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Songwriter Poets

Poetry Fool

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Aug 27, 2006, 12:43pm Top

I just thought I'd help keep the topics organized by starting this branch from the Forms and Constraints discussion on Songwriter poets.

The two that I identify as being quality poets beyond their lyrics skills (besides the givens like Dylan and Cohen) are Lou Reed and Patti Smith. Lou Reed's Pass Thru Fire, the collection of his lyrics stands up against most other poetry collections, as does The Complete Patti Smith.

There is also soon to be released, or maybe it has been, a collection of poetry by indie rock lyricists called Revolution on Canvas. It didn't do that much for me, but if you're into that scene it would be worth checking it out from the library.

Aug 27, 2006, 1:01pm Top

I think it's a great idea to have this topic on its proper branchline (now I'm reminded of railways...) and I just wanted to round off my earlier post on the subject by saying I forgot to mention Nick Cave's And the ass saw the angel and his Complete Lyrics (which I can't 'touchstone' as I either get nothing or something completely unrelated. Understandable with such a common title. Is common still a dirty word? (was it ever?)
Same goes for Joni Mitchell's Anthology and Sandy Denny is only fodder for posthumous biographies where the poems are only incidental. Or accidental, even. I guess if you comb through No More Sad Refrains just looking for them it's worth its discount price. But as a biography it's barely literate and with not a little exploitation value thrown in the mix (desperate sigh).
Enough boring for now. I like to leave with an unveiled threat lingering behind me...

Aug 27, 2006, 6:29pm Top

The fundamental problem for all songwriter poets is that the 'poems' are written, first and foremost, to fit the song. When you put them down on the page they lose a lot of their effectiveness. Ironically, often praising songwriters for their literary output is detrimental to their work. Lou Reed is a good example, his albums from "New York" onwards are crippled by his literary sensibilities - too often the songs don't breathe because the music is swamped beneath a mass of words. (Incidentally, Reed sees himself as a short story writer).

I'm not saying that lyrics can't be clever, witty, or meaningful. Obviously they can, for example, Jarvis Cocker, "Help the aged, one time they were just like you, drinking, smoking cigs, and sniffing glue", but I they work differently from 'pure' poetry, they are integrated into the music and when you read them you find yourself singing the song, albeit in your head.

It aslo works the other way, how many times has poetry been effectively put to music. Not many, because a poem has it's own internal rhythm and this is usually lost when it is put to music.

Sep 1, 2006, 7:39pm Top

I love the idea of this thread, but I couldn't think of anything to add to it. Then this occurred to me:

"Hey Jack Kerouac"
performed by 10,000 Maniacs

Hey Jack Kerouac
I think of your mother
And all the tears she cried
She would cry for none other
Than her little boy lost in a little world that hated
And that dared to drag him down
Her little boy courageous

He chose his words from mouths of
Babes got lost in the world
The hip-flask slinging madmen
Steaming café flirts
They all spoke through you

Hey Jack, now for the tricky part
When you were the brightest star
Who were the shadows?
Of the San Francisco beat boys
You were the favourite
Now they sit and rattle their bones
And think of their blood stoned days

You chose your words from mouths of
Babes got lost in the world
The hip-flask slinging madmen
Steaming café flirts
In Chinatown, howling at night

Allen baby, why so jaded?
Have the boys all grown up
and their beauty faded?
Billy, what a saint they made you
You're just like Mary down in Mexico
On All Souls' Day

You chose your words from mouths of
Babes lost in the world
The cool junk booting madmen
Street minded girls
In Harlem, howling at night

What a tear stained shock of the world
You've gone away without saying

Sep 2, 2006, 2:05pm Top

lorsomething: that is, in all truth (well, my version of it) a good poem - which to my shame I did not know at all. Not a big 10,000 Maniacs fan in their day or of Natalie Merchant solo. I do love "Verdi cries".

and why have we brought our beloved songwriting poets (or vice-versa) here if people on the main thread are now fascinated by Pink Floyd lyrics. I won't get personal. Let's just say it's neither my cup of tea nor my idea of poetry (sorry, I broke into rhyme - like they often do). I'll grant them grat musicianship, a few songs I love and even good lyrics about strong themes - but they are too entwined with the music. If you give them to read to somebody who's never listened to the song as a whole most of them (all?) just aren't poetry - unless we take the concept of poetry to be so all-encompassing that every single lyric ever written is a poem. I'm not of that view. Call me... well nothing too awful I don't mean to be offensive I just let my mind drift a lot ^^

Edited: Sep 2, 2006, 7:14pm Top


Sorry to throw a monkey-wrench in the works by posting the PF lyrics on the other thread. I posted them there in response to the previous poem simply because that poem reminded me of the PF song. I agree that PF lyrics are not great poems (usually). Some of them, as you said, are decent, but I wouldn't want to sit and read them through. I also agree that every single lyric ever written isn't a poem. But I wonder if we would agree on which ones are and which ones are not. I think that poetry, like art and music, is in the "eye" of the beholder. If you get two people together, there will be two opinions and neither is wrong or right. Just my opinion, of course.

Sep 3, 2006, 12:52pm Top

The word 'bard' is used for both poet and singer, and I feel there is overlap. However, it is true that many lyrics don't stand alone. However, some classic (and unclassic) poems have been set to music.

Edgar Allan Poe's "Bells" - Phil Ochs
Alfred Noyes' "Highwayman" - Phil Ochs, Loreena McKennitt
Edward Arlington Robinson's Richard Cory - Simon and Garfunkel
Wyn Cooper's "Fun" - Sheryl Crow

They are two different forms -- often the lines of a poem have to be altered when setting it to music.

Sep 3, 2006, 4:08pm Top

Simon & Garfunkel set the idea of Richard Corey to music, but rewrote it in order to do so.

Sep 3, 2006, 8:11pm Top

Gavroche - Book of Secrets is my favorite McKennitt album (includes Highwayman). She wrote the following after reading Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization. I think it is a good example of a poem set to music.


O light the candle, John
The daylight has almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass

Sit here by my side
For the night is very long
There's something I must tell
Before I pass along

I joined the brotherhood
My books were all to me
I scribed the words of God
And much of history

Many a year was I
Perched out upon the sea
The waves would wash my tears,
The wind, my memory

I'd hear the ocean breathe
Exhale upon the shore
I knew the tempest's blood
Its wrath I would endure

And so the years went by
Within my rocky cell
With only a mouse or bird
My friend; I loved them well

And so it came to pass
I'd come here to Romani
And many a year it took
Till I arrived here with thee

On dusty roads I walked
And over mountains high
Through rivers running deep
Beneath the endless sky

Beneath these jasmine flowers
Amidst these cypress trees
I give you now my books
And all their mysteries

Now take the hourglass
And turn it on its head
For when the sands are still
'Tis then you'll find me dead

O light the candle, John
The daylight is almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass

Sep 15, 2006, 11:18am Top

I love that album. McKennitt has a real talent for setting poems to music. If you haven't heard it, I would recommend the Mask and the Mirror.

Sep 15, 2006, 1:38pm Top

Thanks, Stephicat. I don't have that one...yet! :)

Sep 15, 2006, 2:02pm Top

the new snow patrol has some interesting lyrics.

It's hard to argue when you won't stop making sense
But my tongue still misbehaves, and keeps digging my own grave.

With my hands open and my eyes open
I just keep hoping that your heart opens
Why would I sabotage the best thing that i have,
Well it makes it easier, exactly what i want.

With my hands open and my eyes open
I just keep hoping that your heart opens.

It's not as easy as willing it all to be right
Gotta be more than hope that it's right.
I wanna hear you laugh like you really mean it
Collapse into me tired with joy.

Sep 17, 2006, 2:23pm Top

One of the finest songwriter poets I have heard and read is Paul Kelly, Melbourne based, and much loved. If you've never had the pleasure, I recommend him whole-heartedly.


Check out his bio.

Sep 20, 2006, 5:43pm Top

I like Lou Reed especially from the Velvets era but to me Jim Morrison was a fantastic lyricist.

Oct 26, 2006, 10:55am Top

Iriley - Somehat belatedly I thought I`d respond to your comment.

Morrison certainly wrote some fantastic songs - for me, I think the first two Doors albums and Morrison Hotel are probably the best.

As a writer, I don`t think he always wrote to the best of his abilities - his poetry book The Lords and New Creatures is very undiciplined and self-indulgent, and The Doors track The End is much the same.

I think he was better when he had to work within the constraints of a reasonably conventional song - well, when he didn`t pretend to sing the blues anyway.

As for Reed, maybe it`s a similar tale. The first solo album is great, but Berlin is bowed down under the weight of it`s own pretensions, and some of the later solo stuff is a very mixed bag - "The proud and regal name Delmore" indeed !

Be interesting to know what others think.

