I’m in the semis!

The “mid-term” results from UK songwriting Contest (UKSC) are now starting to drip through. I have had the judge’s decision on three out of my five entries into the first session. My lyric called “Destiny Calling” which was given the best evaluation I’ve ever had from SongDoor, did not get through to the semis. That didn’t surprise me, because so far, the judges at UKSC and the evaluation team at SongDoor have always been sitting on opposite sides of the fence. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Instead it is almost comforting that this difference of opinion continues.

 
My collaboration together with Fredrik Holm; – the song “Alone” in the jazz and blues category, didn’t go any further either. Well it will, just like “Destiny calling”, be considered for the lower prices, which are “Special mention award”, “Higher commended award”, or “Commended award”, but however nice that is, anything below a semi-final place really means that the entry has come to the end of the line in this year’s competition.

 
The third entry of mine that already has been seen by the judges is the lyrics to “Alone” that I entered into the “Lyric only” category and I am very pleased to announce that it has been given a place in the semi-finals and still lives on in the competition. The strange thing is that it wasn’t the version of the lyrics I was going to enter. I made a rooky mistake with both the song version and the lyric version of “Alone” and entered an earlier one where I still hadn’t made my final correction. Since I’m in the semis with this version I suppose I could leave it, but I also know that my final version is flowing much better, so I will enter both the song and the lyrics again for the autumn session. If I don’t I will always wonder “what if”.

 
I’m still waiting for the results of a “Lyrics only” entry I’ve called “Sad to waste it” and a song collaboration, again with Fredrik Holm as the composer, entered in the “Open category” called “Mad World”. I did enter an earlier version of “Mad World” in the “Lyrics only” category in 2015 and it was given a semi-final place. Since then I have refurbished the chorus and changed the verses a bit and added a bridge. I will enter the new version of the lyrics into the competition before the deadline on 30 September, but I thought I’d wait and see what happens to the song first. The song is a bit different, so I’m pleased that UKSC have an open category these days. It gives songs that fall between the standard categories a chance.

 
I will share “Mad World” with you, both the lyrics and the demo of the song, while I’m waiting for the results. Hopefully it will inspire some of you, who are still sitting on the fence about entering your lyrics or music into the competition, to actually enter. Writing lyrics can be a lonely thing to try and make a living out of, so finding places to talk to other, likeminded people can help to keep the motivation going. Competitions are one of those places where you can do just that, and you may also be lucky enough to find collaborators, if you, like me, don’t write music or if you are a musician that prefer not to write your own lyrics.

 

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

 

Åsa

 

Mad world
I’m scared of being sued
and sick of getting screwed.
The world is going mad
and everybody’s blinking rude!

Chorus
Mad world, Bad world,
most of all a Sad world!
Where can I get off?
Rough world, Tough world
Through and through a Bluff world.
When can I get off?

I wonder why I’m here
when all I sense is fear.
I hate to feel alone
but know the cost of getting near.

Repeat Chorus

Bridge
I know that I’m moaning.
So, what! Don’t we all.
It’s my way of coping,
fight back when I fall.
Repeat Chorus

I’m tired and I’m worn,
regret that I was born.
I need a new way out,
‘cause deep inside I feel so torn.

REPEAT CHORUS x2
©2014/2018 Åsa Sandberg

 

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At peace with the journey

Two days ago, I entered into the UK Sonwriting contest one additional lyric and one song where I have collaborated with a composer, making the tally to the first part of the competition three new lyrics and two song collaborations.

 
I mentioned this on UKSCs Facebook page and another competitor that I “talked” to quite a lot last year via the same FB page, asked me how I had been doing since last years results and if my musical dreams had come true? When answering, I got very surprised over what I said, but it is in a happy way. This is what I said: “I feel I am on the right track when it comes to my lyric writing and I’m at peace with the journey!

 
I’m at peace with the journey! How incredible is that! I think I will allow myself a pat on the back for being able to say that and mean it!

 
I suppose you could ask me if I suddenly have lost all my aspirations? If what I want for myself in this creative job has faded? No, is the answer to both those questions. I still burn for the day when I once again get a result I personally can look at as a successful one,. I still want to be able to earn money from writing lyrics, but what I have learned is that those dreams won’t be handed to me on a silver plate from the outside. At least not until I have done the legwork and completed my inside journey and, in all honesty, can say that I have done everything in my power to become as good a writer as I can be.
The reason I’m at peace with my journey is that I am working on becoming better as often and as much as possible. I know I have a few miles to go yet, but I have also travelled a few miles already and done a lot of learning lately. If my efforts so far are rewarded with good marks in the competitions this year, I will be very happy, but the best thing is that I have no expectations what so ever.

