Christmas lyrics

I know, I know. It is only October and I have just mentioned the C-word. I will have made a lot of people shout out in disgust by doing so, but it can’t be helped. I have many reasons to start planning and thinking of Christmas in October. First of all, I have a small, seasonal home baking business where I bake Nordic biscuits which I sell in boxes containing 56 biscuits and cookies of seven different kinds. I need to start to bake these (I will need more than 3000) next week. This is something I’ve done for almost a decade now and when I start to bake I also start play all my Christmas CDs. I’m convinced my biscuits taste better if they are accompanied by Christmas music while in the oven.

 
A second reason for me to think about Christmas well in advance, is that I have got family and close friends in Finland and I need to plan and prepare my parcels for them well in advance, so they reach their destination in time for the big day. So, as you can see, my head has to get into Christmas mode about now to avoid unnecessary stress.

 
I am a big fan of Christmas music, and I think I am so very lucky to have been brought up with Christmas songs that have both Swedish and English lyrics. A lot of Swedish Christmas songs have been translated from English, but there are also plenty of original Christmas songs written in Swedish. I have been collecting Christmas music on both LP and CD for as long as I can remember, and I am always on the lookout for more unusual Christmas songs or unusual arrangements of the more well-known songs. My dream or should I say, one of my goals as a lyric writer is to write enough brand-new song lyrics on the theme of Christmas, to make up a Christmas CD. It’s not an easy task, because most things to do with Christmas has been said and described so many times before in such beautiful ways, that it will be very hard to find a unique spin on the theme. So far, I have only managed one Christmas song lyric and it was written in 2013, which was my first year as a lyric writer. I gave the lyrics the name; “The modern way”. It reached the semi-finals in UK Songwriting Contest in 2015. Again, it was a lyric that divided the jury in England and America. In Great American Song Contest, they didn’t like that I had named my song “The Modern Way” and then never used the title in any kind of hook or Chorus. I can totally see their point and today this lyric is sitting I in a file on my computer that says, “Needs working on”. So far, I haven’t found a good solution for a change, even if I wouldn’t write like this anymore. Maybe I will leave this particular lyric to stand proud as the semi-finalist it is and concentrate on a new seasonal lyric instead. I will leave you with my first ever Christmas lyric, so you can judge for yourself, if you feel like it.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 
The modern way 
I planned to write a brand-new song,
which painted Christmas well.
It was to have a take so new,
that you could really tell.

I wasn’t gonna write one word,
describing starry eyes.
But circling around the core
was ending up in lies.

Chorus
Christmas
A multitude of joy for over 2000 years.
Christmas
A time when inner peace is overcoming our fears.
Christmas
A good excuse to make a lonely stranger a friend.
Christmas
A gift of love to carry through and keep until the end.

Bridge
Santa, toys and sparkling trees, abundance all around.
Our modern way to celebrate the love that once was found,
inside that tiny stable, one quiet starry night.
A love that’s kept us going, brought peace to every fight.

The world is very different now,
from what it was before.
We celebrate in modern ways
not better, but much more.
We eat and drink and buy and sell,
for months before “The Day”.
As long as we remember why,
who’ll judge the modern way?

Chorus
Christmas
A multitude of joy for over 2000 years.
Christmas
A time when inner peace is overcoming our fears.
Christmas
A good excuse to make a lonely stranger a friend.
Christmas
A gift of love to carry through and keep until the end.
Åsa Sandberg©2013

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Collaborations

Today, I’m going to talk about patience, putting in the hours and how, if we do so, we sooner or later get the help we need. I’ve told you before that it can be difficult to measure progress as a lyric writer. Therefore, I try to take part in as many competitions I can find and can afford to send in my lyrics to. Having done this for a few years now, I’ve built up some connections with other musicians and writers. Even if I haven’t been a finalist or winner anywhere yet, I have had some success, and this is useful when looking for collaborators.

 
There have been times when I have doubted if I will ever find any more collaborators out there, but then suddenly, I have got three new projects on the go with as many new people. Two lyrics of mine are out there in the hands of two very talented musicians and the third project is one where I have been asked to write lyrics to a song that is being composed as we speak.

 
This obviously is a very nice situation to be in, because a lyric without a melody is like having a TV in a house without electricity. It is a nice thing to have, but not much point with having it in the long run. What I have realised after a few years of writing song lyrics is that everything takes time. I don’t think it is only people you have to convince you are here for the long run and are serious about your writing you have to put in hours of work for a long enough time to also let the Universe pick up on your pulse. If you write regularly and with a purpose for long enough, the Universe will hear this steady pulse of yours and feel that this is something you are serious about. Then, when the Universe senses your presence and commitment to your purpose, it will do everything in its power to give you what you need for your next step.

 
This is something I knew but had forgotten and because I had forgotten, I have been quite impatient at times. Especially last year when I almost gave up writing, only to realise this was something I could never do. Writing is my life, so instead of quitting I decided to get better and put in the hours and show commitment. Somehow this seems to have started to pay off, because I seem to be in a process where I am given what I need to get to that next, alluring step.

 
The absolute best thing with collaborating is to see what someone else’s creativity can do with my lyrics. I hope I never get blasé about how wonderful it is to hear a new song written around my words, for the first time, Normally the melody is totally different than I had imagined in my head, but usually it is always so much better than anything I could have imagined. It shows how differently everybody interprets words or how every person’s unique life experience puts different meanings to the words. It is a wonderfully fascinating feeling.

 
So, there will hopefully be some exciting times ahead, this autumn. Three new songs on their way and still around two months to wait for the results of my entries into UK songwriting contest. Life could definitely be worse.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Remembering “The kids from Fame”

When I started this blog, I gave myself permission to now and again indulge in my personal favourites when it comes to music. So far, I haven’t done too much walking down memory lane, but today I will stride a few blocks down that specific, pink tinted path, and I would be very happy if you decide to join me.