Oct 26, 2006, 1:45pm Top

nick--one thing with Morrison is he saw himself as much more than just a singer or a songwriter. The Doors music is just an avenue in some respects--and yeah he's a bit over-indulgent at times. Lyrically at times he's fantastic--soul kitchen, My eyes have seen you etc. With Reed I more or less stop with the Velvets. I can't say where exactly I was or what I was doing when 'Berlin' came out and I now that album is viewed as significant with him but I more or less missed it. Late 70's early 80's I was pretty much listening to punk bands--first the pistols, clash and then DK's, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Savage Republic, The fall, gang of four, Crass, Wire etc. etc. I jumped around a bit with that and much of the music (including lyrics) from that era did not age very well. I kind of like irony and lyrics from that genre are often more ironic or take an ironic stance much more than the average though it's important to balance irony more towards skepticism than cynicism but that's just my opinion. In any case love Sublime--and someone just dumped this New York based band Gogol Bordello on me and they're very interesting--kind of like the Pogues go to Transylvania--the members our somewhat made up of eastern europeans and it's a heavy gypsy sped up kind of folk music--unique but a lot of fun.

Oct 30, 2006, 6:15am Top

In general, I think there`s poetry, and there are lyrics, and the two are different.

Reggae geezer Albert Griffiths is one of my favourite songwriters, but his words look ridiculous printed on a page. Marc Bolan made some great records, but his poetic pretensions were simply deluded.

There are exceptions to every rule of course, and I think Labelled With Love by the band Squeeze may well merit a mention - though ex-menber Chris Difford`s solo stuff is better than his band material I think.

If I get the time. I`ll post the words here later today.

You have to admire anyone who can rhyme "sod all" with "bottle".

18emily_morine First Message
Edited: Nov 10, 2006, 7:15pm Top

I think Joni Mitchell did quite well with setting Yeats' "The Second Coming" to music.

Generally I agree that the musicianship and delivery add so much to songs that the lyrics look puny just put down on the page. Of course, that can also be said of "pure poetry"; I never conceived a burning love for Wyatt's "Whoso list to hunt" until I heard it read by Seamus Heaney. In a similar vein, Yeats used to read in a weird, lilting voice that's almost like singing.

I mean, much poetry is descended from bardic traditions where it was spoken or sung rather than read, and it seems a bit artificial to separate songs and poems completely. Lots of poems have an internal rhythm that suggests music--I always get this from the opening lines of Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," in particular. But then there are poems that I love from which I don't particularly get it. So go figure.

Nov 10, 2006, 7:24pm Top

Isn't the problem that poems do have their own rhythm and 'music' while song lyrics are usually written to fit an existing rhythm and 'music'. This makes it harder to separate any lyric from the music and flattens it on the page.

Nov 27, 2006, 5:40pm Top

Point of Information regarding Lou Reed...he studied as an undergraduate at Syracuse University and considered his professor there, Delmore Schwartz, to being a major influence. As most know, Delmore Schwartz was a "mad" poet and the inspiration for Bellow's Humboldt's Gift.

Nov 27, 2006, 6:03pm Top

As ever, I'll posit Sappho as the greatest lyricist. Her poetry was to be sung and accompanied by a proto-guitar. We don't have the music now, but the poems are sublime.

Jim Morrison had a beautiful voice and his lyrics seemed profound, until you come across his sources throughout literature and realise he was a very successful plagiarist - Blake and The Golden Bough being the most obvious. For me, the most quotable lyricist of the last thirty years has been Morrissey. He's witty, pithy and surprising.

Nov 28, 2006, 4:43am Top

I hadn`t realised that Morrison plagiarised. If he did , there`s a kind of poetic justice in that one of Iggy Pop`s best tunes The Passenger is a direct steal from a Morrison poem.

Morrisey is a good suggestion. I`d also mention Al Stewart in this context.

Nov 28, 2006, 8:42pm Top

Hi nickhoonaloon: I can't remember the Blake poem I read recently which made me sit bolt upright, due to its uncanny resemblance to The Lizard King's lyrics. I do, however, have a concrete example of TLK's borrowing from Sir James Frazer. Chapter 60 of The Golden Bough is entitled 'Between Heaven and Earth'. The page heading reads 'Not to touch the earth' and the next page is, of course, 'Not to see the sun'. Unfortunately, it doesn't go on to suggest the best course of action is to run, run, run...

Nov 29, 2006, 6:49am Top

Didn't The Doors also take their name from Blake? I know that Huxley wrote The Doors of Perception but I'm sure that his title refers back to Blake.

Not surprised that Morrison was ripping off Blake and Frazer, he was more than a little guilty of pomposity and pretention.

For a witty, pithy and surprising lyricist try Billy Bragg - it's not all po-faced material like 'Between the Wars'. Billy Bob Thornton is hilarious on his albums, but perhaps not deliberately.

Nov 29, 2006, 8:09am Top

I think you're right, jargoneer. I've just remembered the quote from Blake / 'End of the night': 'Realms of bliss, realms of light / Some are born to sweet delight'. Can't recall the Blake poem, but the words popped into my head as I logged on today.

As for Bragg: I've seen him perform more times than anyone except Primal Scream: 'I am the milkman of human kindness / I will leave an extra pint' and 'I saw two shooting starts last night / I wished on them, but they were only satellites / It's wrong to wish on space hardware / I wish, I wish, I wish you cared'. His lyrics trip off the tongue, like Morrissey.

Ooh, also - how could I forget - Shane McGowan. He's written such beautiful, poignant lyrics - 'A pair of brown eyes' is stunning. Even his lesser-known songs are brilliant ('London Girl' is one I'd take to a Desert Island). A true urban poet.

Nov 29, 2006, 10:50am Top

That quote from "A New England" made me think of "The Space Race Is Over". Another great song.

McGowan's self-inflicted decline (fall?) is just sad. He had talent, it's just a pity he had/has such a craving for alcohol.

Tom Waits is an interesting, and occasionally affecting, lyricist amongst all the rattle and noise - a combination of beat poetry, German cabaret and showman.

Nov 29, 2006, 12:00pm Top

Bragg and MacGowan - now that would be a pair.

Nov 29, 2006, 8:35pm Top

I have a slightly different perception. I didn't think of Morrison's borrowing as plagiarism, really, but more as tribute. He made no secret of his love for poetry. And, often, poets will borrow phrases from others and weave them into their own work, not with intent to steal or claim authorship, but to show how the idea affected them. Often the lines are so well known that there would be no hope of passing them off as someone else's, anyway. I think the line from Blake goes "There are things that are known and things that are unknown, in between the doors."

Nov 30, 2006, 4:45am Top

I checked this new fangled internet thingy and the line from Blake is -
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through' narrow chinks of his cavern."
It's from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Edited: Nov 30, 2006, 12:25pm Top

On Morrison the biography No one here gets out alive quotes that line of Blake's--Morrison was very taken with Blake and also with Huxley's The doors of perception which was about Huxley's eperimentation with hallucinogens. As for end of the night the Blake quotation that Hera cites is very interesting--again in the above biograpy Sugerman who co-wrote it claimed it as a tribute to the French writer Louis Ferdinand Celine's first novel Journey to the end of the night the epigraph to which goes 'Our life is a journey to winter and night--We look for our way in a sky without light--which is an old obscure French army song from Napoleon's time 'The song of the Swiss Guards'. There are in any case numerous literary references throughout Morrison's songwriting and although Blake is prominent among them they cover a wide range of influences.

Anyways thought since someone had mentioned Shane MacGowan thought that I'd mention that the Pogues IMO were a great band and it is a shame in some respects about MacGowan's alcoholism but maybe without his drinking problem we wouldn't have had such a wild representation of traditional Irish music. Anyway for those who like the Pogue's they should also check out Flogging Molly who are some respects almost like their stepsons and Gogol Bordello who take Eastern European and Gypsy music and put it through the same kind of blender.

Edited: Nov 30, 2006, 7:20pm Top

That hi-tech stuff always defeats me, Jargoneer. lol My source is a book called Rock Names From Abba to ZZ Top : How Rock Bands Got Their Names.

To quote: "The name of the Doors grew out of conversations Jim Morrison had with his roommate Dennis Jakob at UCLA. Discussing names for an imaginary rock band, they agreed that a good choice would be the Doors, which came from a poem by William Blake." Then the quote is given.

I know some authors are not as thorough as they might be, so I searched further and found that the quote I cited, which is attributed to Blake, actually belongs to Morrison. So, I'm throwing in with you guys. I browsed a bit through The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and found the Doors of Perception line, but not the other. Thanks for setting me straight.

lr, I love the Pogues. (One of my favorite Christmas songs is Fairy Tale of New York. Sad about Kristy MacColl, though.) I appreciate the recommendations and I'm going to look for them. I love the Gipsy Kings, too, so want to look into GB, as well. Thanks.

Dec 1, 2006, 2:22am Top

From Gogol Bordello their newest CD 2005 is Underdog world strike. It's excellent. My favorite though is Voi-la intruder which has my favorite song Nomadic Chronicle. Did you look them up on Wikipedia? Anyone the singer is originally form the Ukraine--a refugee from the Chernobyl disaster. The guitar player I believe is from Israel. NYC is their base of operations. Pretty wild. There was another band somewhat similar years ago Mano Negra which might fall into this kind of categorization.

