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Mark Blackburn

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

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Quote Originally Posted by Mark Blackburn View Post
Thanks for indulging my ramble
Hey......ramble on.

Now's the time, the time is now........

I always look froward to these posts.wave.gif

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nice post, Mark. I'm a big fan of Paul Oversteet's. he wrote a lot of that early Randy Travis stuff. One of my favorite lyrics from that era was his On the Other Hand. A simple twist of an old cliche. Brilliant in its simplicity.

On the Other Hand

On one hand I count the reasons
I could stay with you
And hold you close to me
All night long
So many lover's games
I'd love to play with you
On that hand there's no reason
Why it's wrong

But on the other hand
There's a golden band
To remind me of someone
Who would not understand
On one hand I could stay
And be your lovin' man
But the reason I must go
Is on the other hand

In your arms I feel the passion
I thought had died
When I looked into your eyes
I found myself
And when I first kissed your lips
I felt so alive
I've got to hand it to you girl
You're somethin' else

But on the other hand
There's a golden band
To remind me of someone
Who would not understand
On one hand I could stay
And be your lovin' man
But the reason I must go
Is on the other hand
Yea the reason I must go
Is on the other hand

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First, a thank you to Lenny and Lee. "Paul Overstreet" - YES! That's the name you keep seeing, again and again, as composer of great (country) lyrics. Prime example, the one you cite (above) "ON THE OTHER HAND," a deceptively-simple 'gem' of a lyric; the melody is quite strong too!

Now why did I come here . . . oh yes. A book to recommend:

If you read music (I don

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Hmmm. I don't know Mr. Blackburn. Maybe I'm naive, but the notion of all the great melodies having been written always felt like a silly thought. Have you heard Neil Finn? He's quite a melody writer.

And it's important to note the definition of melody. Melody, in its strictest definition, is a single note line. But what we refer to as melody usually includes the harmony as well. And the rhythm or cadence of that melody.

So a melody is really the succession of single notes with a cadence or rhythm against a specific harmony.

And with that definition, the simple line of Barber's Adagio for Strings, so simple as to be boring, when set against some very moving harmony becomes the most beautiful and sad melody.

Or think of the disposable Poker Face by Lady Gaga. Does it have a good melody? I think it does. Because rhythmically, there is quite a neat little feat going on with its hook and the "my-my-my..." etc. It's a good melody. Simple, but effective. So's Happy Birthday and Jingle Bells.

So to limit the definition of melody to Cole Porter or Paul McCartney on a good day, is to limit how some of this evolution in rhythm has effected the way we hear music.

Speaking of Paul McCartney, the man was as informed by symphonic melodies as he was by Little Richard. And from that you get Maybe I'm Amazed. Pretty good melody I think, yet entirely different form Gershwin. And I wouldn't be surprised if Porter, Gershwin and the gang would've hated Maybe I'm Amazed.

But we know better. As much as I like the standards, I dislike romanticizing the past even more. No, there's plenty more where that came from...

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Quote Originally Posted by Lee Knight View Post
Hmmm. I don't know Mr. Blackburn. Maybe I'm naive, but the notion of all the great melodies having been written always felt like a silly thought. Have you heard Neil Finn? He's quite a melody writer.
I agree--I still hear a lot of great melodies. I think what changed in the last few decades is that ever since rap, hip/hop and electronc dance music became so dominant, there's been a shift in focus away from melody and more toward rhythm. Many of these songs (and it's even a bit of a stretch to call them songs; they're "tracks") have barely any melody at all. Just some guy speaking in time over a beat, and maybe a singer singing a simple "hook" melody over the chorus. When we do hear a more sophisticated melody, it almost sounds like a throwback, because people aren't used to it.

But...what's funny is that unlike other aspects of music, melody has never gone out of fashion, despite all these stylistic changes. The latest mega-hit rap single tends to have a very short shelf-life, but when a song breaks through with a strong, memorable melody, it tends to stick around long after its peak. That isn't surprising, since the melody is what people walk away remembering about a song. You can't hum a beat.

I just go on YouTube sometimes and I see some very talented songwriters (many of them very young) performing songs in their bedrooms, and I'm often surprised by their impressive melodic sense. So it is still being done, and done well. It just now has to share the stange with other very popular music forms where the melody doesn't play as dominant a role.

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I do look young - except somehow every time I have my picture taken, someome sneaks in and swaps it for a pic of some old guy. I hate it when that happens.

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Didn't know that L&S wrote "Some Cats Know".

I've never heard Peggy Lee's version, but Amos Garrett covered it on his 80s album "Amosbehavin'". Garrett's singing can't compare with Lee's, but his timing is impeccable, and his deep baritone really worked on this song.

