Topic: Infuential Songs

Jets60's "Sowing Creativity" and Peatle's "A Little Faith" posts had some lively discussions about different approaches to song writing, or as my father used to say "There's more than one way to skin a cat". I think most of us were influenced at one time or another by a song or two that we set as the "target" or "goal" that we would like to reach as song writers.

At the first songwriter's clinic I ever attended, the moderator told the group that he wanted each of us to write a song about someone who was shunned and often ridiculed because of a handicap they had and then used that handicap to achieve something wonderful that completely changed the minds of those who had previously derided her/him. The caveat was that the story had to rhyme and it could only be 8 lines long. We all looked at each other in disbelief until he laughed and told us not to worry, it had already been done and the song was named "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". From that moment on, I began to look at songs more critically and try to break them down and understand what made them popular.

I look at songs from two different viewpoints - songs that tell stories that affect me emotionally and songs that are technically excellent.  Darrell Scott's "Never Leave Harlan Alive" is a fine example of Appalachian storytelling and also appeals to me because it's a song about south eastern Kentucky where the roots of my father's family lie. For me it is the  embodiment of what a country/folk song should be.

But the song I consider to be the best technically written song is "My Girl", written by Smokey Robinson and Ron White, and recorded by the Temptations.  When you hear the bass line in the first two measures, there's no doubt what song is being played.  There is no doubt that it is a love song but the word love isn't mentioned one time. The longest verse only has 20 words, the chorus just 21. Before the song has ended you already have the chorus memorized and also the song title. The song can be sung by a group or just solo. The accompanying music can be played by a full orchestra with strings or just simply on an acoustic guitar. From my viewpoint, it's one of the best songs ever written.

I'm curious what songs some of you other writers use as a "gauge" to measure your songs against. 

I want to read my own water, choose my own path, write my own songs

Re: Infuential Songs

The three songwriters I would love to sit down with and have a music session with are Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, and Bob Dylan. I can't write like anyone real good so I just do my thing and hope for the best.     

Re: Infuential Songs

Those are three good choices for songwriters Peatle. For me it's Willie Nelson, James Taylor and David Mallett. If they were still alive I would have picked Merle Haggard, John Denver and Townes Van Zandt. Do you have any songs that you consider to be a "roadmap" of how a great song should be written? And if you do, why?     

I want to read my own water, choose my own path, write my own songs

Re: Infuential Songs

This is a great topic.
Ken you and I have talked a little on this.  I will start by saying your choices in the IF ALIVE section have all perfect choices.  I would add: Chuck Berry, Jim Morrison and Harry Chapen.   While with CB, its not Technically complicated, his lyrics had great hooks and good vibe and kept you on the floor and everyone still knows  JBG, and Maybellene.  Jim  did not compose music (that was Ray Manzarek) but his poetry was amazing to me. Chapen and Denver were my bedtime story tellers.

I guess when It comes to my particular songwriting,  I vary between Chapen and the darker side of the scale of Morrison and heavier rock composers. This would be a melting pot of many, however they seem to also go back to the Sabbath doom metal origins. (heavy fuzzed blues).     

“Find your own sound.  Dont be a second rateYngwie Malmsteen be a first rate you”

– George Lynch 2013 (Dokken, Lynchmob, KXM, Tooth & Nail etc....)

Re: Infuential Songs

Harlan county is a great song, tells a great story i also have some family connection to Harlan county .I think the ones who have influenced me the most as of late would to be guys like James McMurtry, Robert Earle Keen, and not not who does their writing but the Turnpike Troubadours     

out of tune out of key and out of touch

Re: Infuential Songs

i love all those old Motown songs, #1 would be "my girl" #2 tears of a clown. etc. I watched the new Beatles film 8 days a week and I've been looking at individual tracks by them on youtube and I still get goose pimples hearing their songs. Lennon's voice was remarkable as is McCartney's still and their song writing ...no words!
recently Lady Antebellum blew my socks off. Yes, Genesis (musical box) thrilling still. I wonder how these amazing writers  manage to pen these masterpieces? I guess it helps if you have other people to help, guide, bounce off and make suggestions.     