Dec 2, 2006, 10:52am Top

thanks, lr. I think I will start with Voi-la intruder, since it is the one that you liked best. If I like it, I can move on from there. There's nothing I love more than finding new music, not even new poetry.

Edited: Dec 2, 2006, 2:34pm Top

Kippling would start with a tune he liked often music hall or a hymn then find words to fit. Not I suspect at all an unusual practice in the days when the ballad form was king.

Dec 2, 2006, 4:04pm Top

jargoneer (#26) - Tom Waits - now there`s someone I like. Rain Dogs is just great. I love the way he uses words. Maybe it isn`t poetry, but he`s an astonishing lyricist.

I`ll just drop in a plug for the whole English singer-songwriter tradition - I`ve already mentioned Difford, Tillbrook, Al Stewart. I like Steve Harley as well - he`s perhaps a bit less obviously `English` due to a big Dylan influence on him. Still, at his best, I think he`s superb - and far from being a spent force now.

I think there are some great and overlooked reggae songwriters - unfortunately it`s been a big day and I`m tired and no-one springs to mind ! As I said earlier, Albert Griffiths is a great favourite of mine, but I don`t think his words belong on paper.

Dec 2, 2006, 8:38pm Top

Agree on Tom Waits Nick. He is unique. His songs often seem to me like one act plays.

The rap genre I think hasn't got much attention here. Not that I'm a real big fan--some things I do like though--but it has always been built first and foremost around language and internal rhyme and rhythm schemes--and probably a little too much macho posturing at times but that's a sin that cuts across the whole spectrum of modern music.

Dec 2, 2006, 11:18pm Top

I'm listening to one of my favorite songwriter poets, Dan Fogelberg. I love his turn of phrase. I also love Simon & Garfunkle's lyrics.

I haven't heard much by Tom Waits, because I can't get past his singing. I did buy one album (Loose Change or Small Change, can't remember). I like the way Sarah MacLachlan did Ol' 55, but she was drunk at the time.

I agree with you on reggae, Nick. I like the rhythm.

Edited: Dec 3, 2006, 6:07am Top


Small Change - you might remember that the title comes from a character in the song of the same name who "got rained on with his own .38". That`s quite a difficult album for a lot of people - I like it myself, but it could be quite daunting. His singing on that one is quite Louis Armstrong-influenced in places. My father likes his jazz and blues, so there`s a lot on that album that`s quite accessible to me, but not so much for others, I think.

Iriley - you certainly have varied tastes - that`s a good quality to have. Always interesting to read your comments. I expect you find this thread relaxing after all those long debates with Haylan etc !

back to lorsomething - funny you should mention Simon and Garfunkel. For years my favourite record was Weather Report by The Tenors (a `60s reggae band). A few years ago, my wife and I were in a pub in yorkshire and the barman was listening to an S & G tape including their original version of Weather Report - an amazing recording, loved it.

Dec 3, 2006, 6:44am Top

Nick--I'm too easily bored sometimes I think so I do try to skip around on things. As for Haylan--she's definitely opinionated and she's not nasty at all about them so I kind of like her but we're definitely thinking in different directions. Anyway I'm glad that those threads seem to have petered out--I don't know if I was up for another mini-essay.

Dec 3, 2006, 6:47am Top

Nick - re reggae artists. It's a hard one. Much as I like artists like Toots & the Maytals, Gregory Isaacs, John Holt, Prince Buster, etc, I'm not sure that their work really fits. Then again reggae does have one of the true songwriter poets in Linton Kwesi Johnson (much as I like the radical material I have a soft spot for the laid back 'More Time').

Lorsomething - I understand your reaction to Waits' voice, it's like Dylan though. Once you get used to it, it seems completely appropriate.
Nick - you are right about 'Small Change', Waits' work for me splits in two - pre and post 'Swordfishtrombones'. Earlier on in his career you can hear a lot of jazz and blues in his work, whereas the later work the influence of Harry Partch and Kurt Weill comes to the fore.

Nick - two more recent singer-songwriters in the English tradition that deserve a mention are Jarvis Cocker and Luke Haines.
Cocker is great at grabbing your attention with opening lines/couplets such as - Help the aged/ one time they were just like you/drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue; The trouble with your brother/he's always sleeping/with your mother , and so on.
As well as songs about unsolved child murders, English fascism, has managed thematic albums on British modern art, German terrorist groups, which is slightly different subject matter than the usual fodder.

Iriley - rap is difficult one. There is so much posturing that it has almost drowned out the good stuff. I remember when it first hit the mainstream with bands like Public Enemy and it had a real edge to it, and I find I still listen to these material. With the exception of quirkier bands like Outkast I find I can't be bothered searching through the all the cliches to find the rappers with someone interesting to say.

Dec 3, 2006, 7:35am Top

Jargoneer--fortunately I know someone willing to filter through all that for me. In any case the Public enemies with a no bs but a postive message are in short supply. The Roots which is also a rock/reggaeish band (they play instruments) out of Philadelphia might be one to look at. Talib Kweli and Nas are both gritty but I find them to be of the more thoughtful/thought provoking branch of that tree.

Dec 3, 2006, 9:29am Top

`Scuse rushed responses,but I`m quite enjoying this and want to keep up to date with it.

Tom Waits - a friend introduced me to his music just before swordfishtrombones, so I knew him really as a jazzy dude first of all. Yes, I think I also divide his stuff into pre- and post-swordfish in my mind.

Iriley - it was the long meandering essays I was poking fun at. I read Haylan the same way as you - opinionated but likeable. I might not be so generous about one or two others.

jargoneer - who`s Luke Haines ?

Someone mentioned LKJ - when Tings & Times came out, I just couldn`t stop listening to it, I think I may have been the same with Forces of Victory when I was younger. Forces is actually corny rubbish for the most part, though Reality Poem is one of his best tracks I think. I have a CD of guitar instrumentals by one of his band members - John Kpiaye - I`ve yet to meet anyone who shares my enthusiasm for it !

Digressing totally, if anyone shares my fondness for Albert Griffiths and the Gladiators, you might like to check out Clinton Fearon`s current band - the Boogie Brown Band - there is a site where you can hear their stuff.

Anyway, I`ve not forgotten I was going to post the lyrics for Labelled With Love by Squeeze - I`ve just been too lazy ! Maybe later today.

Dec 3, 2006, 11:25am Top

As well as works under his own name, Luke Haines is the singer-songwriter in The Auteurs & Baader Meinhof, and the songwriter for Black Box Recorder.
The Auteurs and BM are guitar based music, while his solo work and BBR are more electronic. (BBR, who have a female singer, are a little like a more caustic St Etienne).
Probably the best introduction is "Luke Haines is Dead", a 3cd set containing singles, alternative mixes & unreleased tracks. Unlike most similar sets the alternative mixes and unreleased tracks are as good as the existing material.

Dec 3, 2006, 2:32pm Top


I was thinking earlier - the lyrics to Equal Rights by Peter Tosh might arguably have a claim to be treated as poetry.

One might make a claim for some of the less well-known Toots tunes - `It Was Written Down there`, `Gola Silver` and one or two others, as a type of poetry, albeit rather rough-hewn.

Edited: Dec 3, 2006, 9:34pm Top

I have to be totally honest. First, I love this thread. Second, the first time I heard Tom Waits, I laughed and laughed. The only reason I kept Small Change was because I knew no one would believe me if I just described it. The opening orchestral piece was very beautiful, but then when he launched into Wasted and Wounded, I lost it. That said, I know there is probably more to him than I know, so might give him another try (post-swordfish) sometime.

Regarding your bands, I have never heard of any of them, except Squeeze and Peter Tosh. I'm further behind than I realized.

Jargoneer, I used to laugh at Dylan a lot too, especially Watching the River Flow. It is a great song, but he does his rap thing (that nasal speaking-instead-of-singing thing) all the way through. I still love him, though. :)

Dec 4, 2006, 4:24am Top

Dylan`s done some fabulous stuff. Not convinced any of it qualifies as poetry, though.

Then again, we could just forget the poetry angle and compare notes on our music collections instead !

Dec 4, 2006, 7:12am Top

Hasn't Christopher Ricks, professor of poetry at Oxford, argued for over two decades that the work of Dylan deserves to be studied alongside Eliot and Keats?

I'm sure he published some book analysing Dylan's lyrics in great detail.

Dec 4, 2006, 9:27am Top

Actually Dylan was being mentioned a year or two ago as a potential candidate for nobel laureate in literature.

Dec 4, 2006, 12:41pm Top

jargoneer - I seem to remember something of the sort. It`s the kind of thing such people do. It shouldn`t be encouraged, in my view.

Iriley - `Potential candidate` doesn`t sound any great endorsement to me !

Seriously, I think this sort of thing only encourages those who strum and sing to be even more self-conscious than they are already. Worse, it encourages the sort of critic who regards rock and roll as a minor branch of English literature.

Time Out of Mind is arguably the most powerful disc Dylan has cut. Put the words on paper and it dies a death, put the CD in the player and it comes to life again.

Music, as Prince Far I once said, has no place in a gallery.