 
It doesn’t happen very often, but now and again, you are exactly at the right age, at the right time and have the right interests to become totally hooked into a specific TV programme. This happened to me in the early 80s with the series “The kids from Fame”. The series went on for five years (six seasons) and I think I saw most of the episodes. “You got big dreams. You want fame. Well fame costs, and right here is where you start paying. In sweat!” For a few years that sentence blared out of the speaker (note speaker, not speakers) on the telly at home on Sunday evenings. I remember my dad watching too. My dad and I shared most things that had to do with music and he was never scared to delve into the music from my generation even if he himself, among many other genres, was a Sinatra and Bing Crosby man. I also bought all the sound track LPs that were released with the songs from the series, LPs which I totally wore out.

 
A few years back I stumbled upon the series again on a TV channel concentrating on nostalgia, but after having watched half an episode I decided that time had past both me and the series by, and I preferred to keep my involvement with “The kids from fame” safely anchored inside my memory to the time when it was all perfect.

 
The wonderful thing with music is that it rarely goes past its sell by date. This is true for the music from “The kids from Fame” too. Yes, some of the songs I got my fill for my whole life time just because I played them so much back then, but most of them I still love. This is especially true of the lyrics, which I surprisingly still know by heart. I will select some of my favourites that I feel can still hold their own some thirty years later, and share them with you here today.

 
I start with “Life is a celebration” written by Rick Springfield. I like his version too, but I heard it with the kids from Fame first. I love the lyrics in the first verse:

 
I was lost on a winding road
I thought that life had nothing left to give
Then you came and showed me that just to live
Was the greatest gift of all

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KyE_28H5oQ&index=1&list=PL27938203EC0C548A

 

My second choice is a song called “Songs”, and the reason I’ve chosen it, is that it so perfectly explains why I love music and songs so much. The song is written by Dennis Scott and in the TV series Jimmy Osmond made a guest appearance and performed the song together with Erica Gimpel (Coco in the TV-series). I have, on purpose, put in a clip of the song that starts with the intro of the TV series because those first notes still give me goose bumps when remembering the joy the 14 year old version of me felt, in having yet another 50 minute episode of TV-gold in front of me.

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKGW1OeuMhg&list=RDLDAOM3KKJjE&index=19

 

 

The third song I’ve chosen is called “Lay back and be cool” written by Enid Levine. I’ve chosen it, not only because I like to song, but also because it is performed by my favourite in the TV series; the late, great Gene Anthony Ray, who was one of the few cast members to be involved both in the film Fame from 1980 and later the TV series. As a teenager I couldn’t take my eyes of the character Leroy Johnson and watching this video now, I realise that some things never change. Gene Anthony Ray was a brilliant dancer who oozed with charisma. Enjoy!

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEDln4g6KFA

 

 

My last choice in this self-indulgent blog is a song called “Starmaker” written by Bruce Roberts and Carol Bayer Sager. I’ve chosen to finish with this song because most of the “kids” play a part in it and both the video and the song shows the essence of what the TV-series was about; hope, dreams, togetherness, support for each other etc. It was just perfect telly once upon a long time ago!

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTM1Mo6IVR4

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Imagine

Imagine the world without the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. It isn’t easy however hard I try.

 
I have gone back to my favourite website at the moment, www.songfacts.com and found that “Imagine” is the number one lyrics of today’s top 10. I will share the song facts about this wonderful song with you. One fact that I found amusing, since this particular fact makes me realise I wasn’t totally off the mark doubting the English grammar of that sentence when I heard the song as a teenager back in Finland. This is the fact; “According to Yoko Ono, who controls the rights to John Lennon’s music, the most frequent request she gets comes from musicians who want to record this song but change the “No religion, too” lyrics – a request she has always denied.”

 
A good thing to keep in the back of my mind if any critics or judges tells me off for not being grammatically correct!

 
Enjoy the song facts!
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

 

Lennon was asking us to imagine a place where things that divide people (religion, possessions, etc.) did not exist. He felt that would be a much better place.

 
This song is a strong political message that is sugar-coated in a beautiful melody. Lennon realized that the softer approach would bring the song to a wider audience, who hopefully would listen to his message.

 
Lennon took the sole songwriter credit on this track, but later said that his wife, Yoko Ono, should have been credited as well, as he got the initial idea from her book Grapefruit, which is a book of instructions with things like “Imagine the sky crying…” or “Imagine you’re a cloud.”

 

“I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution,” he told the BBC. “If it had been Bowie, I would have put Lennon-Bowie… I just put ‘Lennon’ because she’s just the wife and you don’t put her name on, right?”

 

On June 14, 2017, the National Music Publishers’ Association announced that Yoko would finally be added as a songwriter for “Imagine.” This took place at a ceremony where Yoko was given the Centennial (song of the century) award for her contribution, which was followed by a Patti Smith performance of the song.

 
Some people have wondered if Lennon included a message in the video for this song as well. In the video, Lennon is dressed as a cowboy and Yoko Ono is dressed as an Indian squaw. This could be a kind of message about all cultures getting along.

Suggestion credit:
Adam – Dewsbury, England, for above 2

 
Lennon wrote this on a brown Steinway upright piano. In 2000, George Michael paid over $2 million for the piano that Lennon wrote this on, and then returned it to the Beatles museum in Liverpool. John’s piano has since been “on tour” to various world locations promoting peace.

 
Churlish listeners had a problem with the “no possessions” line, finding Lennon hypocritical since he was so well-off. Yoko Ono addressed this in a 1998 interview with Uncut, where she stated regarding her husband’s intentions: “He sincerely wished that there would be a time when all of us could feel happy without getting too obsessive about material goods.”

 
A sidewalk mosaic spells out the word “Imagine” in a section of Central Park dedicated to Lennon. The area is called “Strawberry Fields,” and is located across from Lennon’s apartment where he was shot.

