When I have the choice, I prefer to write lyrics that are based on the truth. There is something about a true story that makes the words shine that little bit more, because no one can argue with the truth.
Sometimes a subject just presents itself. This is another thing with the truth. When you find a good, true story that you can write a song lyric around, you will remember it. It is totally different when an idea presents itself. At least when ideas come to my head, they float in and out like on a conveyor belt, and if I don’t have a note book handy where I can write down a word or two to help me remember, most of my ideas disappear into the merciful, foggy country we call forgetfulness.
Today I will tell you a story behind a lyric of mine that is true from beginning to end and very close to my heart. It is called “The old forgotten toothbrush”. This lyric was a semi-finalist in UK Songwriting Contest (UKSC) in 2015, but what has made me happier than the semi-final place is the response it has had from people hearing the song and their comments, because they heard the lyrics just when the story was relevant to them.
A few years back I took on a second job. It was for a cleaning company and I was cleaning some private homes. One of those homes was a small flat where a mother and young son lived. The father had died of cancer a couple of years earlier and when cleaning their home, I always felt time had stopped for this little family.
Even though I knew their background story, it wasn’t before I found a dusty old toothbrush on top of their bathroom cabinet that I also found the story I wanted to tell. It was no doubt that the toothbrush had belonged to the deceased husband and father. It was a blue toothbrush for a grown-up person and it had most definitely been forgotten and had time to collect dust over a couple of years.
It could have been any item left behind by a person no longer with us, that could have inspired me to write a song about loss, grief and moving on, but in my case, it happened to be a toothbrush. I never even reflected over whether it was wise to write a song around a toothbrush. Later, I have found a couple of other songs taking on the challenge of this common household item, but so far, I haven’t seen the toothbrush used in a lyric about grief and loss. I’m not saying being unique is a good thing. There might be a very good reason as to why people have left this subject alone, but if I would have changed the toothbrush to a different item, I would have stepped away from the truth and I didn’t want to do that.
The best thing about writing a lyric based on the truth is that you automatically have a beginning, a middle and an end. That way it is easy to write a lyric that the listener can follow. There can be other problems instead, such as becoming too detailed, because then it is easy to become wordier than what might be good for a song lyric.
I did get the criticism of using too many words from one source I sent my lyric about the toothbrush to, but personally I still feel I needed all the words I used to tell this story about this mother and son and their destiny.
I will share “The old forgotten toothbrush” with you. Fredrik Holm has written the music. The singer is Tine Sylvest and Joakim Lundström is playing the guitar.
Take care until next time and happy writing!
The old, forgotten toothbrush (Semi-finalist in UKSC 2015)
Every week I clean a home for a mother and her son,
a family in pieces, since a brutal illness won.
The father of the house had to leave without goodbye
leaving fingerprints behind in a never-ending cry.
Last week the time had come for the bathroom shelves to shine,
among the gathered clutter, an item fell in line.
Well covered by the dust, an old toothbrush came to light,
showing grief never let go, without a proper fight.
The old, forgotten toothbrush, on its own and filled with dust
a reminder of a time when life was fun and not a must.
It was left on the shelf, when its owner passed away,
changing life forever for the ones who had to stay.
Loss has got its stages, just like everything around
at first you’re numb and time stand still, before some peace is found.
There will be times when coping is the best that you can do
but coping long enough, will help real living to shine through!
At the moment time has stopped for the mother and her son,
they live inside a bubble, feel like happiness has gone.
From the outside I do hope, they soon can turn around
believing in their hearts, more laughter can be found.
©Åsa Sandberg 2013