Dec 5, 2006, 12:36pm Top

Has anyone mentioned Leonard Cohen yet..."I'm Your Man" is one of my favorite all-time albums...he has so many fabulous songs and his singing style, while an acquired taste, can be both sensual and haunting, with a touch of irony and humor. He is brilliant!

I am also a big Tom Waits fan- "Downtown Train" is a favorite.

Dec 5, 2006, 12:41pm Top

lorsomething- Toma Waits' Ol'55...i love the Eagles rendition a lot.

Dec 5, 2006, 1:59pm Top

Nick said: "Seriously, I think this sort of thing only encourages those who strum and sing to be even more self-conscious than they are already. Worse, it encourages the sort of critic who regards rock and roll as a minor branch of English literature."

Nick, I have to disagree with you on this. In my view, ideas are ideas, regardless of their conveyance. I love some of the more thoughtful lyrics as much as any prose or poetry I've ever read. And, with a tune attached, I can remember them much longer. :)

Bert, I have always loved the Eagles, but can't remember hearing their Ol' 55. But I had never heard of Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen until just a few years ago. (Sorry, Cohen isn't a favorite, either.) I don't know how I missed them, but I've always thought what you need finds you, so I guess I didn't need them. :) I will have to look around for the Eagles. Have you listened to Sara's rendition? You'll get a good laugh.

Dec 5, 2006, 4:07pm Top

i believe the Eagles rendition was on their first or second album- the cover had a painted Eagle in American Indian style.

despite your not liking Cohen check out the Im Your Man album

Dec 6, 2006, 3:41am Top

The most inspiring reggae lyrics I can think of (apart from Bob Marley) are from Jimmy Cliff: Many Rivers To Cross / The Harder They Come / Sooner Or Later. Uplifting! I like Dub best, especially Bunny Striker Lee's production, so lyrics aren't so important.

In Rap and Hip Hop, although people find it uncomfortable, Public Enemy and NWA had some powerful things to say. There are some excellent Hip Hop artists now: check out Stones Throw Records (free downloads available) particularly for Quasimoto (aka Madlib/Madvillain/Lord Quas etc.) who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Jazz - Sun Ra tributes, anyone? QN5 have a good site where you can download free things: I think that's where I found out about MC Paul Barman, who's eloquent about NYC (see his Anarchist Bookstore which is hilarious).

I actually (gulp) quite like some Leonard Cohen poetry, though putting his songs on at a party will kill it dead - !

Dec 6, 2006, 5:17am Top

Bert - funny you should mention the Eagles cover of "Ol' 55", to say that Tom Waits liked neither band nor version would be an understatement. (It's on "On the Border").
"I'm Your Man" is a great album ('Jazz Police' excepted) and proves, once and for all, that Cohen is just not miserable, he has a nice line in humour.
Has anyone read either of Cohen's novels?

"Many Rivers to Cross" is a great song, almost hymnal; rather like "People Get Ready" by Curtis Mayfield (yes, I know the Impressions sang it). Marley, of course, linked the later song with his own "One Love".

Hera - agree about Public Enemy but I never had much time for NWA, more bluster than content, IMO. Rakim deserves a mention, the material with Eric B is excellent Will check out those sites.
Have you heard of British group called US3 who were given special permission to sample all the Blue Note material in the early 90s?
An excellent hip-hop artist is Roots Manuva, very British. UK rap tends to be more eclectic, and the material more about social concerns.

Edited: Dec 6, 2006, 5:29am Top

Jargoneer: yes, I've got some Roots Manuva, very clever stuff. Ah, US3 - 'Cantaloupe' (biddy biddy bop) and their Blue Note takes. That's the kind of Hip Hop I like; eclectic, Conscious and celebratory.

That's why I love Quasimoto - he's a musical genius (no overstatement: see here for Rappcats video and free dl 60 minute remix of his wonderful album 'The Unseen'). http://www.rappcats.com/

How about Saul Williams? He's very cool and almost like Gil Scott Heron, who also hasn't had a mention yet.

Dec 6, 2006, 4:54pm Top

Jagoneer- many,many years ago i read Beautiful Losers- set in Montreal, young artists, etc...hard to remember but at that time in my life enjoyable.

Regarding Leonard Cohen's music- agreed this is not party music...i like it in the car or as background music. I find his life's journey to be an interesting trip.

Dec 7, 2006, 4:42am Top

That's a good point. What makes Cohen and Dylan still interesting is that they are facing up to ageing and mortality. The majority of their contemporaries are still writing songs about cars and girls, or have become glorified cabaret acts.

Dec 7, 2006, 1:45pm Top


Well, we can always agree to disagree. Just to make a point though, there`s nothing in your #52 I actually disagree with.


Don`t know much about Cohen, but as regards current Dylan, very much in agreement.

Will come back to this thread when I have more time, it`s good stuff. And for once, I`m on an LT thread and not doubting the sanity of the other participants !

Dec 7, 2006, 7:10pm Top

Nick, my apologies. I misunderstood your post. I'm glad we're in the same corner. :)

Bert, I bought two of Cohen's cds once when he was being discussed (Songs of Leonard Cohen and Recent Songs) and have yet to listen to either of them all the way through. It isn't his lyrics. I love Suzanne and Sisters of Mercy (the only two I know off the top of my head.) It's his voice that I can't get past. It is leaden and lifeless. It makes me want to give him prozac... in a big bowl with sugar and cream (stolen from Dorothy Parker.) lol. I requested a copy of his book, Strange Music, today at the library, so I will at least be able to read what he has to say. Maybe I can get around to the music laterally. :)

Jargoneer, I agree with you on Many Rivers to Cross. It's a beautiful song.

Dec 8, 2006, 2:28am Top

there are plenty of Leonard Cohen covers. why not try an albumof those famous blue raincoat for example

Edited: Dec 8, 2006, 2:35pm Top

Every time I try to contribute to this thread, something happens to interrupt me. Maybe it`s part of the perils of working from home, maybe mystical forces are conspiring against me.

lorsomething - funnily enough, if I had to choose between songs and poetry, songs definitely my favourite form. Then again, a good poem better than a poor song.

Mixed feelings about `music with a message` sometimes. I have quite a bit of stuff by reggae band The Twinkle Brothers. At their best, they`re unbeatable, but some of their songs suffer from `over-meaningfulness`. I was listening to their CD Chant Down Babylon recently. There was an obvious example of band members disagreeing on the issues - one song attacking the UN, the next striking a balanced `there`s good points and bad points` philosophy on the same subject.

A reggae songwriter whose work might qualify as poetry - Ijahman Levi, esp. the albums Haile I Hymn (with classical musicians, members of Wailers, Steve Winwood and Joni Mitchell - don`t know if that`s the blonde Joni Mitchell or the gospel singer of the same name), Black Royalties, many others. His quality control seemed to dip around the time of his divorce and I must admit I don`t know what he`s done since. Here`s a taster anyway, from the song Blessed Ones - "I cry a little tears when my mother gone to rest/It`s a thin line between life and death/In this life there`s joy and sorrow/No-one knows what comes tomorrow/So while I live I give thanks and praise/To the most High, daily I pray" - I`m not religious myself, and I can see why some would find it a bit platitudinous, but I think when you`ve knoocked about a bit and gone through a few things, you kind of get the point. It still works better with the music, though.

Dec 8, 2006, 7:08pm Top

lorosomething- the soundtrack of the recent film I"M YOUR MAN is excellent...Martha and Rufus Wainwright,Nick Cave, kate Mcgarrigle,Beth Orton, etc. sing his(Leonard Cohen) words.

Dec 8, 2006, 7:09pm Top


Dec 8, 2006, 7:15pm Top

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Dec 8, 2006, 7:25pm Top

I also propose Randy Newman , check out Sail Away, Louisiana 1927, Rednecks, Short People, etc.

Dec 8, 2006, 7:26pm Top

forgive me I am on a roll...

Warren Zevon...tons of songs I give you Bad Karma:

Was it something I did
In another life?
I try and try
But nothing comes out right
For me
Bad Karma
Killing me by degrees

I took a wrong turn
On the astral plane
Now I keep on thinkin'
My luck is gonna change
Bad Karma
It's uphill all the way

I can't run, Can't hide
Can't get away
It must be my destiny
The same thing happens to me every day

Bad Karma
Coming after me
Bad Karma
Killing me by degrees
Bad Karma
Bad Karma

It's a dog's life
And it's not my fault
Ought to hang my picture
In the All-Time Losers'
Hall of Fame
Bad Karma
It's a low-down dirty shame

I can't run, Can't hide
Can't get away
It must be my destiny
The same thing happens to me every day

Bad Karma
Coming after me
Bad Karma
Killing me by degrees
Bad Karma
Bad Karma

Dec 8, 2006, 7:35pm Top

just one more for now.

