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

Writing is healthy for us!

Today I feel I want to share this blog below with you all. I saw it on the UK Songwriting contest’s homepage and it confirms what I have instinctively known for a long time. Writing makes me happier and healthier. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write. To me it doesn’t matter if the health factors are proven by science, I would continue to write even if that wasn’t the case. Still, maybe these scientific findings will give someone out there the nudge to finally pick up the pen and just let the words flow.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

 

Åsa

SCIENCE CONFIRMS THAT SONGWRITING IS GOOD FOR YOU

The act of creative writing, and songwriting in particular, has more benefits than most people realize.

The benefits are far reaching, affecting us both physically and mentally, and the interesting thing is that the quality of the writing has nothing to do with it. Just the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits and it doesn´t matter if anyone else reads your lyric or hears your composition, or if it is a commercial success or not. Just writing it is enough. The many benefits documented by researchers include long-term improvements in mood, reduction in stress levels, a reduction of depressive symptoms, lowered blood pressure, better lung and liver function and an improved immune system with fewer illnesses.

A major study at the University of Sidney (by Karen Baikie and Kay Wilhelm) on emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing discovered just how much time spent writing is needed to make a big difference. And its not that much. They say that although the more time spent writing the better, just 15 to 20 minutes of writing on three to five occasions over the course of their four-month study was enough to make a real and noticeable difference.

Another amazing finding is that writing can even make physical wounds heal faster. A study in New Zealand found that if medical biopsy patients wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes for three days in a row before the biopsy their wounds healed more quickly than the people in a control group. Other studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t, AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts and cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

So what exactly is it about writing that makes it so good for you? Well, researchers are generally agreed that the important thing is to express your own personal, traumatic, stressful or emotional events in your writing and composing. It seems that this is the key and it is this expression of personal events and trauma that leads to improvement in physical and mental health.

One well known researcher in this area is James W. Pennebaker from the University of Texas, Austin, USA. He is a leading authority on expressive writing and health and he says; “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals they often experience improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.” Pennebaker and others believe that the act of expressive writing distances people from the upheaval and trauma in their lives and allows them the space to creatively step back and express and evaluate their personal dramas and tragedies. They stop obsessing unhealthily on those events and instead they focus on turning this into a positive creative outcome. This leads to lower stress levels, a more positive outlook and an improvement in general health.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a famous or successful songwriter to get these great benefits. You just need to write! As a songwriter you probably already know that writing songs goes deeper than, well, just writing songs. We all instinctively know when we write that there is more going on at a deeper level. But now it has been confirmed by science. Every time you write a lyric or poem that expresses your feelings and your inner self, or compose a piece of music that expresses and contains a part of you, you are acting as your own personal therapist and doing your physical and mental health a huge favour. If you are a songwriter you are certainly doing something right. Keep on writing!

The International UK Songwriting Contest is now open for entries at www.uksongwritingcontest.com

Best wishes,
The UKSC Team

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

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

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave

I’ve been told, and I probably have to agree, that my strength as a lyric-writer or a writer in general, is my ability to capture and describe complicated feelings in very few words. This is obviously something I am grateful for, but when it comes to lyric writing there is another gift that is even more valuable and that is the ability to evoke all the different senses through the words in a song. I have to go back to an essay I wrote during my A-level years, to find some positive feedback concerning my ability to get the senses going through my writing. I remember being given a task to write a story with our five senses, and I also remember that my story was red out loud by our teacher, as a successful example of this task. Since then not so much….

 
This is why I gave myself the task to write a brand-new song-lyric where the senses will be my main object. I’m not sure I will get it done in reediness for next week’s blog posts, but I will try. Until then I will leave you with a text from http://www.songfacts.com again. This time the song in question is one of my all-time favourites. The Eagles’ “Hotel California”
This is what Don Felder says about The Eagles way to write song lyrics;
“The Eagles aimed for a full sensory experience in their song writing. Felder adds, “When we try to write lyrics, we try to write lyrics that touch multiple senses, things you can see, smell, taste, hear. ‘I heard the mission bell,’ you know, or ‘the warm smell of colitas,’ talking about being able to relate something through your sense of smell. Just those sorts of things. So that’s kind of where ‘colitas’ came from.”

 

I leave you with some very interesting facts about the song “Hotel California” shared with you from www.songfacts.com . Next week I will hopefully have a “full sensory lyric” of my own to share with you all!