 
I think I got a bit spoilt in 2015 when I scooped home 8 semi-final places from UKSC. I thought lyric writing was easy, and the next two years I expected the results to mirror my debut year, especially since I did exactly the same thing. Well, so much is wrong with my last two statements. Firstly; -lyric writing is not easy. Not if I want to aim for good lyrics. Secondly; – I did exactly the same thing! How arrogant and ignorant was that? I never bothered to learn anything new. I thought that I, out of the blue had got the perfect formula for lyric writing and kept hammering down lyric after lyric out of the same old mould. Thank goodness I’ve had some sense knocked into me since then.

 
Another thing has also happened since the UKSC competition 2015. The judges have raised the bar. If I were to enter the lyrics I entered in 2015 again this year, I can’t see many of them making the semis. This doesn’t take anything away from either my lyrics or the 2015 competition. I played in a playing field where all were judged by the same standards, on which ever level the standard was that year, and among those entries mine were thought of as good enough to get awarded 8 semi final places. My mistake the following years was that the competition moved on to new heights and I didn’t.

 
Still, I hadn’t realised that I was feeling as good as I was about where I’m at with my writing, until I was asked the question. I’m sure, a year from now, my goal will be on a higher level, if I can continue to see and feel development, but for now it is all good!
I am obviously very curious about how my entries to this first part of the UKSC will be received, and I can’t wait to find out within the next week or so, but it is a wonderful feeling not to have any expectations what so ever. It gives me a great feeling of harmony from where I can continue my journey.

 
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.

 

 

You can’t force it

You may or may not wonder where I disappeared to last week, but which ever it is I thought I’d tell you. I decided not to publish any new posts last week because my proof reader was visiting Portland, USA and I really don’t want to publish anything that hasn’t been proof read by a native English-speaking person. Even though the corrections get less and less the more blog posts I write, neither my pride nor my professionalism will allow me to publish anything that isn’t as free from mistakes as it can be.

 
Last time we “spoke” I promised you a new lyric built around our senses. I wanted to write a lyric where I described things seen, heard, tasted, smelled or touched by the main characters of that lyric. So, how is that going for me? Well, I do have a framework, but at the moment there is nothing unique about what’s in my head so unfortunately this project will have to wait a while longer.

 
One thing I never do is to try and force a song lyric that for one reason or another is having a difficult birth. Sometimes this happens because the idea isn’t that brilliant to begin with, but sometimes I just know there is something about an idea of mine that could be special. However, if I rush it, I will destroy it. The right words will come when it is time. Or, at least I have to put my trust in the feeling that says this is how it is.

 
Giving a lyric time to mull over inside me (in my subconscious) until it is ready, is not something I do very often these days. I have mentioned before that the majority of my early song lyrics were written that way and that when I finally wrote them down they stayed exactly as they were, because good or bad, this was how they had come to me and it felt wrong to change them.

 
Luckily, I’ve had some sense knocked into me since then, so now I use much more of a craft approach or work mentality. I chose a time, I sit down, and I write. Sometimes the result ends up in the bin, sometimes I go back to it the next day for tweaking and now and again I end up with something that makes me feel hopeful.

 
Still, once in a while I get this old, familiar feeling that there are some words that could be worth waiting for, that are mulling over in my subconscious. There is a difference now as before I would not have been writing anything at all in between getting this feeling and finally writing down the finished product. This meant there was hardly any writing going on. I wasn’t practising my craft at all. If I’ve learned anything this year, especially since starting my two blogs, it is that writing is a skill that needs to be practised every day. Just like anything else you want to get better at, you need to physically do a bit of it every day. Very few of us are able to live on lyric writing. Instead it is something we have to try and find time for in between jobs and everything else that life demands from us. Just a few minutes a day of physical writing can make a difference. It keeps the flow going and give us a focus. I think someone has said that a goal without a focus is just a dream. Personally, I want to keep my focus so that my lyric writing dreams can become a reality and not remain this beautiful, but unreachable dream of “someday”.

 
The cut off date of the first session of the big song writing contest UK SongwritingContest is very close now. The 7th of August is the last day to enter songs or lyrics for those who want to know the results of the entries at the end of this month. Personally, I have so far only entered two lyrics and a song where I have collaborated with the lyrics. My plan is to enter at least one, maybe two more lyrics before this first deadline. Waiting for the results until December seems a bit too long however quickly time flies these days.

 
It feels nice to be back blogging again. I know I was only gone for a week, but it has felt like an eternity. Good luck to anyone out there entering competitions at the moment. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

In real life

Since the foundation of this blog is lyric writing in general, and more specifically about my own development as a lyric writer as well as my thoughts around that development, I can’t help feeling that I need to present a new song-lyric for you from my own pen now and again. Deciding it is time to write something in my blog that includes a brand-new song-lyric is scary, because if I don’t succeed in writing a new lyric, I don’t have a blog post. Still, it is a good scary because it forces me to get creative. Mr. Deadline is the best collaborator anyone can have.