JACQUES BREL as in ...Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Mort Shuman, himself the co-writer(with Doc Pomus) of Tennager In Love, by Dion and the Belmonts, translated the Brel songs into English...see below:

I loved all games and fairy tales
As strangely odd as that may seem
I loved firelight and witches' tales
You see, you were there in my dreams
I lived in a tower, cloud-top high
To stop your love from passing by
For this I simply had to do
You see, I was waiting for you
I loved the rocks, the ocean breeze
And the hissing of the foam
The wild, wild kiss of the roaring seas
Now you had brought me home
You leaped buildings in single bounds
Although I well may ask you how
You bayed the moon just like a hound
I knew I adored you now
You laced the night with raging storms
You threw lightning 'cross the skies
You kissed my mouth with promises
You burned me with your lies
You loved me like a poet loves
My nights were made of stars and fears
Thinking that you would go away
And leave me with only my tears
I loved the towns where we made love
And the hotels where we played games
You thought I'd never live it down
Yet you see, I've forgotten your name

Dec 9, 2006, 1:11am Top

Good choices, Bert! Imagine IS a masterpiece and I especially love the Brel. He is another one I've missed. I have no idea what the tune is, so I think it migrated very well to paper, don't you?

Thanks for all the suggestions on Cohen. I will make a note and look into them. I'm not sure I want to buy another one, but if I do, I'll share my thoughts on it. The soundtrack seems the most promising.

Dec 9, 2006, 1:13am Top

One from Dan Fogelberg:

Scarecrow's Dream

Seldom seen a scarecrow's dream
I hang in the hopes of replacement
Castles tall, I built them all
But I dream that I'm trapped in the basement
And if you ever hear me calling out
And if you've been by paupers crowned
Between the worlds of men and make-believe I can be found
Plans I've made
A masquerade fading in fear of the coming day
Heroes' tales like nightingales
Wrestle the wind as they run away
And if you ever hear them calling out
And if you've been by paupers crowned
Between the worlds of men and make-believe I can be found
Garden gate
An empty plate waiting for someone to come and fill
Scarecrow's dreams like frozen streams
Thirst for the thaw but they're running still
And if you ever hear them calling out
And if you've been by paupers crowned
Between the worlds of men and make-believe I can be found

Dec 9, 2006, 3:02am Top

I'm Your Fan and Tower Of Song are another two Cohen tribute albums for you to consider.

Dec 9, 2006, 5:41am Top

Returning to reggae, perhaps I could also suggest the late Prince Lincoln Thompson. His album Natural Wild (feat, Wailers, Aswad, Joe Jackson band) is a classic, though he himself didn`t like it, preferring earlier versions of the same songs he`d already recorded in Jamaica.

After a rather patchy and changeable career, he ran an ital food shop for several years. Learning that he was dying of cancer, he returned to record the CD 21st Century ("Broken homes and families/Shouldn`t lead the way/Inthe 21st century"). Despite his circs, the album, quite a jazzy, sophisticated affair, is largely outward looking, if rather reflective in tone, as his stuff often was. The standout track, though, is the mellow but deeply felt Meditation Time, which makes more ego-driven artists look pitiful by comparison.

Dec 9, 2006, 12:34pm Top

Thanks, Simon. I appreciate the helpful hints. I'm in totally unfamiliar territory.

Nick, The Thompson cd sounds good, too. I have already added Ijahman Levi (Haile I Hymn) to my list of hopefuls. I think I would like it very much. I am a big fan of Steve Winwood.

I am also making a note of Roots Manuva (thanks Hera & Jargoneer). I read a bit on him and apparently he is a class unto himself. Also, his voice is described as "warm." That sounded promising. :)

Does anyone here like Joan Osborne? She is next on my list to buy. She has done an album called Pretty Little Stranger and says it is her brand of country. Though I skirt it sometimes with Fogelberg, the Eagles, and many of my Celtic favorites, pure country isn't my thing (no offense intended to anyone). I will be interested to see what's she has done with it. Have any of you heard her Dylan songs, Man in the Long Black Coat and Make You Feel My Love? You would have to hear them to appreciate them. :)

I'm listening to CSN this morning. Now there are some poetic works! :)

Edited: Dec 9, 2006, 1:27pm Top

I sort of know who Joan Osbourne is. She produced and wrote sleeve notes for a CD by The Holmes Brothers, a band I have seen live repeatedly, but who don`t seem to have visited these shores for a while.

She had a chart hit here once, I believe.


If it helps - some years ago, Mr Levi set his own companies Jahmani (a record company) and Tree Roots Publishing. He bought up the rights to his own back catalogue and re-released them himself. I believe his ex-wife Madge Sutherland (also a singer-songwriter) played a big part in the company. I presume it is still in existence and still releasing stuff. If you want me to look up any details (catalogue number etc), I`ll gladly do so.

You know Steve Winwood also appears on some Toots and the Maytals tracks, I presume.

Dec 9, 2006, 1:43pm Top

Fascinating thread. (I just read back to the beginning, not having seen the group before.)

I love when you find poetic allusion in unexpected places, including song lyrics. I remember convincing my English teacher (to his surprise) that certain Metallica lyrics owed a debt to Wilfred Owen...

Lloyd Cole has written some of the pithiest lyrics I've come across in a post-1960s songwriter, but I'm mostly a fan of Paul Simon when it comes to 'modern lyric poets'.

Edited: Dec 9, 2006, 1:56pm Top

Hey Bo Peep, I'm also a fan of Paul Simon, though I haven't kept up with this later work. Is there one that stands out that you wouldn't mind to share?

Nick, Thanks for your offer, but I think I can find it. Rounder Records often has the more obscure recordings. I will check there first. As I said, though, it will be after I get Joan.

These are the lyrics from Man in the Long Black Coat (written by Bob Dylan as performed by Joan)

Man in the Long Black Coat

Crickets are chirping
The water is high
There’s a soft cotton dress on the line
Hanging dry
The window’s wide open
African trees
Bent over backwards
In a hurricane breeze

Not a word of goodbye
Not even a note
She’s gone with the man
In the long black coat

Somebody seen him
Hangin’ around
At the old dance hall
On the outskirts of town
He looked into her eyes
When she stopped him to ask
If he wanted to dance
He had a face like a mask
Somebody said
From the bible he'd quote
There was dust on the man in the
Long black coat
Preacher was talking
There’s a sermon he gave
Said every man’s conscience
Is vile and depraved
You can not depend on it
To be your guide
When it’s you
Who must keep it satisfied

It ain’t easy to swallow
It sticks in the throat
She gave her heart to the man in the
Long black coat

One, two
There are no mistakes in life
Some people say
It’s true sometimes
You can see it that way
People don’t live or die
People just float
She gave her heart to the man
In the long black coat

There’s smoke on the water
It’s been there since June
Tree trunks uprooted
In the high crescent moon
Hear the pulse and vibration
And the rumblin’ force
Somebody’s out there
Beating on a dead horse

She never said nothin’
There was nothin’ she wrote
She’s gone with the man in the
Long black coat
She’s gone with the man in the
Long black coat
She’s gone
She’s gone
Gone with the man in the
Long black coat
Gone with the man in the
Long black coat

P.S. If you enjoyed Motown at all, Joan and several other greats did a tribute to the band behind the music (The Funk Brothers) called Standing in the Shadow of Motown. It is out on CD and DVD and both are excellent. It's a beautiful day here and I'm off to enjoy it. Have a good weekend!

Dec 9, 2006, 2:01pm Top

Ooh, what Simon lyrics stand out for me... Hmmm.

Now from the tunnel's stony womb,
The carriage rides to meet the groom,
And opens wide the welcome doors,
But he hesitates, then withdraws
Deeper in the shadows.

Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow's hand

and I heard cathedral bells
Tripping down the alleyways

And for Lloyd Cole: She's got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin

She crossed herself as she put on her things
She has promised once before not to live this way
If she don't calm down she will burn herself out
Like a forest fire

Dec 9, 2006, 5:12pm Top


Yo, Bo

Did you see Paul Simon on BBC4 the other week ? I don`t know much about him but he and his band were truly great.


Edited: Dec 9, 2006, 7:17pm Top

Nick- Paul Simon has had a long, illustrious career- check our GRACELAND.

Dec 10, 2006, 9:00am Top

Ah yes, Graceland I`ve heard a bit of - with Hugh Masekela I think ?

I have Mother and Child Reunion by The Uniques, a `60s reggae number he wrote. (see also my comments on Weather Report by The Tenors somewhere above).

If anyone can recommend a recording of him with the band he used on the TV, that would be interesting, though I keep collecting all these recommendations at a time when I`m totally boracic (boracic lint - skint - low on funds - it`s an English thing).

Anyway, a couple of overlooked things -

Toots & Maytals - the 3 prison songs - 54 - 46 Was My Number/Struggle/Reborn

we saw him live recently and it was a bit disappointing - though quite cool to see Jackie Jackson on bass.

Also - not everybody`s going to agree with this - the songs of David Johansen aka Buster Poindexter. He has produced one or two duff albums, but generally I think he`s under-rated.

Dec 10, 2006, 3:35pm Top

I don`t know if any knows the reggae song Book of Rules - apparently based on a poem by an unknown English poet ?

I`ve put a posting under `sources` as I`m intrigued to know who the poet was.

