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A great melody first, then lyrics,(only) THEN 'vocals'

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  • Well Mark, who can resist the skills of Paul McCartney? And whoever that bassist is and Diana? And John P? Really?

    Paul has always had a way with getting to the gist of the song. So seeing him do this is not a surprise but at the same time a wonderful Epiphany.

    But let me ask you, Mark, what does a great lyric comprise itself of? Taking this threads title into consideration, can you in general terms describe what you believe a great lyric is?

    And hand-in-hand what a great melody is that holds up that great lyric. I think a general description would be wonderful from you considering the length of this thread.:-)

    This is a wonderful thread and I would love to hear your thoughts on its implications.
    __________
    Ain't no sacrilege to call Elvis king
    Dad is great and all but he never could sing -
    Jesus

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    • Hi A very kind gentleman invited me to come visit. Thought I'd plant my feet if no one minds too much. Will get to know what this place is all about in the next few weeks I hope.

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      • LCK
        LCK commented
        Editing a comment

        Natja Kristy wrote:

        Hi A very kind gentleman invited me to come visit. Thought I'd plant my feet if no one minds too much. Will get to know what this place is all about in the next few weeks I hope.


        Hi Natja! Welcome!

        As far as I can tell it's about exploring, supporting, and celebrating the art of songwriter. Most of us are songwriters, some novices, some have been at it a while longer.

        We get ideas for songs, we post them, people give us feedback -- positive or negative -- and we either ignore it or use it to make the song better.

        One of the main features I like is that the website isn't very tolerant of bad manners. So while sometimes a writer might get feedback to the effect of "I'm not sure this song is working very well because of X, Y and Z..." generally speaking no one belittles anyone else's efforts.

        Anyway, welcome! Have fun!


    • Do you know how I can reach Doug Case? I'm his first cousin and would like to contact him related to some work. Thank you! Ann

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      • LCK
        LCK commented
        Editing a comment

        A hit for Pat Boone, this song has a few nice lyrical touches, courtesy of Johnny Mercer.


    • Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing my favorite, 'a capella choir' version of SILVER BELLS

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      • Mark Blackburn
        Mark Blackburn commented
        Editing a comment

        With your indulgence, an instrumental break . . . 

        My guitarist son, "Ben" just sent me a link to Tommy Emmanuel playing one of his own melodies, titled "One Christmas Night."  (When he lived in Toronto, I sent Ben off to see Tommy perform one of his solo concerts at Toronto's Ryerson College).  

        I've yet to see Tommy Emmanuel 'live' and in person; I've come to believe this Australian-born acoustic guitar wizard is the greatest finger-style picker EVER -- not least because of his own wonderful melodies like this one -- in need of a lyric.  

        Around 1:40 Tommy appears to sing the phrase "to the angels, one Christmas night." Perhaps the one snippet of lyric he hears in his mind's ear.  Promise not to write him some words to this one before I can! 

        Note the bell-like harmonics at the beginning and at the close: no one plays harmonics as chords with such presence as Mr. Emmanuel.  

         

         



    • Mark Blackburn wrote:
      Just reading the thread "Are Vocals the most important part of a song?" reminded this oldtimer (nearly 63) of the age-old question: Which is ultimately more important, in making a song a 'classic' that sticks in our memory.

      Cole Porter, who along with Irving (White Christmas) Berlin, and . . . very few other great composers wrote his own lyrics (just thought of another -- Frank (Guys & Dolls) Loesser who, like Irving Berlin wrote TWO great 'seasonal' (Christmas/New Year's) songs you'll be hearing again soon on the radio ("Baby It's Cold Outside" -- which won Loesser Best Song Oscar in 1949, and WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR'S EVE?] . . . pardon the long aside: Cole Porter was asked once "Of all the great songs you DIDN'T write, which one do you most wish you'd written?" Cole answered, "Laura." Johnny Mercer was asked, after the movie of the same name had already opened in theatres, to write a lyric for the haunting melody by David Raksin.

      And though he hadn't yet seen the movie, Mr. Mercer perfectly captured the mood of the film with such words as,

      " . . . is the face in the misty light . . . footsteps that you hear down the hall . . . the laugh that floats on a summer night . . . that you can never quite recall . . . and you see Laura on the train that is passing through . . . those eyes! How familiar they seem! She gave . . . your very first kiss to you . . . that was Laura . . . but she's only a dream."

      See (hear) Frank Sinatra's version of that, to one of arranger Gordon Jenkins' best orchestrations. Oh yes, and Gordon Jenkins, when he was young, asked his new friend Johnny Mercer if he could pen a lyric for a song -- for which he had only a title: "P.S. I Love You."

