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Pop's Great Lyricists

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Three Day Drunk
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I suppose pop represents a pretty wide field. What I'm really looking for are personal favourites, answers beyond the obvious. Lennon/McCartney seem to top every poll on this subject, so what can we come up with?

Below are some of my own nominees, and an example of their work.

Randy Newman

Political Science (written in the late 70's)

No one likes us

I don't know why.

We may not be perfect

But heaven knows we try.

But all around even our old friends put us down.

Let's drop the big one and see what happens.

We give them money

But are they grateful?

No they're spiteful

And they're hateful.

They don't respect us so let's surprise them;

We'll drop the big one and pulverize them.

Now Asia's crowded

And Europe's too old.

Africa's far too hot,

And Canada's too cold.

And South America stole our name.

Let's drop the big one; there'll be no one left to blame us.

We'll save Australia;

Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo.

We'll build an all-American amusement park there;

They've got surfing, too.

Well, boom goes London,

And boom Paris.

More room for you

And more room for me.

And every city the whole world round

Will just be another American town.

Oh, how peaceful it'll be;

We'll set everybody free;

You'll have Japanese kimonos, baby,

There'll be Italian shoes for me.

They all hate us anyhow,

So let's drop the big one now.

Let's drop the big one now.

Tom Waits

I'll Shoot the Moon

I'll shoot the moon

Right out of the sky

For you baby

I'll be the pennies

On your eyes

For you baby

I want to take you

Out to the fair

Here's a red rose

Ribbon for your hair

I'll shoot the moon

Right out of the sky

For you baby

I'll shoot the moon

For you

A vulture circles

Over your head

For you baby

I'll be the flowers

After you're dead

For you baby

I want to build

A nest in your hair

I want to kiss you

And never be there

I'll shoot the moon

Right out of the sky

For you baby

I'll shoot the moon

For you

Mark Eitzel

Gary's Song

Gary tell me why the leaves on the trees

Are falling this year as early as the spring

Why the leaves on the trees that are falling on us

Are like the words to a song

that I've lived my whole life to sing

If you swim too much you'll drown

If we sit here and drink enough beer

We'll be two inflatable dolls in a hooker's bad dream

When the storm reaches us we'll be two blind drunks

Who've absorbed through the skin

a whole lifetime of kerosene

If you drink too much you will drown

And the shame of my life is watching you

Gary, I think we've worn out our welcome

They're waiting for us to leave

Gary, they've got a new kind of person

A newer, stronger, cleaner breed

And I think I just came in my pants

Oh baby do you want to dance

Everything collapses in, slow motion

And the roots of the dance and the stain in my pants

Are beyond any small man's conception

If you drink too much you will drown

And the shame of my life is watching you drown

Paul Westerberg

Crackle & Drag

What’s the matter here?

You'll never repair

The lady’s cursed with insight

You'll never fix her, with a cold stare

She’s all broken inside

She made a good go, like a weeping willow

Her limbs clung to the ground

She closed the window, and made a pillow

And lay her head down

And as her babies slept, she took a long deep breath

Now they’re zipping her up in a bag

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

And the Cadillac’s waiting to take her away

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

Another head cold, another spirit old

Mmmm, February

Her hair was dirty, and she was 30 in 1963

And while her babies slept she took a long deep breath

And they’re zipping her up in a bag

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

The Cadillac’s waiting to take her away

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

And drag, and drag, and drag…

She made a good go, for a weeping willow

She stuffed some rags on the floor

She closed the window

She made a pillow on the oven door

And took a long deep breath

While her babies slept

Now they’re zipping her up in a bag

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

And the Cadillac’s waiting to take her away

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

They’re zipping her up in a bag

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

The Cadillac’s waiting to take her away

Can you hear her blacks crackle and drag

Hear her blacks crackle and drag

Edited by Three Day Drunk
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I nominate Ira Gershwin. So many classic, beautiful lyrics to his credit: "Someone To Watch Over Me", "Nice Work If You Can Get It", "I Got Rhythm", & on & on, WOW!!!

An excerpt:

It's very clear our love is here to stay.

Not for a year, but ever and a day.

The radio and the telephone.

And the movies that we know.

May just be passing fancies and in time may go.

But, oh my dear, our love is here to stay.

Together were going a long, long way.

In time the Rockies may crumble,

Gibraltar may tumble, they're only made of clay.

But our love is here to stay.