I haven't thought about that album for years - gotta go dig it out of the dusty vinyl pile. Terrific guitar work from Amos.

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Amos Garrett! Now I know where I first heard "SOME CATS KNOW."

I went to see Amos Garrett perform live in one of the nicer hotel blues bars here in "the world's coldest major city," after I'd read what our local paper had to say about his solo on Maria Muldaur's biggest hit, MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS. Amos Garrett told a local reporter that Stevie Wonder (arguably one of the two best jazz harmonica players who ever lived), that Stevie Wonder had declared Amos' solo on "Midnight at the Oasis" to be "the second-best (musical bridge) in the history of (pop) music."

I simply HAD to ask Amos myself, "Who did Stevie say had the BEST solo?"

Amos smiled at the memory and asked me: "Do you remember a song (by Mary Wells, I think) in the 60s that opened with the words (and he sang them to me impersonating the original staccato beat of the song): "I know . . . . you don't love me no more . . . no more! No, no more . . . "

"That song," said Amos, featured, if you remember, a trumpet solo -- and THAT, Stevie said, was the 'best' and mine was 'second'."

Pardon the long aside (hey! it's my thread) but that's where I heard SOME CATS KNOW for the first time -- performed "live & in-person" by a uniquely great guitarist. Chet Atkins said NO ONE could bend notes (very thin gauge on his Fender Telecaster) like Amos Garrett.

Which reminds me of the time Chet Atkins introduced a 'country' television audience (Ralph Emery I believe was the host) to England/Scotland's Martin Taylor. Chet Atkins declared Winnipeg's Lenny Breau to be "the greatest guitarist in the world" (when he produced Lenny's first album in Nashville).

He introduced Martin Taylor, in my opinion the second-greatest finger-style guitarist after Lenny Breau, to that television audience this way: "This young man has technique to burn."

Martin then performed his astonishing solo version of the Gershwins' I GOT RHYTHM, simultaneously playing lightning fast bass lines, AND chords AND melody: the 'country' TV audience was blown away and gave him a warm ovation. And how does all this relate to Amos Garrett?

Martin Taylor tells of the time he was driving in his car in Scotland and heard, for the very first time Maria Muldaur's MIDNIGHT/OASIS and had to pull over to the side of the road -- he was so astounded to hear Amos Garrett's musical bridge -- that "second-best solo" of all-time, according to Stevie Wonder.

Let me 'round things off with an anecdote from Martin Taylor about how to begin and end a musical show. It applies to songwriting as well. When Martin Taylor started out as a regular bandmate of the great jazz violinist Stephan Grappelli, he asked him for some advice.

Grappelli replied, in effect, with a reply given to him when he asked the same question of France's most famous male singer:

"Maurice Chevalier told me," said Grappelli, to "begin well, and end well. Then you'll find the middle (parts) take care of themselves."

You never know the directions a thread can take. Thanks, "MDR" for prompting those memories. Ditto to "Lee Knight" -- always enjoy your comments!

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Thanks to all of you who 'tuned in' and (presumably) found something here of interest! Let's raise a glass to the "next 10,000" -- and hope some others (including Lady Songwriters --there are some, aren't there?) find reason to drop by with their thoughts.

Until then, if I may follow-on the "YOU DON'T KNOW ME" appreciation of yesterday . . .

Longing to tell you . . . but afraid and shy
I let my golden chances pass me by.
Soon you

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This thread didn't look like it had enough posts, so I thought I would add to it?

I like the beat, but the chorus seems a little trite and could be more well thought out. Great lead guitar! Good for you!

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The dinosaur found his way to YOUtube, entered "Eva Cassidy Autumn Leaves" and . . . lo and behold: That's Eva, before a live audience, playing her little Guild cutaway steel-string acoustic-electric. What chords! I'd forgotten that melanoma took her from us at the young age -- 33 at her passing, November 2, 1996 (says Wikipedia).

If the moderators will permit, I'll drop in a link -- the only way I know how: perhaps someone can 'embed' the video (the way 'stackabones' does on his "Friday Influences" threads?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSXYu-3r1S8

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This is a great thread, very informative. After reading through, I feel as if I've just taken an entire songwriting course.

I must admit, though, that I sense an undertone of arrogance about past songwriting that I disagree with. As far as melodies go, I can rattle off a handful of Radiohead songs that move me more than anything Sinatra or Bennett sang. Off the top of my head...

High and Dry
Fake Plastic Trees
Let Down
Karma Police
Bullet Proof
Street Spirit

Frankly, I probably hear about 3-5 songs a month just within my (relatively small) youtube community that I think are as good as any of the greats mentioned in this thread.

Good songwriting hasn't died, it just doesn't find its way onto the radio very often anymore.

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