 
This was not released as a single in the UK until 1975, when it hit #6. Shortly after Lennon’s death in 1980, it was re-released in the UK and hit #1. It was replaced at #1 by Lennon’s “Woman,” marking the first time an artist replaced himself on top of the UK charts since The Beatles followed “She Loves You” with “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
This is credited to The Plastic Ono Band, the name Lennon used for some of his recordings after leaving The Beatles. Ringo Starr played drums on this and Klaus Voorman played bass.

 
On September 21, 2001, Neil Young performed this on a benefit telethon for the victims of the terrorist attacks on America. Almost 60 million people watched the special in the US.

 
At a 2001 tribute special to Lennon, Yolanda Adams sang this with Billy Preston on organ. Preston played keyboards on some Beatles songs, including “Get Back.”
Oasis used the piano intro on their 1996 song “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”

 
In 2002, this came in #2 in a poll by Guinness World Records as Britain’s favorite single of all time. It lost to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

 
This has been covered by many bands, including Our Lady Peace, and a vastly toned-down version by A Perfect Circle. Jack Johnson recorded it for the 2007 compilation Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
Suggestion credit:
Jeffrey – Victoria, Canada

 
This song plays a role in the movie Forrest Gump. Gump (played by Tom Hanks) appears on a talk show with Lennon, talking about a place where there are “no possessions” and “no religion.” It’s implied that Gump gave Lennon the idea for this song.

 
Some speculate that this song contains backwards messages. With a keen ear and large imagination, you can barely make out the words “people war beside me” when reversing the line “Imagine all the people.”
Suggestion credit:
Spencer – Los Angeles, CA

 
On September 13, 1980 Elton John did a free concert in New York’s Central Park, ending it with this song. This performance was three months before Lennon’s untimely death; before playing the song Elton said, “This is for a dear friend of mine who doesn’t live too far from here, so let’s sing it loud enough for him to hear it” (Lennon lived only a few blocks from that part of Central Park). The flamboyant Elton performed the song wearing a Donald Duck outfit.
Suggestion credit:
Chris – Philly, PA

 
Lennon said this song is “virtually the Communist Manifesto.” That’s usually the last we see of the quote, but Lennon added: “even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement.”
Suggestion credit:
Adam – Mechanicsburg, PA

 
This song returned to the Hot 100 three times in the late 2000s, thanks to cover versions by Jack Johnson (#90, 2007), David Archuleta (#36, 2008) and The Glee Cast (#67, 2009).
The jazz musician Herbie Hancock recorded this as the centrepiece to his Imagine Project. His version features Jeff Beck, P!nk, Seal, India.Arie, Konono N°1 and Oumou Sangaré.

 
According to Yoko Ono, who controls the rights to John Lennon’s music, the most frequent request she gets comes from musicians who want to record this song but change the “No religion, too” lyrics – a request she has always denied.

 

 

So, does this mean you can record any song, but you need special permission to alter the lyrics? Essentially, yes. Alex Holz at the music licensing and royalty service provider Limelight explained to us: “Artists can be afforded ‘some’ leeway in adapting a track to your band’s style (so long as you don’t alter the fundamental character of the work), though lyric changes/alterations typically require direct permission from the publisher as a derivative work. Every songwriter/publisher/song is unique and requirements vary.”
This was the last song played on WABC before they switched from a Top 40 format to talk radio. Based in New York City, WABC was for decades the top AM radio station in the country. They debated long and hard to decide which song should be their farewell.
Suggestion credit:
Rob – Minneapolis, MN

 
A moving rendition of this song took place in Paris on November 14, 2015 at the Bataclan theater, where 89 people were killed by gunmen in terrorist attacks the previous night. The German pianist Davide Martello brought his grand piano to the theater, and played the song while crowds mourned outside the venue.

 

 

Over the next few days, Martello brought the piano to every location in Paris where the attacks took place, performing the song in tribute.

 
When Nike used the Beatles song “Revolution” in 1987 TV commercials, Yoko Ono joined the surviving band members in suing the company. In the court proceedings, it was revealed that Yoko appeared in a Japanese TV commercial for a telephone company where “Imagine” plays. According to court documents, she authorized use of the song and was paid about $400,000. The “Revolution” case unified the Beatles in their opposition to having songs used in commercials, especially since they didn’t control the rights – Capitol Records and Michael Jackson did.

 
At the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, four singers from that country performed the song, with each taking a verse. The singers represented a range of genres, including K-pop, with Ahn Ji-young of the duo Bolbbalgan4 performing along with Ha Hyun-woo of the rock band Guckkasten, Jeon In-Kwon of the rock band Deulgukhwa, and the solo artist Lee Eun-mi.

 

 

The theme of the ceremony was “Peace in Motion,” with a message of unity as athletes from North and South Korea entered under one flag.

 
Ben & Jerry’s, makers of “Cherry Garcia” and “Phish Food,” named an ice cream flavor after Lennon’s hit song in 2007. Retired since 2013, “Imagine Whirled Peace” was a caramel ice cream mixed with toffee cookie pieces and chocolate peace signs.

 

 

Behind the song lyrics

It has always been a great interest of mine to find out the story behind song lyrics I really like, and also behind the various recordings of the songs. It’s amazing how often songs become popular, almost by accident. The same goes for songs that an artist really doesn’t want to record, but the record company more or less forces them to do so. So often these become major hits for the reluctant singer, but somehow, I don’t think they mind.

 
Today I’m going to share with you a bit of the story behind Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. The song was first made famous by Jeff Buckley and after that so many people recorded it. The song was used in so many films and TV-series that it basically was worn out.

 
Personally, I prefer the version of the master himself, i.e. Leonard Cohen. In the text I’m going to share with you I, as a lyric Writer, find many of the facts fascinating. Especially the fact that Cohen had written 80 verses to “Hallelujah” for five years leading up to him recording the song. When he finally recorded it in 1984 he chose the four verses he liked best. This fact made me realise I still have so much to learn and so much more personal effort I could inject into my writing. At the same time, we are all different and use different methods when working, but I do find it interesting to find out about how people I admire work and the story behind their words. I hope you do too.

