Thursday, 26 November 2009

Poetry in lyrics

I was listening to my ipod the other day and a song that I had heard hundreds of times came on and I noticed that one of the verses could be classed as more than just a lyric, it could almost be poetry:

Well it was kind of cold, that night she stood alone on the balcony,
She could hear the cars roll by out on 441, like waves crashing on the beach,
And for one desperate moment there, he crept back in her memory,
God it's so painful, when something that's so close, is still so far out of reach.

It may surprise you to learn that those words are from American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Masters of poetic lyric writing, according to those that know are: Bob Dylan, Sting, John Lennon etc. One other example comes from Death Cab For Cutie (who I mentioned in this blog entry) and a song called Crooked Teeth, although I could have chosen a number of their tracks:

It was one hundred degrees, as we sat beneath a willow tree,
Whose tears didn't care, they just hung in the air and refused to fall.
I knew I'd made horrible call and now the state line felt like the Berlin wall,
And there was no doubt about which side I was on.
'Cause I built you a home in my heart, with rotten wood it decayed from the start.
'Cause you can find nothing at all, if there was nothing there all along.

I wouldn't include some lyrics that are well known as to me, they seem to try too hard to be poetic and whistful. But I'm no poetry expert on any level - I even decided to leave "Awop-bop-a-loo-bop-awop-bam-boom" off the list.

And what of today's musicians? - I am sure that there are many examples. Over to you readers - does anyone have any suggestions?


  1. I've always thought the following lyric, lifts poetry in song to a much higher plane:

    "I like my men like I like my coffee
    Hot, strong and sweet like toffee."


    *giggles like a girl, and runs away*

  2. Great posting. I agree, some lyrics are poetry - others are wanky!

  3. A lot of folks consider Phil Ochs superior to Dylan. I must confess I'm not too schooled in Dylan but Ochs is wonderful.

    Another great, great, great folky was Tim Buckley. Well, he started out folky, then went in a few different directions. His lyrics are excellent. He's Jeff's dad, btw, and also died young, but after releasing nine albums rather than just one. On top of that, there are a bunch of posthumous albums, primarily live, some including songs never released elsewhere. If you know "Song to the Siren," as done by This Mortal Coil, that's one of Tim's.

    Oh, almost forgot Nick Drake! Another folky dude with a wonderful voice and powerful pen . . . who died young.

    Oh, and Ochs committed suicide. The final song on his final album was "No More Songs."