 
This feeling of presenting a new song-lyric once again, has been making itself known for a few weeks now. Sadly, with a second job, my life has become a bit busier of late, so the creative flow has had to take a back seat. Writing that last sentence is just as horrible as it feels, but sometimes needs must and right now I am in one of those times.

 
However, two things have prompted the brand-new lyric I’ve actually written today. The first one was my realisation about how tired I’ve become of social media. I wrote about that a few blog posts back. The second one came only a couple of days ago, when I found out that the world was celebrating “The international emoji day” or something like that. I mean; -really!!!

 
However, I should be grateful, because this made me decide what my new lyric would be about. It was to be about two old friends doing something as strange as meeting up in real life, IRL, taking time out from their smart phones and just go for a long walk in the country side laughing and reconnecting, without having to try and make their words fit into a specific amount of characters and not having to rely on smileys to express how they feel. Doesn’t that sound rather wonderful? I think so.

 
The lyric is called “IRL” and somehow, I hope it will prompt some of you reading this to take the step to reconnect for real again with someone important to you that you haven’t seen for a while. Don’t let the fear of “maybe it’s not a good time” stop you. You will know you’ve done the right thing, when you see their happy face, just as I write in my lyric.

 

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

 

IRL
Woke up Sunday morning,
thinking of a good, old friend.
Grabbed my phone to text her,
stopped before my thumb hit send.

 

Then I grabbed my car keys,
drove two hours to her place.
Knew I’d done the right thing,
when I saw her happy face.

 

Then I said;
Chorus
Let’s go for a walk! In real life!
Have a proper talk! IRL!
Laugh out loud, just us. In real life!
No emoji-smiles and fuss. IRL!
Just be here and now. In real life!
IRL!

 

Never brought our phones,
just disconnected from it all.
We stayed out for hours,
with no need for social walls.

 

Chorus
Let’s go for a walk! In real life!
Have a proper talk! IRL!
Laugh out loud, just us. In real life!
No emoji-smiles and fuss. IRL!
Just be here and now. In real life!
IRL!

 

Bridge
A friend, a smile.
To live a while.
Connect for real.
Can’t beat that deal!

 

Chorus
Let’s go for a walk! In real life!
Have a proper talk! IRL!
Laugh out loud, just us. In real life!
No emoji-smiles and fuss. IRL!
Just be here and now. In real life!
IRL
©Åsa Sandberg 2018

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

Attention!

If you are reading this as a budding lyric writer, I’d suggest you pay attention to my blog today. I have delved a bit further into the treasure trove of the song writing course “Success for your songs”, http://www.successforyoursongs.com and today I’m going to share something that made the penny drop for me when I read it.

 
Personally, I’ve gone from trying to make things a bit too complicated to become as simplistic as I possibly can. The text I’m sharing with you today from Anthony Ceseri has given me the blueprint as to how I can practise my similes or metaphors in ways to capture my audience from the word go. The language can still be simple, but I have to evoke people’s senses. This is what Antony says;

 

A great lyrical introduction is an excellent way to get your listeners interested in your story right off that bat. Plus, if it’s a snoozer, you run the risk of losing them. People have really short attention spans these days, so effectively grabbing their attention early is crucial. Having said that, I better get to my point… and make it quick!

I recently revisited a great example of a strong opening line in the song “Round Here” by Counting Crows. The first line of the song says:

“Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog, where no one notices the contrast of white on white.”

This is a great intro for a few reasons. The first is it’s really visual. Any time you engage the senses, you’re probably doing a good job of inviting people into your story. This line does that by engaging your sense of sight. It’s easy to picture a ghost and a fog as described here. Immediately, we set a stage of what this lyric will look like in our heads. It’s even fun to try and visualize the slight contrast that might actually be there between what we envision a ghost to look like and a thick fog.

 
In addition to that, this is a fantastic simile. There’s a comparison being made between someone who feels they just aren’t being noticed by the world, and a ghost in a fog. The element that ties these two thoughts together to make it an effective simile, is the idea that no one can see this person. It works very well.

 
This opening line is also very intriguing. After hearing it, I already want to know more because it’s so interesting. Had the first line had the same idea, but been said more simplistically and generically, I wouldn’t care as much. What if the song had opened with a line like this:

“Step out the front door, feeling like no one can see me.”

Eh. Suddenly I just don’t care as much anymore. I mean, it’s basically saying the same thing as the real first line, but in a bland, non-descriptive and generic way. Maybe I’d listen carefully to the rest of the lyrics. But maybe I wouldn’t. The “ghost into a fog line” is infinitely stronger and makes me want to stick around for more.

