser that liked to spread gossip, a fellow student, etc.  It forced you to look at a situation from a different perspective and sometimes resulted in some interesting lyrics.

DE


"If Einstein hadn't discovered the theory of relativity someone else would have because its a basic science truth.  Same for Watson-Crick and DNA.  But if Beethoven hadn't written "Moonlight Sonata", no one else would have.  If Van Gogh hadn't painted Starry Night, no one else would have."

I don't want to play songs, I want to create songs.

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#7 2010-12-18 04:21:21

Dirty Ed
Senior Member
From: Chillicothe, Ohio
Registered: 2010-08-17
Posts: 460

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

I forgot to mention some of my favorites that should qualify:

Desperado - Eagles
Sam Stone - John Prine
Alcohol & Pills - Fred Eaglesmith
Gospel According to Luke - Skip Ewing
and my all-time favorite:
Never Leave Harlan Alive - Darrell Scott


"If Einstein hadn't discovered the theory of relativity someone else would have because its a basic science truth.  Same for Watson-Crick and DNA.  But if Beethoven hadn't written "Moonlight Sonata", no one else would have.  If Van Gogh hadn't painted Starry Night, no one else would have."

I don't want to play songs, I want to create songs.

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#8 2010-12-18 18:42:54

Artless
Member
From: Sioux City, IA
Registered: 2010-11-22
Posts: 71

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Dirty Ed,

Thanks for the additions to the third person list, and the song writing exercise is great! I look forward to trying it out.

I'm not familiar with all the songs you mentioned in your second post, but I believe "Desperado" (if it's  the "Eagles" version) is written in first person. The first verse goes:

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses ?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now   
Oh, you're a hard one,     I know that you got your reasons,
These things that are pleasin' you can hurt you somehow

The "I know that you got your reasons" suggests the first-person point of view.  If the writer had said, "you know that you got your reasons" then I think it would be in second person; on the other hand, if the writer had said, "Desperado, he never comes to his senses,/He's been out ridin' fences for so long now/Oh, he's a hard one, though he's got his reasons/These things that are pleasing can hurt him somehow," then it would be third person.

I'm not an expert on this, so comments/corrections are welcome.

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#9 2010-12-19 16:23:33

AccoustikNoyz
Senior Member
From: Chesapeake,VA
Registered: 2008-11-12
Posts: 332
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Here's a few... not as easy as it seems.

John Denver in Rocky Mountain High.
Bread in Guitar Man.
Heart in Dreamboat Annie.
Michael Murphy in Wildfire.

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#10 2010-12-20 01:51:21

Dirty Ed
Senior Member
From: Chillicothe, Ohio
Registered: 2010-08-17
Posts: 460

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Just got home from doing three 12.5 hour day shifts (14 hours each day if you include the drive to and from work) so my brain is a little foggy, but I believe your comment about "Desperado" is correct Artless.  The story is about another person but you can tell that it is being told by the singer/songwriter.  After a little thought, "Gospel According to Luke" and "Never Leave Harlan Alive" would fall in the same category.  I think "Sam Stone" would make the cut though (if I remember all the lyrics correctly). Since its the Christmas season, maybe "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" should be considered too.

Then I began to think about songs that don't specifically use "I" but it is implied that the singer/songwriter is telling the story.  "Jack and Diane" begins and ends with the phrase "little ditty about Jack and Diane" which implies that the singer either wrote or heard the "ditty" and wants to pass it on.  In "Eleanor Rigby", the song implores you to "look at all the lonely people" - is it the singer writer that is asking you to do that?

Then I stretched it further and wondered about songs that use "I" but the lyrics don't seem to be referring to the writer, such as the "The Eagle and the Hawk" by John Denver which starts with "I am the eagle and live in high country" or maybe "I Am the Walrus" by the Beatles.

Anyway, all this thinking is giving me a headache.  I probably won't be able to sleep tonight because of it and will be tired when I begin my 12.5 hour night shifts tomorrow evening after just a 20-hour turn around.  I'll probably get drowsy on the drive to work, doze off and go left of center, hitting another car and killing innocent people.  Then I'll be sent to prison for 20 years for vehicular homicide, get raped by my cell mate "Bubba", catch AIDS and die............... all of this because you started this thread Artless.

You'll be hearing from my estate's lawyer after my funeral ...............................

lol,

DE


"If Einstein hadn't discovered the theory of relativity someone else would have because its a basic science truth.  Same for Watson-Crick and DNA.  But if Beethoven hadn't written "Moonlight Sonata", no one else would have.  If Van Gogh hadn't painted Starry Night, no one else would have."

I don't want to play songs, I want to create songs.

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#11 2010-12-20 05:49:20

jets60
Moderator
From: Gainesville, Virginia USA
Registered: 2006-03-04
Posts: 1817
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

John Prine wrote Angel From Montgomery from the woman's point of view. Not sure I would call it a love song but it sure is a great song.