Anyone know ?

Edited: Dec 14, 2006, 6:57pm Top

Sorry to be so long in getting back, but a lot of things have demanded my attention this week, not the least of which have been books.

Bo, thanks for sharing the Simon lyrics. I haven't heard this one that I remember. He hasn't lost his touch, I see. One thing I've noticed is the repeated use by many artists of the term "sad cafe." I'm beginning to wonder where it originated. I'm making myself a note to try to run it to ground. I'm curious now.

lriley, I tried to order Gogol Bordello, but could not get it through my regular vendor. I read a blurb on it and they called it "happy party music." I'm just in the mood. :) I will try at Best Buy next time I'm in the city.

Regarding Leonard Cohen: I have been reading some of his work from "Stranger Music" this week and he certainly has a way with words. I can't give the whole work this praise, but there are definitely flashes of brilliance. :) I still have a ways to go in the book, but it may be post-Christmas before I get around to it. So far, I have only found a handful of poems/lyrics that speak to me personally, but I'm sure I will find others. My favorite so far is The Way Back. I also loved The Music Crept By Us. I'm glad you brought him up. Since I had tried before and been unsuccessful in connecting with him, I would probably have never bothered again. And there is something there for me after all. :) (I definitely prefer him on paper.)

Dec 14, 2006, 7:07pm Top

The 'sad cafe' line there is from Bleeker Street (on Wednesday Morning 3am, my favourite album of Simon and Garfunkel's). The other two are Poem on the Underground Wall and For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her.

WM3am dates from 1963/4, and I'm pretty sure all later references all come from those lyrics - there's a band name, a film, and some other bands' lyrics that use the image.

Dec 14, 2006, 7:48pm Top

Thanks for that, Bo. I'm glad to know where it came from. I'm sure I have heard WM3am at some point, but do not own it. Sounds of Silence has always been my favorite. I also have Bookends (Hazy Shade of Winter!) and The Best of compilation. Unfortunately, Bleeker Street isn't on it. But I do have For Emily... They were great, weren't they? I've always said, they raised the bar for other musicians.

Dec 14, 2006, 8:39pm Top

This is a late contribution, and possibly not a very popular one, but I just can't stand "Imagine". I just find the lyrics, and the music, trite - plus it's a bit much when a multi-millionaire starts singing about having no possessions.

The story of Simon & Garfunkel just proves how much luck plays at times. They had broken up, and Simon was in the UK, when a producer decided to put bass & drums on "The Sound of Silence" and created a US #1.

Dec 15, 2006, 2:31am Top

on 82--hard to believe that GB is that hard to find but then I have somebody that burns everything for me--in fact constantly nagging me whether there's something else I want. I wouldn't exactly call them a party band though they tend to be upbeat.

Dec 15, 2006, 2:04pm Top

jargoneer, I didn't know that about S&G. Imagine what we would have lost if that producer hadn't followed through on his (probably his and not her) idea. I love trivia. I can't help myself.

lr, I live in a small town and there isn't a music store in it at this point in time. I order most of my music/movies from a vendor through work and that vendor very seldom lets me down. Apparently this one stumped them. Regarding the party music, I'm just hoping for upbeat and cheerful, so this should suit.

Dec 15, 2006, 2:24pm Top


while i respect differences of opinion i beg to differ with your take on Imagine...to my thinking it is not trite but has become almost "anthem-like' in its call for world consciousness.

in addition I pose the question:

Is enlightenment barred to those of wealth?

Dec 15, 2006, 2:30pm Top

Bert, I'm with jargoneer I'm afraid. I have the same response to 'Imagine' that I do to anything by Lennon. I cannot disassociate the sentiment from the mahoosive wealth, subsequent tax-dodging and fur-wearing property-owning antics. Same applies to anything said / sung by Bono: going to court to get a hat back, FGS, whilst lecturing the rest of us about poverty.

Dec 15, 2006, 3:08pm Top

I was going to mention the generous Bono. U2 played Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, and at one point Bono started clapping his hands. "Everytime I clap my hands a child dies," he said. The reply came back, " Stop clapping your hands then".

Dec 15, 2006, 5:01pm Top

lorsomething--if you've heard the Pogues you might say that GB does somewhat the same for Eastern European music though they rely more on rock instrumentation although then again there is quite a bit of accordion and violin--I think it's fun--to me there are some songs not quite as good as others and sometimes all I do is skip to them.

Edited: Dec 15, 2006, 7:33pm Top

lol! They sound like fun to me, so I will keep looking. Maybe not aggressively, but when the opportunity presents itself. I'm sure I'll find them eventually. Thanks for telling me about them and Flogging Molly. I prefer rock to anything else, btw, and violin goes very well with rock. (As does cello, now that I think of it. :) )

I have to agree with Bert on Imagine. I know it has been overplayed, but, regardless of Lennon's lifestyle, to me it is a fine piece of writing. Hopefully, at the time he wrote it, he meant it. I had heard somewhere that Lennon had a room just for furs. Personally, I wouldn't give you two cents for any of them, but people choose their toys to suit themselves. I'm sorry to hear about Bono, as I've always loved U2's music and respected the players. But I'm sure if we knew the complete truth about everyone, we would hesitate to listen to anyone's music. I doubt there is a selfless person out there anywhere. If there is, his/her name would probably be unknown.

P.S. I just wanted to say I understand where you (Hera/Jargoneer) are coming from. It is very difficult to accept a sermon from someone who doesn't practice what he preaches. But sometimes, that is the only way the message can get out, so the people involved become incidental. Just my opinion (goes without saying, doesn't it?) and not meant to offend.

Dec 15, 2006, 8:21pm Top

Actually this whole thread probably belongs as a seperate Topic, on a different page, I guess the question would go:

Can you still appreciate a piece of literature (or art) despite the politics/lifestyle of the writer/artist?

i'll bet there are loads of examples to pull from...as in most recently the noise about Gunther Grass.

Dec 16, 2006, 11:27am Top

I think it would be on an individual basis and dependent on what the "consumer" cannot tolerate. I think there is a line for all of us, though mine would rest almost entirely on whether someone else's life was diminished in some way. If it's just rhetoric, I would hope to look at the work first. Of course, in many cases the rhetoric matches the philosophy and it's clear to me that I do not want to read/listen to some artists.

All that said (whew!), this is separate and apart from finding a work trite, which is absolutely in the eye of the beholder. I am just addressing the "wealth versus message-of-poverty" issue. I think Lennon did and Bono still does give considerable money and time to the causes they have supported. There's at least that in their favor.

Dec 19, 2006, 9:18pm Top

Is it just that it's the week before Christmas or did I offend everyone on the Board??

Dec 19, 2006, 9:59pm Top

I think it's just the week before christmas lorsomething--either that or I'm the hardest one to offend.

Dec 20, 2006, 3:19am Top

I can apprieciate art inspite of reservations about the artist. Whether the allegations about Oscar Wilde chasing around italy chasing young boys are true or not De Profundis or The Ballad of Reading gaol will still be worth reading.

Even if they are explicitly argueing for that whichIdislike then I can admire elequence.


Dec 20, 2006, 4:33am Top

Oh blimey, I truly hope I'm not appearing 'miffed'!

In almost every instance I separate the artist from his / her work: an abiding love for Ezra Pound taught me that, the nasty old fascist.

Maybe in Bono and Lennon's case it's delayed-teen-angst; 'my idol's feet are made of clay'. That's VERY delayed teen-angst, at my advanced age. :)

Dec 20, 2006, 8:10am Top

#95 I have been meaning to post here for a few days but the partying season is upon us and good intentions often get lost in the haze.

I actually like some Lennon material but rarely the sentimental songs like 'Imagine'. I think the bitterness of tracks like "Working Class Hero" suits him more. From documentaries I have seen about Lennon, he is a hard man to like but that hasn't stopped him becoming a sainted rock star. His reputation now owes as much to his murder as it does to his songwriting skills.

Likewise, with U2, I think they have released some decent material, although not recently. The problem with them though is that it does get harder and harder to see past Bono's pomposity. We all agree that ending world poverty is something worthwhile but I want rock bands to rock me, not preach at me.

Being likeable* has nothing to do with being talented or being good. The arts are full of hideous individuals who are extremely talented. (If anyone is interested then this article is worth reading as it directly tackles the problem, Eric Gill).

*James Blunt seems a nice enough chap but his music is utterly appalling. Sorry, it's worse than that. I made a mistake. He's not nice, he's the anti-christ of pop.

Dec 20, 2006, 7:56pm Top

Thanks for taking time out for this mission of mercy. I feel much better now. lol

Dec 20, 2006, 8:05pm Top

wishing all a wonderful holiday and a healthy new year!

Edited: Dec 27, 2006, 8:29am Top

Greetings and Happy New Year All,

Jargoneer/Hera (#54, 55) (Somewhat belatedly)

Re : Jimmy Cliff

If you`re partial to old JC, you might like to check out the songs he wrote and produced for the Pioneers. I`m sure you already know Let your Yeah Be Yeah. Two of the others are Give and Take and an obscure `b` side, Pride and Passion, which to me is the best of the three. There were others I think, not sure how you`d find out - there is a website called something like pioneersreggaegroup, run by Laurence from Trojan Records, so there`s a couple of contacts for you.