 
You can see how putting a really strong line up front is a great way to get your listeners excited about your story right off the bat. Granted, you want to keep them interested as your story continues along, but that first line can be crucial to getting their attention. Good imagery with a strong simile or metaphor, like we saw in the opening line of “Round Here,” is an awesome way to get your song rolling.

 

I do hope you find that just as useful as I did!

Take care and Happy Writing!

Åsa

 

How to fight negativity

Believe it or not, but I was born with a very positive outlook on life. For a long time, I thought that telling people when something good had happened would make them just as happy. Oh, bless my little cotton socks, how naïve was I? Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I’m a persistent individual. It took a long time before I started to keep my good news to myself after having had my happy face slapped one time too many.

 
There are very few people that can take good news that doesn’t include themselves and be genuinely happy about someone else’s success. Sad but true. The little green-eyed monster called jealousy lives nearby for most of us.

 
I’ve noticed that sometimes all it takes to annoy someone is to look happy. I don’t even have to open my mouth. If I have a day where I can’t stop my inner happiness shining through my eyes; this can be enough to really frustrate someone. So, how can we fight negativity? Personally, I try to ignore it as much as possible and tell myself it isn’t my problem. A person that can’t stand happiness or be happy for someone else must live a very unhappy life, so the best thing is to leave them to stew in their bitterness and continue on with my own journey.

 
Sometimes this is easier said than done though. For instance, only yesterday I got a very acidic comment about something I’ve written. It was about my lyric writing. I had written about how learning my craft has help me improve my writing this year and the comment from this person said, among other things, that they had never tried to write what others might want to hear. In the end they said that they never have had any kind of success either, but they preferred that than writing to please others. Anyway, the whole thing was said in a way that made it clear that this person felt I had sacrificed my integrity to become successful.

 
For a moment that comment hurt a bit. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I don’t sacrifice my integrity for anything in the world. Yes, I would love to write really successful lyrics, and yes, because of that I have taken various steps to get better. The one thing I wouldn’t do is to write a lyric that doesn’t have anything of my personality in it or that I’m not happy enough to put my signature under as an original lyric from me. In all fairness, if what I’ve been doing this year is to leave my integrity behind to write what I believe to be possible cash cows in rhyme, I’m really not doing a very good job, am I?

 
Any craft out there has got rules. The first thing we’ve got to do in order to get good at something is to learn these rules. It doesn’t’ matter how much talent we have. Without rules we will sooner or later hit a brick wall, where pure talent doesn’t give us the answers needed to get any further. Learning the basics and the theory behind the craft of our choice will help us climb those inevitable walls. They give us a solid foundation to fall back on, and after we become really comfortable among those rules, we can happily start to improvise.

 
If anything, I wish I had taken this truth to heart sooner, instead of spending years shuffling furniture around on a sinking ship, but better late then never. It’s just sad that someone has to take my efforts at getting better as selling out. I have put that hurt behind me now and moved on. Maybe the person writing that comment doesn’t believe in their abilities or are unwilling to put in the effort to improve. Whichever it is, it really isn’t my problem. I will continue my journey, because I know where I’m heading.

 
Sometimes the negativity from an unexpected source is so enormous and takes so much energy that we finally have to cut the ties, so not to drown in the acidic lava constantly floating our way. This happened to me with a close family member that I now haven’t seen or spoken to in five years. If I would have known how peaceful my life would become after that cut, I would have done it much earlier, but when it’s family you tend to hang on much longer than you would for anyone else.

 
Anyhow. I wrote a lyric about my relationship with this person called “I’m a Survivor”. Fredrik Holm composed a big band style melody for it and Tine Sylvest lent her voice to a demo for us. Have a listen if you feel like it.

 
Take care until next time and happy writing!
Åsa

 

I’m a survivor! 
Born the runt of the litter.
Never to be picked.
Heard it far too often,
for the wounds to get licked.
Aimed too high for my talent.
Just moderate at best.
Never had much substance.
To compete with the rest.

Chorus
Suppress me, depress me, as much as you want.
Pardon me, I will continue to reach for the front!
I’m a survivor!
I’m a survivor!
Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
Oh Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
It’s the last key on the chain that mostly opens the door.
I will keep my dreams alive and turn up for so much more!
I’m a survivor!
Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
Oh yeah!
I’m a Survivor!

Chose my own way of living,
just outside the norm.
It woke the green eyed monster,
in those stuck in a form.
Aiming high as a challenge,
all good fun to me.
The stars, a valid option.
Or the top of a tree!

Chorus

©2013 Åsa Sandberg