Also, Cole Porter was very clever, witty & beautiful with his lyrics. Richard Rogers partners Larry Hart & then Oscar Hammerstein II were also wonderful. Larry Hart wrote the words to one of my all time favorite love songs "My Romance":

My romance doesn't need to have a moon in the sky.

My romance doesn't need a blue lagoon standing by.

No month of May, no twinklin' stars.

No hideaway, no soft guitars.

My romance doesn't need a castle rising in Spain.

Nor a dance to a constantly surprising refrain.

Wide awake I can make my most fantastic dreams come true.

My romance doesn't need a thing but you.

That's just perfect.

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I agree with Randy Newman. How do you feel about the lyrics to "The World Isn't Fair"? I always interpreted that as Pro-capitalism dis towards Marxism. But by roomie thought it was apologetic--for wealth and ignoring the poor.

Also one of my fave songs (i actually heard about from one of Ayn's short stories) is "My blue heaven" by Gene Autry

Whippoorwills call, evenin’ is nigh

Hurry to my blue heaven

Turn to the right, there’s a little white light

Will lead you to my blue heaven

You’ll see a smilin’ face, a fireplace, a cozy room

Little nest that nestles where the roses bloom

Molly and me, and the baby makes three

We’re happy in my, in my blue heaven

<instrumental>

You’re gonna see a smilin’ face, fireplace, cozy room

And a little nest nestled where the roses bloom

Just molly and me, and the baby is three

We’re so happy in my blue heaven

We’re happy in my blue heaven

We’re happy in my blue heaven!

Edited by Michero
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In modern pop, John Mayer is among, if not the, best there is.

A sample from Your Body is a Wonderland:

Somethin bout the way the hair falls in your face

I love the shape you take when crawling towards the pillowcase

You tell me where to go and though I might leave to find it

I'll never let your head hit the bed without my hand behind it

You want love, we'll make it

Swimming a deep sea of blankets

Take all your big plans, and break em

This is bound to be a while

Your body is a wonderland

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Well I don't like Ben Harper or his politics and I don't really like many of his songs, but I do like the one below, it has great personal significance for some things and people I have delt with in my life. I think there is a definate sense of hope and self-esteem in the lyrics.

I'll Rise - Ben Harper

You may write me down in history

With your bitter twisted lies

You may trod me down in the very dirt

And still like the dust I’ll rise

Does my happiness upset you

Why are you best with gloom

Cause I laugh like I’ve got an oil well

Pumpin’ in my living room

So you may shoot me with your words

You may cut me with your eyes

And I’ll rise

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

Out of the shacks of history’s shame

Up from a past rooted in pain

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

Now did you want to see me broken

Bowed head and lowered eyes

Shoulders fallen down like tear drops

Weakened by my soulful cries

Does my confidence upset you

Don’t you take it awful hard

Cause I walk like I’ve got a diamond mine

Breakin’ up in my front yard

So you may shoot me with your words

You may cut me with your eyes

And I’ll rise

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

Out of the shacks of history’s shame

Up from a past rooted in pain

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

So you may write me down in history

With your bitter twisted lies

You may trod me down in the very dirt

And still like the dust I’ll rise

Does my happiness upset you

Why are you best with gloom

Cause I laugh like I’ve got a goldmine

Diggin’ up in my living room

So you may shoot me with your words

You may cut me with your eyes

And I’ll rise

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

Out of the shacks of history’s shame

Up from a past rooted in pain

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

I’ll rise

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I've always been a HUGE Paul Simon fan, and I've always loved the lyrics to Can't Run But (off of Rhythm of the saints.)

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

A cooling system

Burns out in the ukraine

Trees and umbrellas

Protect us from the new rain

Armies of engineers

To analyze the soil

The food we contemplate

The water that we boil

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

Oo-we oo-we

I had a dream about us

In the bottles and the bones of the night

I felt a pain in my shoulder blade

Like a pencil point? a love bite?

A couple was rubbing against us

Rubbing and doing that new dance

The man was wearing a jacket and jeans

The woman was laughing in advance

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

A winding river

Gets wound around a heart. pull it

Tighter and tighter

Until the muddy waters part

Down by the river bank

A blues band arrives

The music suffers

The music business thrives

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

I can’t run but

I can walk much faster than this

Can’t run but

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  • 4 months later...

Neil Peart

Freewill

There are those who think that life is nothing left to chance,

A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.

A planet of playthings,

We dance on the strings

Of powers we cannot perceive.