 
I found this text on a website called http://www.songfacts.com

 

Arguably Jeff Buckley’s most famous work, “Hallelujah” was originally written and recorded by Leonard Cohen in 1984 on his album Various Positions. Cohen’s rendition was released as a single in Spain and the Netherlands but got little attention in the United States.

 

Jeff Buckley heard the song in the early ’90s and began performing it at his shows in and around New York City. He included it on his 1994 debut album Grace, but the song didn’t gain widespread attention until after Buckley’s death in 1997, which sparked renewed interest in his work. Many artists took note of “Hallelujah” and recorded their own versions of the song. Many of these covers found their way into movies and TV shows, popularizing the song across a wide audience.

 
The song is about a love that has soured and gone stale. Cohen used a lot of religious imagery, including references to some of the more notorious women in the bible. Here’s some lyric analysis:

“You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you” – Bathsheba, who tempted the king to kill her husband so he could have her.

“She tied you to her kitchen chair, she broke your throne and she cut your hair” – Delilah, who cut off Sampson’s locks that held his superhuman strength.

“But remember when I moved in you and the holy dove was moving too” – This could be a reference to the divine conception and Mary.

The lines referring to the immaculate conception can also be interpreted as having a sexual connotation: “And every breath we drew was hallelujah.”

 

 
Leonard Cohen explained: “Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means ‘Glory to the Lord.’ The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. I say: All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.”
Suggestion credit:
Roderick – Qingdao, China

 
Regarding the line, “The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift,” to which the chords played are: F – G – Am – F: It is clever the way that not only the chords line up in the lyrics and in the music, but also because the connotations themselves of “major” and “minor” add to the meaning of the song. The “fourth” is a major chord based on the fourth of the key Buckley is playing in. Likewise, the fifth is the major chord based on the fifth tone of the key. The “Minor Fall” corresponds to Buckley playing a minor chord based on the sixth of the key. “Major Lift” corresponds to playing the major chord on the fourth again.
Suggestion credit:
Gol – Gainesville, FL

 

 
The Bible makes reference to King David communing with the Lord and learning that certain types of music were more pleasing. The chords mentioned in the lyrics (that “David played and it pleased the lord) are often used in hymns.
Suggestion credit:
Mike – Perth, Australia

 

 
Leonard Cohen recalls singing this song to Bob Dylan the morning after Dylan’s concert in Paris on July 1, 1984. Cohen says they sat down at a café and traded lyrics, and that Dylan especially liked the last verse of the song (Cohen often tells the story of comparing songwriting technique with Dylan at this meetup: while “Hallelujah” took him years to write, Dylan told Cohen that he wrote “I and I” in 15 minutes). Dylan would later perform the song, singing it at two shows in 1988.

 

 
Cohen started work on this song five years prior to recording it on his 1984 Various Positions album, by which time he had 80 verses to choose from – he picked the best four.

When Cohen performed the song in concert, he often included some of the other verses he wrote, which made their way into various renditions of the song. Among those verses:

Baby I’ve been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s no complaint you hear tonight
It’s not some pilgrim who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a lonely Hallelujah

Performances of the song frequently mix and match verses to fit the occasion. This verse is often omitted:

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew her
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

 

 
John Cale, who founded The Velvet Underground, recorded this song for the 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan, and also included it on his 1992 solo album Fragments Of A Rainy Season. Jeff Buckley started covering the song after hearing Cale’s version.

 

Cale shaped his own interpretation after Cohen faxed him 15 pages of lyrics for the song, claiming that he “went through and just picked out the cheeky verses.” Cale’s version also appears in the 1996 movie Basquiat and on its soundtrack.

 

 
Buckley always closed his live shows with this song. Remarkably, his revved-up crowds became extremely silent.
Suggestion credit:
Kristy – La Porte City, IA

 

 
The melody has become a favourite in churches across America, where instrumental versions are often played by organists and bell choirs. Musically, it fits right in with traditional hymns, but the lyrics, although filled with religious imagery (especially the title), are rarely appropriate in this setting, since it is definitely not a worship song.

 

 

You will sometimes hear versions of the song with the lyrics altered for church performance. One such rendition was recorded by The Osmonds in 2015. It begins:

I heard about this baby boy
Who comes to Earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing my song to ya

 

Larry Holder, the composer of “More Than a Child” and other worship songs, gave us his thoughts on the subject. Said Holder: “While there is Biblical imagery, it is not a worship song, in the common understanding. The music by itself is very moving, so I can understand someone wanting to use it instrumentally, although to me, it would tend bring to mind the lyrics (in my case, I’d start thinking about Shrek) which would actually be a distraction from worship.

It is interesting how someone came up with alternate lyrics for what the Osmonds sang, and that would definitely fit within a musical program at church at Christmas time in particular. (I have to presume permissions were obtained for such a derivative work to be written for such public use). I have heard that many of the hymns that Martin Luther penned actually used common melodies heard in the pubs of his day, so setting worship lyrics to secular melodies already well known has some logic to it.

There has been a lot of change in worship style, just in the past decade or so. I am a bass player in a praise band, in a church that not so many years ago was pretty much just choir, piano, organ (we actually have two services now, one traditional, one contemporary, which is not uncommon). It is easy to see how something contemporary but not purely originally worship music can become adapted and adopted into a contemporary worship setting. We sometimes walk a fine line between leading true worship and merely providing entertainment.”

 

 
Rufus Wainwright recorded this for the 2001 movie Shrek. Wainwright did not sing on the version used in the film (John Cale did), but his version is on the soundtrack. Wainwright recorded for Dreamworks, which also distributed the movie, and he had an album coming out a few weeks after Shrek was released. When the song appeared in Shrek, it was introduced to a very young audience, greatly expanding its appeal.
Suggestion credit:
Andy – Indiana, PA

 

 
A stark, a cappella version of this song by Imogen Heap plays during the season finale of the show The O.C. in 2006, accompanying a scene where the character Marissa dies.

Other notable uses of this song on TV shows:

Without A Trace on the first season finale episode.