On to a couple of other things, tracks that people are always surprised I like. One great single (am I showing my age ?) is Instant Poetry/From Heaven From Hell by Golden Earring. `Poetry` is a song about a person (a society ?) obsessed by consumer goods, `Heaven` is a very accomplished song about lost love ("I know all the time we spent together/Was not so important to you/You always knew there would come a time/When I would sing my blues"). I`m not a `70s rock guy, but I`ll always make exceptions for great tracks like this.

Someone else whose never been given enough credit is David Sylvian, late of `80s band Japan. His song `Halloween` (from their LP Quiet Life) is an effective number about Germany between the wars, and many of his songs about Mao`s China ("We walk backwards/Say nothing") are very good, esp Sons of Pioneers.

Also (very quickly) Chuck Berry deserves a mention.

Also (2) if you like the Beatles, check out the Bootleg Beatles if you get the chance.

Edited: Dec 27, 2006, 3:54pm Top

This topic has reminded me to two quotes from the golden age, before pretention was ironic. Unfortunately, my memory has managed to screw them up enough that Google is coming up empty. Maybe someone else here will have a clearer recollection of the late sixties.

First is Morrison being asked his profession and answering, "poet." Now I thought this was the staged arrival at the airport, where each member was to give his full name, age, and instrument. When it comes his turn, he is asked, "name?" and answers just, "Jim." He is then asked, "occupation?", but the clips on the internets end with him just smirking to the camera. So I'm guessing I've mixed up two things.

Second is, "Jack Bruce on the poetry, please," spoken by Eric or Ginger I imagine. I guess there are worse things than listening to all the old Cream LPs to track it down.

Dec 28, 2006, 5:01pm Top

MMcM, that's a punishment I would gladly endure. I was thinking today as I was listening to one of my favorite Clapton tunes (Just Like a Prisoner), sometimes the lyrics are superfluous. But I like the way his voice blends in and, in order for him to sing along, he needs something to say, I guess. :)

Dec 29, 2006, 6:02pm Top

Clapton's new album with JJ Cale- The Road to Escondido- is a pure delight!

Dec 29, 2006, 8:15pm Top

Honestly, I can't think of an album by him that wasn't a pure delight. I will add this to my ever-growing list, but it's going in at the top! Thanks, Bert.

Dec 30, 2006, 1:58pm Top

Clapton is amazing. I am going to see him perform in March.

I love the allusion of Layla.

Dec 30, 2006, 2:49pm Top

OK, enough is enough. I think we all realise that Eric Clapton is a walking advertisement for rock stars not giving up drink and drugs. He is a talented guitarist but his albums for the last 30 years have been bland bland bland. The Robert Johnson Sessions is a lowpoint of modern music, in which powerful raw blues are turned into supermarket muzik.

In a just world, Richard Thompson would have his sales - he's a better songwriter, a better singer, and a better guitarist. He even has a better beard!

Edited: Dec 30, 2006, 6:50pm Top

jargoneer, I'm beginning to think you enjoy bucking the trends. You find Lennon trite and Clapton bland. I also think you enjoy a good "discussion". So here goes: As good as Richard Thompson was in his day (I haven't heard much by him lately), we would have to agree to disagree that he was ever better than Clapton. I know sometimes my opinions are the same as those held by the masses, but I don't mind that. I think the majority can be right. I, for one, lose connection with everything else anytime I hear him playing. He draws my complete focus. That is enough for me. There are very few artists who can cast that sort of spell on me. I have a short attention span. lol. I think Clapton just plays and the music that pours from his guitar is unique and that is why the world beats a path to his door. (The better mousetrap.) All that said, I will give you that Thompson is a great player. :)

P.S. Heina, you are one fortunate person!

P.P.S. jargoneer, Are you familiar with Gary Moore? What do you think of him?

Dec 31, 2006, 12:54pm Top

Slight correction, lorsomething, I said 'Imagine' was trite. I like some of Lennon's other stuff. I like some of Clapton's early stuff - the Derek & the Dominos album is excellent. I just think he gave up trying after a while and now just plays the same lazy blues licks. I find it disappointing that someone with so much technical ability has played it so safe, it's like a great author deciding to write Noddy books.

I've Moore twice in concert, once in his rock days, and then after his sudden conversion to the blues. He's a great guitar player but suffers sometimes from 'guitar god syndrome', i.e., the belief that it doesn't matter the quality of the song, listen to the solo. (For some reason this illness only seems to affect white rock guitarists). Still, anybody who lists Peter Green as a hero, and released the great Parisienne Walkways deserves respect.

Something struck me about the artists listed on this thread so far, they are all male. What about female songwriters like Nanci Griffith, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, Kate Bush, etc?

Edited: Dec 31, 2006, 5:31pm Top

"Something struck me about the artists listed on this thread so far, they are all male. What about female songwriters like Nanci Griffith, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, Kate Bush, etc?"

Actually, jargoneer, both Patti Smith (who would be among my own choices) and Natalie Merchant were mentioned way up near the top of the thread and Joan Osbourne is referenced somewhere in the middle.

Among recent songwriters, one whose lyrics I really admire and find well beyond most popular music's standard sing-song rhymes is Joanna Newsom. Pieces like Inflammatory Writ (off the Milk-Eyed Mender album) and "Emily" from her newest recording, 'Ys', stand well on their own, displaying sophisticated word choice, intriguing imagery and keen intelligence. Newsom's voice is controversial (I love it but have sincerely described it to uninitiated friends as sounding something like a deranged Appalachian mountain child), but what she's saying shouldn't be.

I think Jenny Lewis (best known for her work with Rilo Kiley), Neko Case, PJ Harvey, Chan Marshall (Cat Power), and Leslie Feist are all interesting lyricists. Working on a different, more surreal level, I like the lyrics of Kendra Smith and the late great Nico.

Yet to be mentioned (I think) male songwriters whose texts I often find nearly as interesting as their music include Scott Walker, Stephen Merritt, Steve Kilbey, Mark E. Smith, Syd Barrett (in a trippy, almost Dadaesque fashion), the late, much lamented David McComb, John Cale, Robert Wyatt, and David Byrne.

P.S. I totally agree with you about Clapton! "Lazy" and "safe" are precisely the words I'd use to describe his work (bland and gormless come to mind as well).

Dec 31, 2006, 6:30pm Top

You know, jargoneer, maybe you're right. I put on Clapton this morning and he bored the socks off of me. So I tried Moore for a bit (he isn't the greatest lyricist, is he?) and he didn't work either. I moved on to Leo Kottke and after Power Failure was over, so was he. Then I tried the Wallflowers and got about ¾ of the way through before I ditched them for Jackson Browne. He's still on. That's a good sign. Maybe he will make it through the New Year.

As for the women, I've never listened to Nanci Griffiths, except the song she did with the Chieftains, whom I dearly love, but didn't care for her part in. I don't know Gillian Welch, either. I like Joni Mitchell very much, but my pick would likely be Chrissie Hynde. And Joan Osborne (I think I've mentioned her before). I do like Kate Bush, though I only own one song by her. Red Shoes (I think) was recommended to me once, but I haven't tried it yet.

My apologies for the Lennon remark. I do not like putting words in other's mouths. I understand the distinction, too.

If you could recommend only one Thompson album, what would it be?

Jan 1, 2007, 6:08pm Top

I'm over my fit of restlessness today and love Clapton again. I was thinking about what each of you said, about Clapton playing it safe and I started to wonder about it. His thing is electric blues. What do you think he could have done differently? I'm just curious.

Edited: Jan 1, 2007, 7:19pm Top

He should be prepared to mess up in public. Blues should never be perfect. As someone said in a Interview with Dave Raven. in other styles you hit the note with a laser in the blues you use a tomato.

He has a boundary and he does not push it.

Jan 1, 2007, 7:16pm Top

as i mentioned before Clapton's new album with JJ Cale is a delight and it does come off as a "down home" blues production.

i would like to believe that Clapton is mellowing and aging like a good bottle of wine. he goes down smooth.

Jan 2, 2007, 9:30pm Top

(I realize this discussion is off topic now, but I hope the rest of you will bear with us just a bit longer.)

It seems to me you are essentially saying that you think Clapton has settled in his comfort zone and can't be moved. That may be true, but I can't think of anyone who hasn't. Most musicians are like writers: The best ones write (play) about what they know. I have heard many experiments with instruments and genre, but the artists still sound like themselves. (Except in a few cases when the experiment has failed; I won't mention any names.) The last time I heard Richard Thompson, he still sounded like Richard Thompson. Peter Greene, the same. I'm not sure I understand where they would arrive if they did "stretch." In a different genre? Wouldn't they still sound the same, though?