"The stars aren't aligned

Or the gods are malign"-

Blame is better to give than receive.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;

I will choose a path that's clear-

I will choose Free Will.

There are those who think that they were dealt a losing hand,

The cards were stacked against them- they weren't born in lotus-land.

All preordained-

A prisoner in chains-

A victim of venomous fate.

Kicked in the face,

You can't pray for a place

In heaven's unearthly estate.

Each of us-

A cell of awareness-

Imperfect and incomplete.

Genetic blends

With uncertain ends

On a fortune hunt that's far too fleet.

Edited by mrocktor
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I would also have to cast a vote for Neil Pert. He's incredible at being able to translate a great deal of the Objectivist philosphy into rock music. I would also have to add is Jim Steinman. For the ladies in the audience, he wrote Making Love out of Nothing At All by Air Supply.

I know just how to whisper,

And I know just how to cry;

I know just where to find the answers;

And I know just how to lie.

I know just how to fake it,

And I know just how to scheme;

I know just when to face the truth,

And then I know just when to dream.

And I know just where to touch you,

And I know just what to prove;

I know when to pull you closer,

And I know when to let you loose.

And I know the night is fading,

And I know that time’s gonna fly;

And I’m never gonna tell you everything

I’ve got to tell you,

But I know I’ve got to give it a try.

And I know the roads to riches,

And I know the ways to fame;

I know all the rules

And then I know how to break ’em

And I always know the name of the game.

But I don’t know how to leave you,

And I’ll never let you fall;

And I don’t know how you do it,

Making love out of nothing at all

(making love)

Out of nothing at all,

(making love)

Out of nothing at all,

(making love)

Out of nothing at all,

(making love)

Out of nothing at all,

(making love)

Out of nothing at all

(making love)

Out of nothing at all.

Every time I see you all the rays of the sun

Are streaming through the waves in your hair;

And every star in the sky is taking aim

At your eyes like a spotlight,

The beating of my heart is a drum, and it’s lost

And it’s looking for a rhythm like you.

You can take the darkness from the pit of the night

And turn into a beacon burning endlessly bright.

I’ve got to follow it, ’cause everything I know, well it’s nothing till I give it to you.

I can make the run or stumble,

I can make the final block;

And I can make every tackle, at the sound of the whistle,

I can make all the stadiums rock.

I can make tonight forever,

Or I can make it disappear by the dawn;

And I can make you every promise that has ever been made,

And I can make all your demons be gone.

But I’m never gonna make it without you,

Do you really want to see me crawl?

And I’m never gonna make it like you do,

Making love out of nothing at all.

(making love)

Out of nothing at all

(making love)

Out of nothing at all

(making love)

Out of nothing at all

(making love)

Out of nothing at all

(making love)

Out of nothing at all

(making love)

Out of nothing at all

(making love)

And for the gentlemen in the audience, he also wrote Meatloaf's classic mega hit "Bat Out Of Hell". That as well as many of Meatloaf's better megaballads. He always had the ability to put intense feelings into words. Also, his songs were very evocative of certiain intense, powerful feelings about love, life, and death. Plus if you listen to the words of the Air Supply song closely, you can easily imagine Meatloaf performing them. Just like if you listen to Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U", you can easily see Prince (who wrote it) performing them.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I don't pay as much attention to lyrics as I do to the music itself (or the musical qualities of the lyrics), but this is one of my favorites:

"Leif Erikson" by Interpol

She says It helps with the lights out

Her rabid glow is like braille to the night.

She swears I'm a slave to the details

But if your life is such a big joke, why should I care?

The clock is set for nine but you know you're gonna make it eight.

So that you two can take some time, teach each other to reciprocate.

She feels that my sentimental side should be held with kid gloves

But she doesn't know that I left my urge in the icebox

She swears I'm just prey to the female,

Well then hook me up and throw me, baby cakes, cuz I like to get hooked.

The clock is set for nine but you know you're gonna make it eight.

All the people that you've loved they're all bound to leave some keepsakes.

I've been swinging all the time, think it's time to learn your way.

I picture you and me together in the jungle it will be ok.

I'll bring you when my lifeboat sails through the night

That is supposing you don't sleep tonight

It's like learning a new language

Helps me catch up on my mime

If you don't bring up those lonely parts

This could be a good time

You come here to me.

We'll collect those lonely parts and set them down

You come here to me...

She says brief things, her love's a pony

My love's subliminal

I also enjoy Elliott Smith and Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields) as lyricists.