 

Until then, take care and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Written by Don Felder, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, “Hotel California” is about materialism and excess. California is used as the setting, but it could relate to anywhere in America. Don Henley in the London Daily Mail November 9, 2007 said: “Some of the wilder interpretations of that song have been amazing. It was really about the excesses of American culture and certain girls we knew. But it was also about the uneasy balance between art and commerce.”

 

On November 25, 2007 Henley appeared on the TV news show 60 Minutes, where he was told, “everyone wants to know what this song means.” Henley replied: “I know, it’s so boring. It’s a song about the dark underbelly of the American Dream, and about excess in America which was something we knew about.”

 

He offered yet another interpretation in the 2013 History of the Eagles documentary: “It’s a song about a journey from innocence to experience.”

 
California is seen from the perspective of an outsider here. Bernie Leadon was the only band member at the time who was from the state (Timothy B. Schmit, who joined in 1977, was also from California). Joe Walsh came from New Jersey; Randy Meisner from Nebraska; Don Henley was from Texas; Glenn Frey was from Detroit, and Don Felder was from Florida. In our interview with Don Felder, he explained: “As you’re driving in Los Angeles at night, you can see the glow of the energy and the lights of Hollywood and Los Angeles for 100 miles out in the desert. And on the horizon, as you’re driving in, all of these images start coming into your mind of the propaganda and advertisement you’ve experienced about California. In other words, the movie stars, the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, the beaches, bikinis, palm trees, all those images that you see and that people think of when they think of California start running through your mind. You’re anticipating that. That’s all you know of California.”

 

Don Henley put it this way: “We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest. Hotel California was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.”

 
This won the 1977 Grammy for Record of the Year. The band did not show up to accept the award, as Don Henley did not believe in contests. Timothy B. Schmit had just joined the band, and he says they watched the ceremony on TV while they were rehearsing.
Don Felder came up with the musical idea for this song. According to his book Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles, he came up with the idea while playing on the beach. He had the chord progressions and basic guitar tracks, which he played for Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who helped finish the song, with Henley adding the lyrics.

 

Felder says they recorded the song about a year after he did the original demo, and in the session, he started to improvise the guitar part at the end. Henley stopped him and demanded that he do it exactly like the demo, so he had to call his wife and have her play the cassette demo over the phone so Felder could remember what he played.

 
The lyric, “Warm smell of colitas,” is often interpreted as sexual slang or a reference to marijuana. When we asked Don Felder about the term, he said: “The colitas is a plant that grows in the desert that blooms at night, and it has this kind of pungent, almost funky smell. Don Henley came up with a lot of the lyrics for that song, and he came up with colitas.”

 

The Eagles aimed for a full sensory experience in their songwriting. Felder adds, “When we try to write lyrics, we try to write lyrics that touch multiple senses, things you can see, smell, taste, hear. ‘I heard the mission bell,’ you know, or ‘the warm smell of colitas,’ talking about being able to relate something through your sense of smell. Just those sorts of things. So that’s kind of where ‘colitas’ came from.”

 
This was recorded at three different sessions before the Eagles got the version they wanted. The biggest problem was finding the right key for Henley’s vocal.

 
Glenn Frey compared this song to an episode of The Twilight Zone, where it jumps from one scene to the next and doesn’t necessarily make sense. He said the success of the song comes from the audience creating stories in their minds based on the images.

 
The line, “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast” is a reference to Steely Dan. The bands shared the same manager (Irving Azoff) and had a friendly rivalry. The year before, Steely Dan included the line “Turn up the Eagles, the neighbours are listening” on their song “Everything You Did.”

 
Don Felder and Joe Walsh played together on the guitar solos, creating the textured sound.

 
The lyrics for the song came with the album. Some listeners thought the line “She’s got the Mercedes Bends” was a misspelling of “Mercedes Benz,” not realizing the line was a play on words.

 
Glenn Frey: “That record explores the underbelly of success, the darker side of Paradise. Which was sort of what we were experiencing in Los Angeles at that time. So that just sort of became a metaphor for the whole world and for everything you know. And we just decided to make it Hotel California. So, with a microcosm of everything else going on around us.”  
Suggestion credit:
Moomin – London, England

 
When the Eagles got back together in 1994, they recorded a live, acoustic version of this song for an MTV special that was included on their album Hell Freezes Over. Don Felder came up with a new guitar intro for this version the day they recorded it, and while it was not released as a single, it got a lot of airplay, helped the album top the charts the first week it was released, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, a category introduced in 1980 when the Eagles won with “Heartache Tonight.”