The Fox series House, where It was used on the second season premiere episode “Acceptance.”

The final episode of the third season of The West Wing. The president and staff were attending an opera when CJ Craig’s (Press Secretary) secret service guard (and new love interest) was gunned down trying to stop a robbery.

The final minutes of the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie Lord Of War.

 

 
In 1986, Jennifer Warnes, who had been singing backup for Cohen since 1972, released an album of Cohen cover songs called Famous Blue Raincoat in an effort to draw more attention to him in America, where he was largely ignored. Warnes had a #1 single to her credit (“Up Where We Belong” with Joe Cocker) and was able to demonstrate the power of his songs on the album, which led to many other artists covering his songs, notably on the 1991 tribute I’m Your Fan.

Warnes arranged the choir and sang on the original version of “Hallelujah,” but she didn’t record it for Famous Blue Raincoat. In a Songfacts interview, she explained why.

“We thought it was too generic, and I wasn’t fond of the lyric,” she said. “I loved the chorus. I sang on it with him on the recording, because I knew what he wanted. He wanted a gospel choir. So that was easy.

But when it took off, I was kind of surprised, because I don’t think it’s one of his greatest songs. I don’t think it’s as cohesive as his other songs are.

But after Famous Blue Raincoat, the world was starved for Leonard Cohen, and they would take anything he put out. A lot of artists were looking for something that had a singable nature to it. Somebody hopped on it and there it was. It took off like a great big bird, didn’t it?”

 

 
Former Vibe and Spin editor Alan Light penned in 2012 a book titled, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujah. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, he explained: “I attempt to explore the unprecedented path of this song – a protracted snowball effect that, over the course of several decades, has turned ‘Hallelujah’ into one of the most loved, most performed and most misunderstood compositions of all time.”

 

 
In March 2008, Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice performed this song during Leonard Cohen’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Afterwards he told Billboard magazine what made this track so special for him. Rice said: “There’s an amazing connection between sex and spirituality, and it’s something Leonard Cohen hints at in that song. It’s almost like a Buddhist master giving you a hint, but not the whole story. You have to take that hint and go sit with it.”

 

 
On March 4, 2008, American Idol competitor Jason Castro performed this song to rave reviews by the judges. Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell both said that they considered the Jeff Buckley version the best. As a result, Buckley’s “Hallelujah” hit #1 on Billboard’s Digital Downloads chart the next week. In the UK the renewed interest in this song created by Jason Castro resulted in the song returning to the UK singles chart at #74. It also reached the Top 20 of the World Singles chart.
Suggestion credit:
Bertrand – Paris, France

 

 
Singer/songwriter Kate Voegele covered this in episode 517 of the TV show One Tree Hill (“Hate Is Safer Than Love”). Such was the positive response to her version that its digital sales gave the singer/songwriter her biggest hit – it reached #68 in the US and #53 in the UK.

 

 
Buckley referred to his sensuous rendition as a homage to “the hallelujah of the orgasm.” He explained in a Dutch magazine OOR: “Whoever listens carefully to ‘Hallelujah’ will discover that it is a song about sex, about love, about life on earth. The hallelujah is not a homage to a worshipped person, idol or god, but the hallelujah of the orgasm. It’s an ode to life and love.” Buckley also admitted to having misgivings about his sensual version and he hoped that Cohen wouldn’t get to hear his version.
In November 2008, this entered the UK Top 50 for the first time, thanks to the BBC’s use of the track in a series of promotional trails for their iPlayer service.

 

 
The song is broadcast at 2 a.m. every Saturday morning by the Israeli Defense Force’s radio channel.

 

 
This song was the debut single for Alexandra Burke, the 2008 winner of the UK X Factor show. Her version broke the record for Europe’s fastest-selling download and topped the UK chart. Its success prompted renewed interest in Jeff Buckley’s rendition and as a consequence his version of Leonard Cohen’s spiritual epic reached #2 just behind Alexandra Burke. It thus became the first song ever to hold down the top two slots on the chart simultaneously since Tommy Steele and Guy Mitchell’s versions of Singing The Blues were at #1 and #2 back in 1957.

 

 

 

It also prompted renewed interest in Leonard Cohen’s original version. As a result the Canadian singer-songwriter got a look in on some chart action, gaining his very first UK Top 40 hit at the age of 74.

 

 
Justin Timberlake performed this song on the charity telethon, Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief, which was held on January 22, 2010. He was accompanied by his cast-mate from The Mickey Mouse Club, singer-songwriter Matt Morris, on guitar and vocals.

Timberlake told MTV News that when he was asked to perform on the Hope for Haiti Now telethon, he knew exactly what song he was going to perform. “It’s always been one of my favorite songs,” Timberlake said. “And my artist Matt, we always kinda sing that song when we’re messing around in the studio with ideas. The way that it’s written can be interpreted many different ways,” he added. “But the emotion that comes through – the chords, the melody and also what’s being said in the song – it just kind of fit for the telethon.”
Timberlake’s version marked the first time this song entered the Top 40 of the US singles chart. The only previous time “Hallelujah” reached the Hot 100 was in May 2008 when Kate Voegele spent one week at #68 with her cover. The Voice contestant Matthew Schuler subsequently reached #40 in 2013 after performing it on the reality television singing competition.

 

 
The Canadian singer kd Lang recorded a version of this song on her 2004 album Hymns of the 49th Parallel. She has several times been chosen to sing the tune at major events, including the 2005 Juno Awards, the 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on the occasion of Cohen’s induction into the Hall of Fame and as part of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

 
Bono recorded a spoken word, trip-hop version of this song in 1995 for the Leonard Cohen tribute album Tower Of Song. Bono later apologized for this, stating, “There’s the holy and the broken hallelujah, and mine was definitely the broken one.”

 

 
After the song was used in the 2009 movie The Watchmen, Leonard Cohen agreed that it needed a break. He told The Guardian: “I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it, and the reviewer said ‘Can we please have a moratorium on Hallelujah in movies and television shows?’ And I kind of feel the same way. I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.”