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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Yo, speaking of great lyricists, have you heard of this musician/MC exaltron? :yarr: Check it out:

Focus

I gladly cop to the so-called sin of pride

I put it all on number one and I let it ride

cuz I know that my philosophy is bona fide

And I never give an inch to the opposite side

friends and foes feel my flows

from nose to toes in the city of no dozin

closin in on a cure for tha

moral twerpitude

I don't wanna have to hurtcha dude

but if you step to 'dis

I will do you like Brutus

not cuz you ambitious

but your aim is malicious

meretricious bitches

try to grab my riches

but I ain't tryinna waste my energy

on new and different ways to slay my enemies

never shrink from my responsibility

never blink in the face of adversity

from Marseilles to Bombay

I waylay the PKs

undermine the spineless

with sublime rhymes and basslines

And I always focus on the positive

recognizing that the best revenge is to live

haters obfuscate, instigate, complicate

lust for the power to control your fate

but we don't sweat them

we gon' forget them

we gon let them set their own death

lay them to rest

cuz they've already confessed implicitly

that they're guilty of the worst hypocrisy

complicit in the worst atrocities

precipitated by depraved philosophies

advocating the rejection of the rational

in favor of the blatantly fantastical

now they try to put obstacles up in my path

try to pull the plug on my bubble bath

party poopers and storm troopers ain't even a threat

naked lady mudflaps is all you gon' get

now I'm talkin bout myself and I know why you're hatin

some serious wealth is what I'm creatin

psychological health is what I'm demonstratin

take it somewhere else if your aim is instigatin

I ain't cuban, puerto rican, haitian or jamaican

my ethnicity officially is "straight money-makin"

I take down statists with a well-placed brickbat

expose their long noses and two-faced kickbacks

gettin sharp cheddar like I'm from wisconsin

takin out these thugs like I'm charles bronson

no guns but I'm causing mass casualties

pummeling the parasites perpetually

intelligence cuz my logic is aristotalean

eloquence cuz my rhymes are sesquipedalian

I got the technique and the culinary know-how

spicy -I'll burn your tongue like some kung pao

Mr. Scott blowin spots cuz I gotz da stugots

buckshot on these flocks talkin poc trellat

I rock the bomba clots, outfox the despots

Scotch their rotten plots and mock their mental schlock

from concretes to concepts and all the way back

from the simplest perceptions to the most abstract

it ain't worth smack if it ain't about facts

so the faculty of reason is what they attack

And I always focus on the positive

recognizing that the best revenge is to live

haters obfuscate, instigate, complicate

lust for the power to control your fate

..file under shameless self-promotion. 'Focus' will be on my upcoming CD five by five, but you can hear part of this song here. Check out www.exaltron.com/blog for updates.

ad gloriam

exaltron

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wouldn't classify him as pop (he's pretty obscure), but Ted Leo's lyrics are in a league of their own. Here is his song "Bridges, Squares":

As i walked to kendall square

and crossed the river basin there

the charles was black, the sky was blue

the view was old, the bridge was new

and past the flow's constricted mouth

commercial lines flowed mostly south

or east across a boundless sea

where rising soon, the star would be

the tides are moved by sun and moon

the spring will last from march to june

the red line train will pass behind

as long as bridge joins stream and sky

and from that point where i did stand

i wondered at the works of man

i wondered how this walk began

til red line train came round again

but it's not the time to ossify

it's not the end of wondering why

it's not in your faith or your apostasy

it's not the end of history

as i can take, so i could give

if i could shop where i could live

as i can read, so i'd write books

if i could eat where i could cook

where talkers have a place to meet

where walkers walk along the street

and subways travel paths well hid

but ferries take you off the grid

and it's not the time to ossify

it's not the end of wondering why

it's not in your faith or your apostasy

it's not the end of...

predictable waves of historicity

nostalgia for gas-lit times i'll never see

futurians manifest, internationalists

connected are the promenades and waterways

the living waves of harbor nights and city days

and where is the builder

was there something missed

hidden in the plans to the bridge that started this

but it's not the time to ossify

it's not the end of wondering why

it's not in your faith or your apostasy

it's not the end of history

as i walked on to founders' square

and crossed the river basin there,

the passaic was grey, the sky was blue

the bridge was old, the view was new.

and from that point where i did stand

i wondered at the builder's plan.

i wondered how this walk will end

til path train came around again

but it's not the time to ossify

it's not the end of wondering why

it's not in your faith or your apostasy

it's not the end of history.

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