 

Felder had some beef with how the credits were listed on this new version – the original single had the composers as “Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey,” implying that Felder wrote most of the song and Frey the least. The new version was credited to “Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Don Felder.” Felder claims that Henley and Frey added nothing original to the new version, and that this was simply a power play. Felder was fired from the band in 2001 after disputing payments and royalties.

 
All seven past and present members of the Eagles performed this in 1998 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 
The hotel on the album cover is the Beverly Hills Hotel, known as the Pink Palace. It is often frequented by Hollywood stars. The photo was taken by photographers David Alexander and John Kosh, who sat in a cherry-picker about 60 feet above Sunset Boulevard to get the shot of the hotel at sunset from above the trees. The rush-hour traffic made it a harrowing experience.

 
Although it is well known that Hotel California is actually a metaphor, there are several strange Internet theories and urban legends about the “real” Hotel California. Some include suggestions that it was an old church taken over by devil worshippers, a psychiatric hospital, an inn run by cannibals or Aleister Crowley’s mansion in Scotland. It’s even been suggested that the “Hotel California” is the Playboy Mansion. 
Suggestion credit:
Adam – Dewsbury, England

 
The music may have been inspired by the 1969 Jethro Tull song “We Used to Know,” from their album Stand up. The chord progressions are nearly identical, and the bands toured together before the Eagles recorded “Hotel California.” In a BBC radio interview, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson said laughingly that he was still waiting for the royalties. In Ian Anderson’s interview with Songfacts, he makes it clear that he doesn’t consider “Hotel California” to be borrowing anything from his song: “It’s difficult to find a chord sequence that hasn’t been used, and hasn’t been the focus of lots of pieces of music. Its harmonic progression is almost a mathematical certainty you’re gonna crop up with the same thing sooner or later if you sit strumming a few chords on a guitar. There’s certainly no bitterness or any sense of plagiarism attached to my view on it, although I do sometimes allude, in a joking way, to accepting it as a kind of tribute.”

 
After Don Henley came up with the title, a theme developed for the album. Don Felder told us how some of the other songs fit in: “Once you arrive in LA and you have your first couple of hits, you become the ‘New Kid In Town,’ and then with greater success, you live ‘Life In The Fast Lane,’ and you start wondering if all that time you’ve spent in the bars was just ‘Wasted Time.’ So all of these other song ideas kind of came out of that concept once the foundation was laid for ‘Hotel California.’ It was a really insightful title.”

 
Don Felder: “I had just leased this house out on the beach at Malibu, I guess it was around ’74 or ’75. I remember sitting in the living room, with all the doors wide open on a spectacular July day. I had this acoustic 12-string and I started tinkling around with it, and those Hotel California chords just kind of oozed out. Every once in a while, it seems like the cosmos part and something great just plops in your lap.” 
Suggestion credit:
Stone – Libertyville, IL

 
An alternative interpretation of the meaning of the lyrics is that the song is a description of the journey from Need to Love and Marriage to Divorce and ultimately to the impossibility of regaining the life and happiness of the pre-divorce state.

 

Initially the traveler is feeling the need of a relationship (“My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night”). The traveler meets his love and gets married (“There she stood in the doorway. I heard the mission bell”). A marriage commitment opens up the possibility of happiness but also the traveler is aware and vulnerable to the possibility of intense unhappiness (“And I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven, or this could be hell”)

 

Unfortunately the marriage dissolves and his love becomes obsessed with money (“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted”) where Tiffany” refers to the very expensive jewellery store, Tiffany & Co. With the divorce there is the division of property – she got the Mercedes Benz. After the breakup when he sees her with any guys she reassures him that the pretty, pretty boys” are just friends.” In this new world of being single the other singles he meets do their dance in the courtyard” of life. They generally fall into two groups: There are those who can’t stop talking about their Ex (“Some dance to remember”) and there are those who don’t what to say anything at all about their past marriage (“some dance to forget”).

 

Now in this world of being divorced he longs to return the pre-divorced state of happiness (“So I called up the captain, please bring me my wine”), but he finds that his happiness is now irrevocably in the past (“We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969”).

 

Deep into the post-divorce single’s scene with “mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice” he is reminded that “we are all just prisoners here, of our own device.” He and others want this divorce nightmare to be over, yet – “they stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.” Now frustrated, he panics and is “running for the door. I had to find the passage back to the place I was before” But he is brought up short when the night man informs him that “You can check out any time you like (commit suicide), but you can never leave” (become pre-divorced).