 

So far “Songfacts.com

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Sad to waste it!

I saw a concert on TV a few days ago, where the troubled, but very talented Amy Winehouse was performing and, as always, I couldn’t help but think how much she left undone with her early departure from the world. I felt that she had wasted her life by being wasted a majority of the time.

 
The thought of Amy Winehouse’s life stayed with me during that day, but after a while I started to feel guilty for giving myself the right to judge her and say that she wasted her life. She has left so many wonderful songs behind and given so much pleasure to so many people through her music, but even though I can be allowed to feel that her life in part was tragic and that it is sad that it couldn’t have been longer; there is absolutely no way I can say that her life was wasted.

 
Having got that far in my thoughts, I decided to write a new song lyric in honour of all the bright shining stars from the creative world who have left us too soon when we look at their lives from a very human perspective.

 
I’ve called my new lyric “Sad to waste it”. I’ve used the same method again that I showed you last week, where I have written new lyrics to a well-known melody. This time I won’t tell you which song I took my inspiration from, because in fairness it doesn’t matter. The lyrics are totally independent from that song. Having said that; if you think you can figure out which melody my words are built on, feel free to guess. I promise to tell you if you get it right.

 
So, here’s my new lyrics written in honour of all the creative bright shining stars that passed away way too soon, often in sad circumstances, but who’s lives I’ve got no right what so ever to call wasted.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Sad to waste it

 

I saw a video today,
from a great gig, back in the day.
You seemed so happy, you enjoyed the crowd.
Your youth was vibrant, made you cool and loud.
And your talent was so rare, the world just paused,
stopped to stare.
Wasn’t it sad to waste it?

 

I always wonder what went wrong?
What made you struggle to stay strong?
When did darkness start to hang around?
How did you stumble and fall to the ground?
And when life turned dark, was there
someone you could call?
Before the fall?
cause it was sad to waste it?

 

Is there a deal a soul like yours,
must sign with our Universe?
To shine brightly and touch endless lives.
To have to suffer from a thousand knives.
When you close your door, and spotlights fade away.
Who can say?
But it feels sad to waste it!

 

They found you lifeless in your bed.
You over dosed, or so they said.
You were young, your life had just begun.
Many plans, so many songs unsung.
Was there anything, that someone could have done?
Help you move on.
Stop you becoming wasted?

 

Right now, the world’s a darker place.
Where your light burned, an empty space.
At the same time, you will never die.
Through your songs there won’t be a good-bye.
So, in one way you’ve found the way forward
That we are still looking for, behind each door.
Your life, was short, not wasted.
©Åsa Sandberg 2018

 

 

Is anybody out there?

Lyric writing can be a very lonely job. Especially when you are still flying under the radar, like I am. This year I have been given many signs that things are moving forward and that I’m starting to get the hang of the fundamentals of my craft. Still, between those encouraging comments and signs, there is plenty of time for doubts to creep in.

 
Being a pure lyric writer, with no real aspirations to write my own music I am always on the look out for collaborators. This is where doubts in my own ability become my worst enemy. I find it quite hard to contact someone with the intention of showing them some lyrics of mine, because I always feel everyone else is better than I am. Sometimes I feel it would be rude of me to assume that composers would want to spend time putting music to my words. All that aside, if I want to get to the next level with my writing, I have to overcome my doubts and fears and just get on with it. I’ve realised that the times when someone totally out of the blue will offer to write music to my words are few and far between, so I will have to become proactive.

 
So, how high do I, as a virtual nobody, aim when deciding who I will target with my lyrics? Do I reach for the stars, hoping to catch someone’s attention at tree top level, or do I look for a potential composer closer to the factory floor where I’m sitting myself? Well, chancing it and sending something to a place which feels totally out of reach is actually somehow easier, because I don’t really expect an answer or, even expect that my email or letter will be read in those places, so any reaction is a plus. What I never do is to send lyrics to someone who write their own. Except if they say that they do look for collaborators when it comes to the lyrics.

 
It is somehow more difficult to approach people in the same boat as myself. Still, the ideal would be to find someone that likes the same kind of music that I do and who is working towards the same end goal, which is to get better, and at some point, get signed. For some reason it has proven difficult to get a reply from someone that potentially could be a person like that.

 
A few weeks ago, I heard a collaboration from an unsigned composer that I thought sounded very promising. Looking at this person’s home page I could see that we like a few similar genres of music. The best thing of all was that this person, according to the home page, was actively looking for collaborators. I decided to give it a go and wrote an email. I even sent a lyric of mine that felt like the kind of thing this person could go for, as an attachment.

 
Since then I haven’t heard one single word. No thank you for writing, no thanks, but no thanks. Absolutely no reaction what so ever. This actually upsets me. The fact that an unsigned musician has a home page with an aim to create interest for collaborations, and then totally ignores someone that is replying to the plea on that home page, is unsettling. Whether or not the interest to collaborate with me or my lyrics was there, I feel I deserved an answer. Especially since sending someone something as personal as a lyric is a scary thing to do.

 
The total silence has at least made it clear to me that this person is not anyone I would like to collaborate with. If you’ve got a home page that clearly states that you are looking for collaborators, the least you can do is reply to those who are showing an interest. If that basic skill in how to treat people isn’t there, I have a feeling the future is looking brighter for me than for this other unsigned individual.

 
Therefore, I just want to let you know that if there is a composer out there looking for lyrics, don’t be shy. Please ask. I promise to listen to your music and if I feel I can put words to your melody I will tell you. Which ever way, I will definitely reply, and I will always be grateful that you took time to ask!

 
Apparently, it has always been difficult to find collaborators. In 1967 one of Sweden’s best lyric writers and country singers and a very close friend of mine, Alf Robertson, put an advert into a Swedish newspaper. The ad said; “Lyric writer looking for collaboration with a composer.” Alf, who sadly isn’t with us anymore, didn’t get one single reply to his ad, and someone later told him that it wasn’t done that way.