      Johnny quickly came up (while waiting to catch a train) with the most 'artless' lyric -- the sort you read and think, 'Heck that's only a letter. I could have written that!" Including just little small talk like,

      "Dear I thought I'd drop a line, the weather's cool, the folks are fine, everybody's thinking of you! (p.s. I love you). Yesterday we had some rain, but all-in-all . . . I can't complain. (Was it dusty on the train?) p.s. I love you. Write to the Browns, just as soon as you're able? They came around to call . . . I burned a hole in the dining room table . . . and let me see . . . I guess that's all . . . nothing else for me to say, and so I'll close; and by the way . . . "

      I'll walk alone
      because to tell you the truth I'll be lonely,
      I don't mind being lonely
      when my heart tells me you are lonely too.

      I'll walk alone,
      they'll ask me why and I'll tell them I'd rather.
      There are dreams I must gather,
      dreams we fashioned the night you held me tight.

      I'll always be near you
      wherever you are each night in every prayer.
      If you call, I'll hear you, no matter how far.
      Just close your eyes
      and I'll be there.

      Please walk alone
      and send your love and your kisses to guide me
      Till you're walking beside me,
      I'll walk alone.

      When you read the Mercer lyrics that  you quoted on the very first post in this thread (above), then compare them with "I'll Walk Alone," you have to admit, there really is no comparison. In fact, if I remember correctly you've often quoted lyrics by Mercer or Larry Hart (who Sinatra actually said was his favorite lyricist) or Irving Berlin, and you often explained, quite eloquently, what makes those lyrics so great. And -- correct me if I'm wrong -- I don't think you've ever done that with a single one of Cahn's lyrics.

      It's not that there's anything terribly wrong with his lyrics, it's just that there's nothing terribly great about them.

      “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

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      • LCK
        LCK commented
        Editing a comment

        A demo recording by Barbra Streisand of a song from the 1946 Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer musical, St. Louis Woman, which also featured a tune called "Come Rain or Come Shine."

        I had myself a true love,
        a true love who was something to see.
        I had myself a true love.
        At least that's what I kept on telling me.

        The first thing in the morning
        I still try to think of a way to be with him
        some part of the evening.
        And that's the way I live through the day.

        I had myself a true love. But now he's gone
        and left me for good.
        The Lord knows I done heard those back yard
        whispers going round the neighborhood.

        There maybe a lot of things I miss,
        a lot of things I don't know, but I do know this:
        now I ain't got no love
        and once upon a time I had a true love.

        In the evening, by the doorway,
        while I stand there and wait for his coming,
        with the house swept and the clothes hung
        and a pot on the stove there a humming.

        Where is he while I watch the rising moon?
        With that gal in that damned old saloon?
        No that ain't the way that it used to be.
        No, and everybody keeps telling me

        there may be a lot of things I miss,
        a lot of things I don't know, but I do know this:
        now I ain't got no love
        and once upon a time I had a true love.


    • I woke in the middle if the night and came here to kill some time. I then listened to Frank's Almost Like Being In Love. Of course I'd heard it before but this time... I heard a Sinatra on fire. Why.

      Then I read you write up, Mark, and noticed the arranger's name. Billy Mays. Never knew if him much. I listened again. Then again. Then posted it on Facebook detailing how I believe it's that arrangement that is responsible for such a on point Frank. That key change... Wow. Those sassy trumpets! Behave!

      I love that performance and everyone involved. Thanks Mark! Seriously, wow.
      __________
      Ain't no sacrilege to call Elvis king
      Dad is great and all but he never could sing -
      Jesus

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      • Mark Blackburn
        Mark Blackburn commented
        Editing a comment

        Wow -- my favorite moderator! Thanks, Lee Knight. An astute, concise appreciation only you could have written! (You've made my day.)

         

        As I type this


    • Bunp for Mark.
      Lyrics Songs Demos Videos Covers Dj Facebook Tumblr

      Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.

      -Coco Chanel

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      • A trio of Rodgers and Hart songs.

        "You Took Advantage of Me."


        "Blue Room."


        "Manhattan."

        Last edited by LCK; 08-09-2014, 09:10 AM.
        “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

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        • One of my favorite cabaret artists: no b.s., just quietly singing a great song.

          "This Funny World," Rodgers and Hart.


          "It Never Entered My Mind," Rodgers and Hart.


          "Little Girl Blue," Rodgers and Hart.

          “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

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          • For Mark: Gerry Mulligan's Quartet, the one with Chet Baker in the early 50s. As much as I love hearing Chet sing, this instrumental version of My Funny Valentine is my favorite. You've got Miles and Ella and Costello and how many other versions. Most are great too, but this cool jazz, piano-less quartet's instrumental version is the one for me. I think the reason is that there are no chordal instruments. Valentine's strength is the descending bass line bouying that simple and powerful melody. Only simple until the descending bass notes color each implied chord... Turning a simple melody into a powerful and emotional one. Here, you have 3 lines. That's it. Bari sax, trumpet, bass. Each bass note shading each melody note creating complexity and simplicity all at once. Skeletal, and bringing to mind a chamber string trio, this treatment brings to light the power of this melody and it's chords. Check out the simple melodic execution of Baker the Mulligan. Beautiful.
             