 

 

There are two choruses in the song and each mention the “Hotel California.” Around the time the song was written, California was experiencing the highest divorce rate in the nation. Each chorus has lines that remember his past marriage (“Such a lovely place”) and his past lover (“Such a lovely face”). The first chorus indicates that there can always be more divorces (“Plenty of room at the Hotel California, any time of year, you can find it here”). The second chorus points out that as a part of divorce you will always “bring your alibis.” 
Suggestion credit:
David – Redwood City, CA

 
The Hotel California album is #37 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time. According to the magazine, Don Henley said that the band was in pursuit of a note perfect song. The Eagles spent eight months in the studio polishing take after take after take. Henley also said, “We just locked ourselves in. We had a refrigerator, a ping pong table, roller skates and a couple cots. We would go in and stay for two or three days at a time.” 

Suggestion credit:
Ray – Stockton, NJ

 
According to a reader-submitted poll for Guitar World magazine, the guitar solo for this song is ranked #8 out of 100. 
Suggestion credit:
Romeo – Belo Horizonte, Brazil

 
Don Felder told Gibson about his contribution to this track. “I thought it was really unique and different to anything ever written. The Eagles had been heading in a conventional country-rock direction. I was added to the band for my electric guitar, slide-electric ability and to help turn them into more of a rock and roll band. I was writing stronger guitar tracks that used electric guitar like ‘Victim of Love’ and ‘Hotel California.’ When I came up with the ‘Hotel California’ progression, I knew it was unique but didn’t know if it was appropriate for the Eagles. It was kind of reggae, almost an abstract guitar part for what was on the radio back then.

 

 

When I was writing for the Hotel California album, I was working on a TEAC 4-track in a beach house in Malibu and I was putting down ideas on tape. Then I made cassette copies and gave them to [Don] Henley, [Glenn] Frey, Walsh and [Randy] Meisner. Henley called me to say he really like the Mexican bolero, Mexican reggae song. I knew exactly which track he meant. Don came up with a great lyric concept for the song.”

 
This followed “New Kid in Town” as the second single released from the album. There was no doubt about the song’s merits as an album track but issuing it as a single defied convention. Don Felder told us: “when we finally finished that whole album, the record company had been pounding on the door trying to get in and get this record, because they wanted to release it. We were about four months overdue on delivering our record per our contract. So, we finally let the record company in. The execs come in and we had this playback party for them at the record plant here in Los Angeles. And after the song ‘Hotel California’ played, Henley turned around and said, ‘That’s going to be our single.’

 

In the ’70s, the AM format, which was what we were really aiming for, had a specific formula; your song had to be between three minutes and three minutes and thirty seconds long, and it had to be a dance track, a rock track, or a trippy ballad. The introduction could only be 30 seconds long before the singer started, so the disc jockey didn’t have to speak so long.

 

‘Hotel California’ is six and a half minutes long. The introduction to it is a minute long. You can’t really dance to it. It stops in the middle when the drums stop: ‘mirrors on the ceiling,’ that section, and it’s got a two-minute guitar solo on the end. It’s the complete wrong format.

 

So I said, ‘Don, I think you’re wrong. I think that’s a mistake. I don’t think we should put that out as the single. Maybe an FM cut, but not a single.’ And he said, ‘Nope, that’s going to be our single.’ And I’ve never been so delighted to have been so wrong in my life. You just don’t know.”

 
In Chicago at the time of this song’s popularity many people called the Cook County jail “Hotel California” because it is on California street. The name stuck and now people of all ages and races refer to the jail by this nickname. 
Suggestion credit:
Jesse – Chicago, IL

 
This was featured in the first episode of the TV series American Horror Story: Hotel, which is about a haunted and horrifying hotel run by Lady Gaga. The show in many ways is a visual representation of the song, and this episode (“Checking In”) ends with a man moving into the hotel under duress. The song plays as he starts the process, and when he gets to his room, the episode ends, punctuated by the line, “You can check out any time you’d like, but you can never leave.”

 

 

This was not the first time the song has been used in a TV series, but rights are granted judiciously. Other TV uses include:

The X-Files – “Beyond the Sea” (1994)
Absolutely Fabulous – “Poor” (1994)
The Sopranos – “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood” (2001)
Entourage – “Adios, Amigos” (2007)
The League – “The Bachelor Draft” (2013)

 

Testifying on Russian influence over American affairs before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 27, 2017, businessman William Browder invoked this song, saying, “There’s no such thing as a former intelligence officer in Russia. It’s like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but never leave.”