 
Alf wrote the most phenomenal song lyrics in Swedish. He also translated a lot of familiar country songs to Swedish and recorded them. The song he had most success with was a translation of Tom T Hall’s “Old dogs, children and Watermelon Wine.” Alf’s version was called “Hundar och ungar och hembryggt äppelvin.” He got a gold record for that one in 1980. I will leave you with a YouTube clip of a young Alf singing that song on his first ever television appearance in Sweden. This is proof that even if no one answers your pleas for help, it can all work out in the end if we are tenacious enough and never give up.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing
Åsa

Desperate writer

As a lyric writer that doesn’t compose my own music, I find sometimes it can be difficult to step outside the box when writing. It is much easier to find variations to your subject matters if you have a melody to inspire your senses. One thing I have started to do as a way of practising my writing, is to write new lyrics to favourite songs of mine, or big hits that are constantly playing on the radio.

 
Last summer, if you were near a radio, it was impossible to avoid hearing “Despacito” with Justin Bieber. Being an avid YouTube visitor, I soon noticed that this particular song had inspired a lot of artist to write their own lyrics to the “Despacito” melody. I totally understand this, because it gives a real challenge to a lyric writer. In the end I couldn’t help myself. I had to give it a go and write my own lyric version to the melody. I decided to go down the self-irony route with my version, because I enjoy attempting humorous lyrics now and again. I named my version “Desperate writer” and this week I will give you the challenge to follow my lyrics to the melody of the link of “Despacito” which I wrote it to.

 
One other reason I find it a very good exercise to write new lyrics to very familiar songs, is that it trains me to accept change and makes it okay for me. I always form emotional attachments to favourite songs of mine and I wouldn’t like them changed for anything in the world. Writing a totally different set of lyrics to a song I have loved for decades, is training me in the art of letting go and this is a skill I really need to learn if I’m to remodel and improve my own creations especially the ones I’ve got special attachments to, without becoming an emotional wreck very time.

 
Now, lets see if you can follow my version of lyrics to the melody of “Despacito”. Good luck!

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Desperate Writer
(A different set of lyrics to the song Despacito)
It is my dream to get a break through
With time running out
I’m feeling desperate, yeah
I’m getting close to forcing
my words everywhere.

Oh, I am
becoming my worst enemy
needing to change identity.
Angry neighbours telling me to give up
writing and reciting.

I still got one good friend
who doesn’t throw me out.
Wonder for how long,
She will stay that devout.
A dozen lyrics in a week,
Can make the strongest start to shriek.
I need some new friends cause they don’t last long

Once, once I really thought that I could rule the world
These days I’d be happy if I got one third.
With population growing it works out the same so…
Oh yeah,
Why, why can’t no one see the brilliance in my pen?
Pearls are found among the blindest of our hens
I’m sure I’ve got lyrics that could make us millions

Desperate writer
Way back when I started I was an igniter
Now rejection’s turning me into a fighter
Every day my chances’ turning that much slighter.
Desperate writer
Socially I keep an image that looks brighter.
Than reality, that’s turning a lot tighter.
Need to turn this darkness into something lighter.

Where is Mr. Shakespeare’s spirit
when I really need him?
William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?
(Need a hit, yes need a hit so badly)

Maybe I should stop and concentrate on different skill sets?
It has been suggested to me.
Just the thought drowns me in cold sweats.

You should have seen me when I started out.
I didn’t have one single doubt.
I knew what it was all about
I thought I carried massive clout
What I had to give would change the world forever
Bang-Bang
Everything from my pen was extremely clever
Bang-Bang
Since then I’ve learned others done what I do, only better
So far, so far, so far
not managed one small unique letter
You could say I’ve changed from being
ignorant go-getter,
to someone the world taught how to know better.

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

If I’m wrong, it won’t be
due to lack of trying.
One thing that could stop me,
is if I’m busy dying.

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

The universe’s a giver
and I plan to ask her;
to give me inspiration,
enough for me to get there!

Oh yeah!

 

Desperate writer
Way back when I started I was an igniter
Now rejection’s turning me into a fighter
Every day my chances’ turning that much slighter.
Desperate writer
Socially I keep an image that looks brighter.
Than reality that’s turning so much tighter.
Need to turn this darkness into something lighter.

Where is Mr. Shakespeare’s spirit
when I really need him?
William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?
(Need a hit, yes need a hit so badly)

Maybe I should stop and concentrate on different skill sets?
It has been suggested to me.
Just the thought drowns me in cold sweats.

Desperate writer
Way back when I started I was an igniter
Now rejection’s turning me into a fighter
Every day my chances’ turning that much slighter.

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

 

William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?
(Need a hit, yes need a hit so badly)

So shoot me, so shoot me,
Can’t give up all hope yet.
One day it will happen
It’s all set, it’s all set.

William Wordsworth could you send me
hints on how to turn a phrase grim?

Desperate writer…
Åsa Sandberg©2018

 

 

 

 

The day before you came

It is almost six minutes long. It doesn’t have a distinctive chorus. The arrangement and melody doesn’t give the listener a lot of variety. Still, I class this song as pure brilliance and the lyric is probably my absolute favourite lyric of all time. Which song am I talking about? The last ever single released by ABBA; “The day before you came”.

 
Growing up in Finland you could say ABBAs music more or less came to me via the mother’s milk. It was everywhere and since then I have followed and enjoyed everything written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. The duo really can’t do anything wrong in my opinion, but the haunting sound of their last single before ABBA split up, I think reaches extraordinary heights.

 
The first interpretation I think of when hearing the lyric is the one of a woman telling us the story of how she was before the love of her life came into her life, but it can mean many other things too. Personally, I could dedicate these lyrics to the people who have nudged or, sometimes, pushed me quite violently onto the path I’m supposed to be on, because it was needed to get me out of my comfort zone. Some of these very special friends are still with me today and some are now a part of my past. Even though with some old friends, we’ve now outgrown each other I still feel the same big gratitude towards them when they cross my mind.