Ask not what Chordie can do for you, but what you can do for Chordie.

Re: Infuential Songs

My TOP 10 choices would be  ( in order)
Bob Dylan
Kris Kristofferson
Lennon& McCartney
Paul Simon
Hank Williams
Roger McGuinn
Brian Wilson
Smokey Robinson
Townes Van Zandt
Willie Nelson

A song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true.     

Your vision is not limited by what your eye can see, but what your mind can imagine.
Make your life count, and the world will be a better place because you tried.

"Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except only the the best." - Henry Van Dyke

Re: Infuential Songs

Great question Ken.

I have a whole lot of songs that I think were written close to perfect, but here are three: Carole King's You're so Far Away - Townes Van Zandt's Tecumseh Valley - Steve Goodman's Would You Like to Learn to Dance? I know all these songwriters have written more "close to perfect songs", but those are fine measuring stick songs in my opinion.

Each one can sometimes bring tears to my eyes if they catch me in the right mood.     

J  E  T  S
...and yet a Washington Football Club fan ...long story...HTT...WFT

Re: Infuential Songs

Perhaps I didn't make my question clear enough. I appreciate the song writers everyone has listed,  but I'm more interested in songs that have influenced how you go about writing the way you do. Do any of you ever study a song that is a hit or that you particularly think is a "gem"? Why does it stand out? Is it the lyrics? the rhyme scheme? the melody? the time signature? harmonies? instrument solos? a great chorus/hook? the subject matter? How does it appeal to your senses? Does it make you happy, sad, melancholy, laugh or cry? Do you ever examine the song's structure to try to ascertain why it affects you the way it does? How did the writer combine different song elements to achieve the end result (prosody)?

I think sometimes we get so enamored with the "art" of songwriting that we don't spend enough time analyzing the "craft" of songwriting. An artist might splash paint on a canvas and occasionally get good results, but the artist that understands perspective, how to mix colors, what brushes, canvas or paper is required to work in different media (oils, watercolors,acrylics,etc) will get a better result more often.  Granted, some songwriters just have a natural "gift" for knowing how to construct a great song, but given two writers of equal talent, I feel the one that has spent time building a bigger "toolbox" will output better quality material. Is my approach too technical? I welcome hearing your ideas.     

I want to read my own water, choose my own path, write my own songs

10 (edited by Peatle Jville 2021-02-17 01:11:26)

Re: Infuential Songs

Dirty Ed wrote:

Those are three good choices for songwriters Peatle. For me it's Willie Nelson, James Taylor and David Mallett. If they were still alive I would have picked Merle Haggard, John Denver and Townes Van Zandt. Do you have any songs that you consider to be a "roadmap" of how a great song should be written? And if you do, why?

That is a hard question for me to answer Ken a stand out song for me  a real classic if you like would be American Pie by Don Mclean. I like that notion of once Buddy Holly  died  the rock and roll  pie went with him. Everything had dried up as in a bad summer drought. The world changed and  America  as a result which I am sure is fantasy but still a great picture in a song. The lyrical images in Dons song are great with a verse that is very sing-able but not in catchy pop jingle way, Folk music at its best  it has a bit of a nostalgic view of history we all know and a a great chorus with a sentiment about a loss of way of life...

Re: Infuential Songs

Excellent example Peatle. Normally a song that lasts over 8 minutes would get pretty boring, but the song tells an interesting story, there are clever lyrics and references, the rhymes and "inner rhymes" are well done, plus the frequent tempo changes, melodic changes  and dramatic pauses all work together to hold the listener's attention and make the length of the song one of the enduring qualities that has lasted over the years.  No doubt most of us that heard it for the first time were able to join in and sing along with the chorus by the end of the song and intrigued enough by the story line to listen to the song again and again.     

I want to read my own water, choose my own path, write my own songs

12 (edited by ctech 2021-02-22 21:54:13)

Re: Infuential Songs

It's Jimmy Webb for me.  I'm also very fond of motown.

Hard times create strong men,Strong men create good times,Good times create weak men,Weak men create hard times.Cantwere rice INVICTA!