Is there a connection between what kind of stories/books/films we like and the kind of song lyrics we are drawn to? I think there is. In general, I like stories that gives me an environment I can feel comfortable in. I like narratives that I feel I can trust and can learn something from. I also like details, as long as the details have a purpose.
As a child, my favourite writer was Astrid Lindgren. A Swedish Master of Children’s books whose books have been translated into 72 different languages. My absolute favourite, which I still read once a year, is called “The Lionheart Brothers”. A book that did very well all over the world, except in the UK. In fact, hardly any of Lindgren’s books became popular in England, even though they were loved by the rest of the world. “The Lionheart Brothers” talks about death, which may be a strange ting for a children’s book or, at least it was unusual before Harry Potter entered the stage. I was five or six years old when “The Lionheart Brothers” was published, and I have loved it ever since. The book has so much love and light in it which shines even brighter because of the sharp contrast of the evil and darkness that also fits within the pages. It fights the same fight between good and evil as our daily life, but in fairy-tale form, and this is a format that I’ve always gravitated towards.
As a young teenager I found Alistair MacLean and his thrillers and probably read them all. Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone and Puppet on a Chain springs to mind as favourites. MacLean wrote very detailed content, so I suppose it doesn’t come as a surprise that my absolute favourite writer today is Dan Brown. Another favourite is JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series. In them we are back to the struggle between light and dark and, just as in real life, no one is safe and guaranteed to survive, however big a part a character has played in the story line.
When it comes to films made out of these books the ones about the fight between the light and the dark are easier to capture in that media than very detailed books. The Harry Potter films are my comfort film marathon. It is the series I take to, when the world outside my door gets too nasty and I want to escape to a world that clearly shows who is good and who is bad. The Lionheart Brothers was made into a film too, but it was way before the time of CGI so even if the story has stood the test of time and the actors includes the cream of Swedish talent, the film hasn’t aged so well.
Sadly, as a big Dan Brown fan, his books aren’t easy to translate into moving pictures either. Don’t get me wrong, Ron Howard’s film versions of The Davinci Code and Angels and Daemons are good enough films for a rainy Sunday afternoon, but they can’t live up to the books on any level. Inferno, I didn’t like at all as a film, but then “Inferno” was the only one of Dan Brown’s books I couldn’t get in to.
So, when it comes to books and films I like good versus bad; detailed stories and they also have to give me a feeling of comfort. Does this pattern follow through in my favourite songs? Yes, it does! A few all-time favourites spring to mind immediately, The Eagles’ “Waiting in the Weeds”, Kenny Rodger’s version of “The Gambler”, and Confederate Railroad’s “If you leave that way you can never come back”
All these three let your mind form your own place of comfort in the first two lines and they do it so well that you feel it is totally safe to lean back and prepare for a good story.
“Waiting in the weeds” starts with the lines;
“It’s coming on the end of August,
Another summer’s promise almost gone.”
I can so relate to those lines. The darkness is starting to close in again, and I’m sitting here wondering where the summer went. Being able to relate to a song quickly, always makes it a friend for life.
In “The Gambler” the first two lines are;
“On a warm Summer’s evenin’
On a train bound for nowhere”
Again, personally I can so relate. Metaphorically, I did travel on a train to nowhere for quite a chunk of my life, but there is something very comforting with a train journey on a warm summer’s evening. Obviously, the lyrics to The Gambler have other ingredients in it that I adore in things I want to read. The lyrics offer me a wise old man giving advise and then the drama of the same old man dying during the journey. The fact that his last words stays with his travelling companion and narrator of the story from then on, makes it even better. This, because in some way it gives the old gambler eternal life through his words. Being someone that works with words, this really talks to me.
In the final example I’m going to give you four lines or the whole first verse of “When you leave that way, you can never come back” It goes like this;
“I remember waking in the morning
To the sound of a rooster’s crow.
Mama cooking in the kitchen
And Arthur Godfrey on the radio”
Immediately in my mind I can see the dry grass and dusty road outside the window. A net curtain swaying in the wind and red geraniums on the veranda. I can smell bacon and egg and I just sense idyllic country life. That the story then carries me to a life totally destroyed to the point of no return, makes it the perfect story for me, because I’m given my struggle between good and bad.
So, as you can see my preferences in what, for me, are perfect song lyrics echoes my preferences in books and films too. Maybe that is another thing to think about if you struggle to find stories for your lyrics. Think about what kind of stories you like to read and go from there.
I am determined to write a song lyric around a train journey where I get some great words of wisdom from a person more advanced in years than I am. Up until last week I hadn’t thought of something profound enough to give this character to say, but now I know, so hopefully this goal of mine will soon be fulfilled and leave me with one less thing on my bucket list.
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!