 
I belong to the highly sensitive people of this world, so I do need a lot of routine to function and the story told in this lyric mirrors my own life in so many ways. That can sometimes make me sad, because the words really paint a very dull existence. Still, deep down I know a big part of my life has to be routine. I need to more or less hibernate until it is time for me to step into a livelier period of living once more.

 
During the last six months it has felt the same way as it has done in the past, when a big change is about to happen in my life and my routine existence will be uprooted yet again. Maybe that is why the haunting melody of “The day before you came”, has been a constant in my playlists lately. Almost a calm before the storm sort of thing.

 
Whether you are an ABBA fan or not; if you are a lyric- or a song writer I do recommend that you take time to read these lyrics and listen to the song. It takes the listener totally outside the box, and I will stick my neck out for it any day and call this a song of pure brilliance. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus as always, on top of their game.

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

The day before you came

I must have left my house at eight because I always do
my train, I’m certain, left the station just when it was due
I must have read the morning paper going into town
and having gotten through the editorial no doubt I must have frowned

I must have made my desk
around a quarter after nine
with letters to be read
and heaps of papers waiting to be signed

I must have gone to lunch
at half past twelve or so
the usual place, the usual bunch
and still on top of this I’m pretty sure it must have rained
the day before you came

I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two
and at the time I never even noticed I was blue
I must have kept on dragging
through the business of the day
without really knowing anything
I hid a part of me away

At five I must have left
there’s no exception to the rule
a matter of routine
I’ve done it ever since I finished school
The train back home again
undoubtedly, I must have read the evening paper then
oh yes, I’m sure my life was well within its usual frame
the day before you came

 

I must have opened my front door at eight o’clock or so
and stopped along the way to buy some Chinese food to go
I’m sure I had my dinner watching something on TV there’s not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn’t se

 

I must have gone to bed
around a quarter after ten
I need a lot of sleep
and so I like to be in bed by then
I must have read a while
the latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style
it’s funny, but I had no sense of living without aim
the day before you came
And turning out the light
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
and rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
the day before you came.

 

 

 

Change is the only constant

Throughout my writing career I’ve been very careful to confirm something by putting it in writing, if I don’t feel it is the absolute truth. I feel the written word is such a powerful energy that I only want to write what I know to be the truth. Nowadays, when writing lyrics, this has become a truth with some shades of grey, because since I have started to write for other people and follow their visions, my collaborator’s wishes becomes my first priority.

 
The other day, after having written my blog “Focus and Happiness”, one of my early lyrics popped up in my head. The lyric is called “Broken”. It is quite gruesome, even though it lifts to a more positive vibe in the last two verses. At the time when I wrote “Broken” I quite often used my own real experiences in my lyrics. I think there were many reasons for this. One was the fact that I was so used to putting only the truth down on paper, so that came with me into my lyrics. Another reason was the old familiar saying; “write what you know”; especially when starting out. A third reason was that I knew I couldn’t be the only one having lived through what I had, or who was walking around with these kinds of feelings. From all this, I thought that someone out there might feel comforted by hearing another person having had experiences reflecting their own.

 
When thinking of “Broken”, five years after writing the lyrics, I realised I couldn’t write those lyrics today. My life has moved on so much since then and the last thing I feel these days is broken. Becoming aware of this, I also realised my fear of change which had been one of my weaknesses in life, has subsided substantially. What someone scared of change does not realise is that change doesn’t have to be negative. The chance for a positive change is just as plausible since everything around us is neutral until we put our own interpretation onto the situation. I suppose I could go back to those broken feelings that feel so distant now, if someone I collaborate with would need something to paint hopelessness, but I am rather pleased that the music world rarely has the demand for sad thoughts on that level. The only reason I wish they would, is that I am sitting on the lyric “Broken” and, for once, I feel it actually deserves more than being hidden away in my personal dropbox.

 
One of my collaborators, Fredrik Holm, wrote a melody to “Broken”, which gives the song another curios angle. Fredrik’s main instrument is Bassoon, and he had never, ever heard a bassoon in any kind of popular music. He felt he wanted to rectify this in the melody of “Broken”, so he actually included a bassoon solo just before the bridge of the song.

 
This was at a time when we were first starting out writing songs, going with our instinct and feeling rules were there to be broken. A few years down the line we have learned that the right to break rules are earned by those who first learn and become good at following those same rules. If you don’t know the basics in both song writing and lyric writing and build your improvisations and “rule breaking” on those basics, very few people can understand what you are trying to say. The outcome is that the messages are too mixed up for the general public.

 
Fredrik and I made a CD, meant as a demo really, out of a dozen of our early songs. One newspaper critic was very positive and kind. It was one of those rare moments when you notice that someone really took their time to understand what we were trying to say and do. He said that all the twelve songs were like separate mini-musicals telling different life stories.

 
Our song “Broken” definitely has the drama of a musical number in it and yes, it also includes a bassoon solo.

 
If you feel like something different, have a listen. I have to admit I’ve got a soft spot for this one but I’m so grateful it doesn’t paint a correct picture of my life anymore.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Broken 

I’ve been fighting for survival
for many, many years.
Bullies, drink and violence
have broken all my gears.

Chorus
I’m broken!
Whichever way I turn,
I’m broken
I’m asked for more than I can give.
I’m broken!
No fuel inside to burn,
I’m broken
stop the demands and let me live!
Reversing is no option;
there’s nothing there to see.
But starting on the road ahead
takes more than what’s in me.

Chorus

Bridge
Burnout is the modern way of saying; I am lost.
We’re falling by the side lines because of every must.
The hunt for something better and bigger drives us on.
Each day we join the rat race, but all the joy has gone.
I would like to stop and listen
and smell a fresh cut lawn.
Sit out by the ocean
until the break of dawn.
I know life could be better
if I had time to look,
and find myself somewhere again;
claim back what life once took.

Chorus

©2013 Åsa Sandberg