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

Self-acceptance

Today I’m doing something I probably will never do again, but I’m doing it because of the realisation that what I’m talking about will most likely make an enormous difference to the way I write song lyrics from now on. So, what is it I’m going to do? Well, I’m going to share a blog post here from a different blog I’m writing, called “Overweight thoughts” to put into my blog about lyric writing.

 
In this blog post called “Mirror, mirror on the wall” I share a very powerful moment and a realisation I had at work yesterday and I’m sharing it with you, here because I know I’m far from the only one struggling with issues like this. I also know that everything in our lives is connected. If I am at peace with myself, I will write better song-lyrics, even if I may choose to write sad lyrics. I’ll let you read the parts of the blog I have cut out as relevant to my song-writing and get back to you at the end.

 

I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t hated mirrors with all of my heart. I have avoided looking into them as much as I’ve been able to, because I have been so appalled with the image facing me. It has made me cringe, look away and feel sick. Facing myself in the mirror or on a photo has actually been the worst thing someone could force me to do.

 
Even those few years in the early 1990’s when I was slimmer than I had ever been, I had the same problems with photos and mirrors, which means that not all of this horror has to do with weight. It’s more to do with not recognising the person in my reflection or in a photo as me. As the person I know I am meant to be both inside and out.

 
In 1990 when I lost weight successfully for the first time, I thought getting rid of excess weight and looking “normal” would solve all my problems and with that done, I would settle into the routines people do in their mid-twenties (or did back then) with steady jobs, a house and sooner or later a family. The horror I felt when I realised that however slim I was, I still was as insecure, I still had the same difficulties “socialising” with small talk, I still hated to go out to night clubs, etc. All these thigs made me a loner. A loner that felt like the piece of a jigsaw that had landed in the wrong box and didn’t belong to the picture. It was this feeling which got me started down a road where most things in my life would become very much worse before they finally became better.

 
I’ve now realised that back in 1990, I didn’t like my mirror image, because I didn’t recognise what was inside my physical frame as the real me. Me; -the person I was meant to be according to my soul, was hidden behind so many insecurities and horrors from my life up to that point that, even if the frame may have been the one I feel most comfortable in, everything else was wrong. I have also realised that every attempt I’ve made since the 90’s to get back to my ideal weight have failed, because inside I wasn’t ready. In my mind I was still judging myself for absolutely every mistake I’ve ever made (and they are many). Sadly, I also have an excellent memory when it comes to remembering my own mistakes, and unfortunately also those of other’s. There was no way I could succeed in losing weight while I kept on punishing myself for everything I’d done wrong and harbouring negative thoughts towards other people in my life that weren’t perfect either.

 
This year has so far been full of miracles on many levels. Last week I told you that I have realised that I am now healed inside. I have suddenly been able to stop blaming myself for everything that goes wrong in this world and I have managed to let go of my self-judgement.

 
Well this morning, while cleaning the floor in the female locker room at the supermarket I now work in, I had the biggest miracle of them all. As always going in I looked down to avoid looking into the full mirror in the room. Then something inside me said; why don’t you take a look. So, I did. A bit hesitant, but I did. Then I got my miracle. I didn’t cringe, I didn’t feel sick and I didn’t look away! Instead I looked at me. And I felt a very deep happiness because I finally recognised myself in the mirror image. Just as I am supposed to be. Granted, I still have a good two stones (15kg) to lose before I am where I want to be with my physical weight, but the person looking back at me was definitely me. Both inside and out; warts and all. I am so happy I was alone in the locker room because this self-acceptance was so powerful that I could not hold back the tears. It’s taken me almost 52 years to get to a point in my life where I can look at myself in a mirror and say; “Hello! Nice to finally meet you! Well done for getting this far. Enjoy the rest of your life!”

 
No one who hasn’t felt that intense disgust when seeing oneself in the mirror, will ever really understand how big this moment was and what it has taken to get to where I am today, being able to write this down for all of you to read. All of you that haven’t had to experience that on your life’s journey, will just have to believe me when I say that it is one of the most extraordinary things that has happened in my life. I suppose it is called self-acceptance.

 

I think that if we don’t feel good enough or feel insecure as people, it is hard to reach our full potential as lyric writers. In my case I know that when I’m writing it has made me avoid some subjects. For instance, sometimes I just haven’t felt secure enough in myself as a person to share my honest emotions through a song lyric, even if I know the lyric would have benefited from my honesty.

 
Let’s hope that my newly found self-acceptance will allow me to write whatever I feel like writing from now on and lets also hope that you out there reading this, feeling the same way I have felt, and will be able to get to your point of self-acceptance very, very soon, because you are worth it!

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa