Wordsmithing and storytelling

“He went to Paris, looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.

He was impressive, young and aggressive, saving the world on his own.

But, warm summer breezes and French wines and cheeses, put his ambition at bay,

And, summers and winters, they scattered like splinters and four or five years slipped away.”

This is the opening stanza to my favorite Jimmy Buffett song, whose title is in the first line “He went to Paris.”  The wordsmithing and storytelling of this song is so engaging and I love how easily Buffett sings it to let the story unfold.

Another song I adore is written by Kenny Loggins  as a tribute to his brother Colin and his first child called “Danny’s Song.” It was made popular by Anne Murray, but I enjoy the Loggins and Messina version a little more. The last stanza defines my wife which is a key reason for my enjoyment.

“Love a girl who holds the world in a paper-cup.

Drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck.

And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home.

Don’t you live alone, try to earn what lover’s own.”

Words and music. I enjoy a nice instrumental, but to me the words matter, especially when they tell a story.

A final taste is courtesy of Jim Croce in a less known song called “Lover’s Cross.” Here is the opening stanza.

“They said it was bound to happen.

It was just a matter of time.

Well, I have come to my decision

And, it is one of those painful kind.

Well, it seems that you wanted a martyr,

And, that is the one thing I just couldn’t do,

Cause, baby I can’t hang upon a lover’s cross for you.”

These three songs are from a small number I can sing word for word. You will laugh, but I would sing them to my kids as I rocked them to sleep, as I grew quickly tired of nursery rhymes. Gordon Lightfoot, David Gates and The Beatles also lend themselves well to such a mission.

The lyrics I typed are from memory, so there is a chance they are not exactly correct. What are some of your favorites where the lyrics come easily to you?


33 thoughts on “Wordsmithing and storytelling

    • Janis, even though you are a beach wahine (a new term to me), you are obviously not a “parrot head,” a term given to Buffett fans. I listened to a collection of his songs on the way back from Florida today – “Come Monday,” “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude,” and many more. Keith

  1. The first three that come to mind are Jim Croce’s Time In A Bottle, Just Once by Quincy Jones, and Jean by Oliver. Being about half deaf, I often hear lyrics in a slightly different way than they were intended. Nonetheless, I sing ’em like I hear ’em … my family can tell my mood by whether I sing or whistle … if I am grumpy, I whistle, otherwise I sing.

    • Jill, well let’s hope there is more singing in future. I love the first and last one. Time in the Bottle was among those I sang to the kids. I am not recognizing the Quincy Jones’ song, so I will need to check that one out. Thanks, Keith

  2. The only song that I can think of would be Bye Bye Miss American Pie. My knowledge of the lyrics has more to do with memories of singing it with my friends as kids and less to do with the song. I love music of every genre …. some much more than others.
    I love that the nursery was rocking with the Beatles!

    • Lisa, American Pie is a classic. My wife and I got to see Don McLean later in his career sing it and others. The Beatles had a big song list to choose from, of course, I had to sing them softly. Keith

  3. I confess, I tend not to pay much attention to the words of songs — except the protest songs of the 60s, which I loved. But thanks for posting this; it makes me want to listen next time!

  4. Note to Readers: Jill mentions a great song for lullaby singing from Jim Croce, “Time in a Bottle.” Also, his songs “Photographs and Memories,” “New York’s not my Home,” “Operator” and “One less set of Footsteps” lend themselves well.

  5. Don’t you love farce?
    My fault, I fear.
    I thought that you’d want what I want…
    Sorry, my dear!
    And where are the clowns
    Send in the clowns
    Don’t bother, they’re here.
    Although most of the time I don’t sing I just hum

      • Dylan could coin in phrase to be more vivid than the words. To me when he says in “Tangled up in Blue,” the following:

        “I must admit I was a little uneasy when she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe.”

        …it was a highly flirtatious act. Keith

    • “Send in the Clowns,” is priceless. I love the Judy Collins version. This may be a stretch for a farce, but The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” The line that sticks out is “now they know how many holes if takes to fill the Albert Hall.”

  6. A well-written song or poem marries rhythm with syntax, which i suspect is why some of us can easily recall every nuance of our favorite oldies. People will ask me, ‘HOW can you remember so many songs?” but without the queu of the music/rhythm, my ability to recall quckly drops to embarrassing levels.

    • Lisa, agreed. The tune sparks the memory juices. Being where you are from, did you ever make it over to Memphis and listen to the blues or visit Staxx Records or Graceland?

      • but of course… beale street was a very popular stop….

        i am one of the few that didn’t get swept into the elvis frenzy… i sort of raised one quiet brow when friends gushed and then years later mourned/grieved regarding elvis….

        we also had bb king over in indianola, and lobbing into the literary side of the street, i remember peering across a quiet shady street at ‘miss welty’s house’ in jackson ..

      • Beale Street Blues woman!! Interesting your not getting “all shook up” over Elvis. BB King influenced many. I am going to Google Miss Welty’s House to get your reference.

  7. Note to Readers: Then there is Gordon Lightfoot. Here is a favorite line or two:
    “Rainy day people, always seem to know when it’s time to call. Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen till they’ve heard it all.”

  8. Dear Keith,

    Every now and then, I start singing an old tune that I haven’t heard forever. Lately the song that keeps popping into mind is, What a difference a day made… Twenty-four little hours .. Brought the sun and the flowers..Where there used to be rain…

    I always envy folks who have a great memory for the lyrics of a song.

    Ciao, Gronda

  9. Note to Readers: If you ever want to discover a duo that did not get enough acclaim, check out two Brits from the 1960’s called Peter and Gordon. A couple of their hits were written by Jong Lennon and Paul McCartney, who I think dated Peter’s sister Jane. Their biggest hit called “Go to pieces” was written by Del Shannon, who had is huge hit called “Runaway.” Peter later produced albums by James Taylor, Linda Rondstadt and 10,000 Maniacs to name a few.

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