            __________
            Ain't no sacrilege to call Elvis king
            Dad is great and all but he never could sing -
            Jesus

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Lee Knight View Post
              Turning a simple melody into a powerful and emotional one. Here, you have 3 lines. That's it. Bari sax, trumpet, bass. Each bass note shading each melody note creating complexity and simplicity all at once. Skeletal, and bringing to mind a chamber string trio, this treatment brings to light the power of this melody and it's chords. Check out the simple melodic execution of Baker the Mulligan. Beautiful.
              My new favorite version. Fabulous!
              “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

              Comment


              • I'm glad you dig that as I do. Pretty special.
                __________
                Ain't no sacrilege to call Elvis king
                Dad is great and all but he never could sing -
                Jesus

                Comment


                • Okay, so here's the great melody, composed by Ralph Burns & Woody Herman (and was a big break for a young Stan Getz, who plays the tenor solo near the end). Like a lot of Woody Herman's tunes, it's not an easy pop song. It's got layers of difficult chords that most people's ears aren't used to.


                  Then came the lyric, which Johnny Mercer wrote in 1952, using a fairly difficult, double-triple rhyme scheme for the verses.

                  What do I mean by double-triple? In the first verse he rhymes land and breeze with hand and trees, then understand and memories. And continues that AB,AB,AB (or 1.2,1.2,1.2), construction in each of the verses that follow.

                  Also he ends the first section of the bridge with "for just a boy and girl...", then hands us a sneaky internal rhyme for girl at the end with "could end so earl..y."

                  He does something similar in the 2nd verse. (See words in bold below.)

                  Mercer said, "I think it's one my best lyrics. Not a big hit, but you can't tell the public what they like..."

                  I agree it's one of his best.


                  Early Autumn
                  (Ralph Burns, Woody Herman, Johnny Mercer)

                  When an early autumn walks the land
                  and chills the breeze,
                  and touches with her hand
                  the summer trees,
                  perhaps you'll understand
                  what memories
                  I own

                  There's a dance pavilion in the rain
                  all shuttered down,
                  a winding country lane
                  all russet brown.
                  A frosty window pane
                  shows me a town
                  grown lonely

                  That spring of ours that started
                  so April-hearted
                  seemed made for just a boy and girl.
                  I never dreamed, did you,
                  any fall would come in view
                  so early, early...

                  So, darling, if you care,
                  please, let me know.
                  I'll meet you anywhere,
                  I miss you so.
                  Let's never have to share
                  another early autumn.
                  Last edited by LCK; 08-13-2014, 07:07 PM.
                  “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

                  Comment


                  • PBS is running a documentary on songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen for their current pledge drive. He was an interesting guy.

                    His real name was Chester Babcock. He thought Van Heusen sounded good because of the shirt company. He chose Jimmy because it sounded like a songwriter's name. (He may have done it as an homage to Jimmy McHugh, who wrote tons of popular tunes in the '20s and '30s.)

                    He actually began writing songs in high school (I think in Syracuse, New York). Then he moved to New York and struggled for a while in Tin Pan Alley as a song plugger, then finally got a break writing a song or two with Harold Arlen's brother Jerry. (Oddly, J. Arlen wrote the music and Van Heusen wrote the lyrics!) One of their songs was featured at The Cotton Club Revue.

                    He was very prolific. He wrote over 60 songs in 1940, the year he teamed up at Paramount with lyricist Johnny Burke!

                    And here's a stunner: many of Van Heusen's best songs were written for Bing Crosby's road pictures with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

                    Besides his friendship with Crosby, Van Heusen and Frank Sinatra were also pals. Van Heusen was a bit of a ladies man (more than a bit, actually), and when he and Sinatra were both living in New York, they catted around together. And, reportedly, when Sinatra was heartbroken over Ava Gardner (and attempted suicide) he ended up rooming with Van Heusen for a while. The two men were very close friends, which is one reason Sinatra recorded so many Van Heusen songs, the other being that his tunes were for the most part achingly beautiful gems of tunesmithery.

                    One more tidbit, he shaved his head before it was popular!



                    "Moonlight Becomes You," (Burke and Van Heusen) from The Road to Morocco.

                    "Here's That Rainy Day," (Burke/Van Heusen) from the Broadway show, Carnival of Flanders.


                    "But Beautiful," (Burke/Van Heusen) from The Road to Rio.


                    And my favorite, "I Thought About You," (Mercer/Van Heusen).


                    Oh, yeah, and he was a test pilot during World War II! In fact, he'd been an aviator for years. In fact, when he got the call to come to Hollywood in 1940, he flew his own plane from New York to L.A.!
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by LCK; 08-14-2014, 07:24 PM.
                    “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

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                    • Burke and Van Heusen wrote "Personality" for the Hope/Crosby/Lamour film The Road to Utopia. That same year Johnny Mercer, who had a singing career as a sideline to his songwriting career, recorded a version for Capitol Records (he was a co-founder and co-owner of the label). It became a #1 hit in 1946.

                      Last edited by LCK; 08-14-2014, 07:47 PM.
                      “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.

                      Comment

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