Bob Dylan's A Simple Twist of Fate is a great third person love song, and a great song as well.


J  E  T  S
...and yet a Redskins fan ...long story...HTTR

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#12 2010-12-20 14:42:30

cameronkl7
Senior Member
From: North Carolina
Registered: 2008-03-29
Posts: 950

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

John Prine also does Donald and Lydia

Cam


Keep a fire burning in your eyes
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down

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#13 2010-12-20 16:54:57

Artless
Member
From: Sioux City, IA
Registered: 2010-11-22
Posts: 71

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

AccoustikNoyz wrote:

Here's a few... not as easy as it seems.

John Denver in Rocky Mountain High.
Bread in Guitar Man.
Heart in Dreamboat Annie.
Michael Murphy in Wildfire.

Those are brilliant finds, and all four are some of my favorite songs. I think your picks demonstrate that the third person can create a song that is achingly moving.  God, "Rocky Mountain High" . . . when I first heard that song, it devastated me. I dreamed of moving to Colorado.   And "Bread"--it began so positively and ended with such melancholy; I always found it evocative but a little scary. "Dreamboat Annie will always remind me of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for that's where I first began listening to Heart's album. "Wild Fire" was another moving song; never bought the record but I sang along to it plenty of times on the radio.

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#14 2010-12-20 18:29:39

Baldguitardude
El Modarino
From: Las Vegas
Registered: 2010-12-09
Posts: 1191
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Also:

Taxi by Harry Chapin
Shooting Star by Bad Company
Take The Money And Run - Steve Miller Band
The Devil Went Down To Georgia - Charlie Daniels

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#15 2010-12-21 05:07:40

Artless
Member
From: Sioux City, IA
Registered: 2010-11-22
Posts: 71

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Baldguitardude wrote:

Also:

Taxi by Harry Chapin
Shooting Star by Bad Company
Take The Money And Run - Steve Miller Band
The Devil Went Down To Georgia - Charlie Daniels

"Take the Money and Run"! Yes, that was one i was trying to remember. That one and "Bad, Bad,Leroy Brown, by Jim Croce.  I'm going to have disagree about Taxi; although a hauntingly lovely melody, with melancholy lyrics of lost changes, the song is told primary in the first person of Harry, the taxi driver. A great narrative, but not a third person narrative. "Devil  Went Down to Georgia" and "Shooting Star"  work for me; the narrator comments on but doesn't participate in the action.

Thank you for your additions to the list.

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#16 2010-12-21 19:31:29

Baldguitardude
El Modarino
From: Las Vegas
Registered: 2010-12-09
Posts: 1191
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Oh yeah, "I was gonna learn to fly." I walked through the lyrics in my head but I misremembered that line. Oops. smile

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#17 2011-11-02 12:14:21

bonedaddy
Senior Member
From: Grimsby, UK
Registered: 2006-03-04
Posts: 602

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Tell Laura I Love Her by Ricky Valance.  Sounds like first person but it's a quote.


I'm the son of rage and love

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#18 2011-11-02 13:06:57

mekidsmom
The Chick Moderator
From: NY
Registered: 2009-08-26
Posts: 2960
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

The song I wrote for my anniversary is written in the third person.  It IS about us, but I did write it to be telling a story about two people so it could be sung by someone other than me.  I have high doubts that anyone but myself will ever sing it though.

Running Bear

Tom Dooley

I think a lot of story songs are written in the third person - I like story songs.  I wonder though about writing from the man's perspective instead of the woman's.  I tend to switch songs' lyrics up when they're "man" songs so that they sound right when I, a female, sing them.


Art and beauty are in the eyes of the beholder.
What constitutes excellent music is in the ears of the listener.

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#19 2011-11-12 10:47:59

arkady
ambient moderator
From: England
Registered: 2006-11-23
Posts: 1910
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

Artless wrote:

Also, has anyone ever written a song from the perspective of a different sex? For example, if you're a guy, have you ever written a love song from a girl's point of view?

I wrote a song about a Bird of prey a fews years ago it's imagined perspective on the world. It's somewhere around have to dig it out.  smile
ark

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#20 2011-12-14 08:16:41

hillbillycanbc
Junior Member
From: Hedley, B.C. Canada
Registered: 2008-03-09
Posts: 2

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

I wrote a song one time describbing and partially including dialog from a young hooker on skid road..I wrote it originally many years before the hookers killed on that  Pig Farm Story outside Vancouver BC.. But after that happened I added a few appropriate words to the beginning and ending to show that in the song...

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#21 2011-12-14 22:29:01

seriousfun
Member
From: Rotorua, New Zealand
Registered: 2007-08-26
Posts: 62
Website

Re: Narrative Voice and Songwriting

The last song I posted, 'The last ride at Port Arthur' also fits this category. Link to uploaded song can be found in the thread.


As always I hope you enjoy my musical journey as much as I do.

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