When I first heard Layla, I thought it was the Allman Brothers. I believed it for quite a while. (Pre-internet, there was no easy way of learning musical facts, so I had to wait to hear the song again on the radio. At that time, the trend was for FM stations to string the songs one after the other and maybe an hour later, they would sometimes give the performers names. It might be weeks before you were able to identify a player.) Anyway, I was so surprised to learn it was Clapton. Because it didn't sound like him. I found out much later, Duane Allman played on the record. And he sounded just like himself.

I think musicians are born with a sound in their heads and if they stray too far from it, they end up playing in beach bars. Some of us appreciate that sound; some of us don't. But, thank goodness, there's something for everyone.

Speaking of blues, are any of you fans of Chris Thomas King? I like his style, too. And he's a very good lyricist.

Jan 3, 2007, 3:07am Top

"You sold your soul to the devil!"

" Well I wasn't using it for anything at the time."

Yes I have heard his stuff now and then on Austin Riffs but I haven't bought any except the film soundtrack.

I dont think Pushing yousrelf is nessecarilly about sounding different or even being uncomfortable maybe the opposite maybe it about being comfortable with your mistakes, not being so wary of errors that you never risk making them.

Isaak Perlmann's Violin string once broke just as he was about to perform. Instead of breaking for the interminable time it takes to get a string to concert pitch he just put the violin to his chin and began to play.

Too many musicans nowadays try for studio perfection In their live performance. In the blues you would do better to try for the sound of a live performance in your recorded sescons.


Jan 3, 2007, 1:08pm Top

One of the problems with Clapton's records is that they have a 'pop' production, this gives them a sheen that is the anti-thesis of the blues. Even Clapton recognises this, he is not that kind on his own albums through the 80s.

Lorsomething, I agree that most artists find a style that suits them, and once they have stick to it. At the same time, some artists do stretch themselves - at the time Clapton was collaborating with his Armani suited brothers like Sting, Richard Thompson was playing lead guitar on The Golden Palominos albums. That doesn't stop RT's albums not sounding like RT albums, but it can feed back in terms of production, songs, etc. Of course, this can backfire - Van Morrison tried a skiffle album, a jazz album, and an album of duets with Linda Gail Lewis before returning to his classic sound, at which, his fans all rejoiced. Then there is Jeff Beck who couldn't keep still enough to develop a signature sound, and has resulted in a very variable recording career. (Listening to Peter Green now is just sad - he just isn't capable of his previous highs due to his illnesses).

I have heard that one of the reasons Clapton started reeling himself in was the death of Duane Allman. He saw what happened to Hendrix and Allman, and didn't like where his future was heading. Can't blame him for that. And his guitar solo on "When My Guitar Gently Weeps" is great.

Lorsomething, in reply to #112. I like Chrissie Hynde as well, but she can preach a little too much about leather shoes etc. Being a Pretenders guitarist at one time was rather like being a Spinal Tap drummer.
You should try and get hold of Kate Bush "Hounds of Love" - the first side (in vinyl days) is chock full of good singles, while the second side about a girl drowning under ice is unique. One of the best albums of the 80s. "The Red Shoes" album was the follow-up and is also very good, partially based on the movie.

Jan 3, 2007, 2:05pm Top

Simon, you should try The Roots: The Soul of Chris Thomas King. It's a great album. (Didn't you love that movie? :)

I agree that anyone (including musicians) shouldn't be afraid to make a mistake. In the first place, we're going to make them anyway. In the second place, mistakes can often lead us to places we wouldn't otherwise go and that's a good thing. (Some of my favorite travel tales have started with a wrong turn.) I wouldn't have thought Clapton was that careful. I just thought he was that good.

jargoneer, I understand what you're saying about the pop production. Sometimes glossing over the real thing can be disheartening. It would be like hiding a Picasso under a motel lithograph. But I have special powers! I can see through the veneer to the Picasso underneath. lol. I think I will always hear Picasso when he plays.

Thanks for the Kate Bush suggestion. It will go on my Durham mortuary roll of a list. I do like what I've heard of her music.

Speaking of women, does anyone like Annie Lennox?

Jan 5, 2007, 3:40pm Top

i do like annie lennox quite a bit , although i would need to give a new lsten to tune in to her lyrics...i find her voice to be unique. you can tell its her when you hear her.

Jan 5, 2007, 3:55pm Top

A definate yes for that film. The sirens and baptimal scenes were musical highlights.

Do you listen to the Austin Riffs Podcast BTW?

Edited: Jan 5, 2007, 7:19pm Top

Bert, I love her voice too, and her style. She only makes an album once a millenium, but it's worth the wait. "Bare" has some beautiful songs.

Simon, no, I don't do podcasts. I have a really old computer and I'm on dial-up. It's hard enough to get text on this thing. I can do more at work (fiber optics), but I don't have time. Is Austin Riffs a spin-off of Austin City Limits?

Don't forget Chris playing and singing by the campfire. I loved that one. Also loved his playing while they were in the radio station, recording. I watch that film at least once a month. It never fails to make me laugh.

Edited: Jan 7, 2007, 11:51am Top

I found podcasts very accessable when I was on dialup. since they are background tasks you forget about them and every now and then a program appears auto magically on your computer.

Austin Riffs is a program put out by three people in Austin Mark shows off his music collection. Ms V gives him somone to bounce off and squelches him if needed. No one is bouncier than Ms V, and Baba does all the technical stuff. Its mostly blues and americana with strong emphasis on bands that play or have played Austin and New Orleans.

Light'nin Hopkins to The legendary Shackshakers, Lil Queenie to The White Ghost Shivers.

they often have a guest not huge names but good musicians Bobby Lounge say or Cowboy Johnson.

there are a lot of good blues podcasts but Austin Riffs is the most varied and has introduced me to the most new music. besides it makes me laugh.

Jan 7, 2007, 10:26am Top

At least for Progressives among us - Nellie McKay - a very angry (and very gifted) 19 y.o.

Edited: Jan 7, 2007, 1:01pm Top

Surprised that no-one has mentioned Suzanne Vega and her lovely collection of lyrics - or maybe I'm not surprised, Patti Smith seems to be the Smurfette in this discussion ;) Jewel also published a book of poetry, although I can't really claim to have read it. UK based LTers may also be familiar with the work of Pete Doherty, who at least has the Baudelairean lifestyle, if not quite the verbal chops (he's another Blakean, like Morrison and Smith).

Ani Difranco is as much a performance poet as a singer-songwriter, and could be seen in the tradition of griots as opposed to Western bards.

Many Arab singers follow a long tradition of setting poems to music (or writing poems to which music is integral). Souad Massi is a fine singer-songwriter in this tradition (singing in Algerian, French and English) and many genres of Arabic and Arabo-Jewish music will feature settings of, or quotations from, pre-Islamic and/or medieval classical poetry.

With reference to Clapton, Maria Rosa Menocal's Shards of Love has an excellent analysis of the genesis of "Layla" and its place in the troubadour tradition that shares its roots with the great poem "Layla and Majnun" on which Clapton draws. Menocal also discusses Jim Morrison and Sting as latter-day troubadours, and the relationship between rock music and the lyric (poetry) tradition. Highly recommended!

Jan 11, 2007, 9:47am Top

Aimee Mann is another female songwriter worth noting.

Jan 11, 2007, 10:05am Top

Kristin Hersh too - even if I have to have several goes at spelling her name each time! Her 'Hips and Makers' album has some wonderful lyrical moments.

Jan 11, 2007, 8:10pm Top

I'm listening to the Walkabouts tonight (Setting the Woods on Fire). Here are the lyrics to Bordertown:

I can sleep it off
Sleep it back to sleep
I can be most anything I want
A long way from the shade
The north side of the moon
Down here only rich men lose their shirts

And john law wakes to sweep
The morning off the street
But no one cares if he has done his job
And postcards never came
From race tracks by the sea
From a gambler who says: "you are still my lucky thing."

There's been an accident in bordertown
I am your accident in bordertown

Coyotes stirs the drinks
And drives his stolen jeep
And drives the kingsnake to its happy hole
But I stand in the clear
The only place he fears
The only place he's never seen me stand

There's been an accident in bordertown
I am your accident in bordertown

There ain't no seasons here
But the freezin' still appears
Everytime I call this home
Can't be enough alone

I can sleep it off
Sleep it back to sleep
I can be most anything I want
A long way from the shade
The north side of the moon
Down here only taxi drivers know my name

Jan 12, 2007, 4:43am Top

The Walkabouts have been one of the best bands of the last 20 years and have almost been completely ignored in their homeland. Carla Togerson is one of the great voices of modern rock, and Chris Eckman is a fantastic songwriter. They are also excellent interpretators of other people's songs - don't think Annie Lennox, Rod Stewart, Duran Duran destroying great songs - they actually add something different to the songs.

Jan 12, 2007, 8:13pm Top

jargon, I don't know them as well as I'd like. I have only the one album. But I think I picked a very good one to begin. If their other music is anything like it, they are a great band.

And just when we had found some common ground... lol. I love Annie Lennox. Her album, Medusa (covers) was different, I'll give you. But I loved Downtown Lights and ran out to buy Hats by Blue Nile because of it. I like her rendition better, though.

Jan 13, 2007, 10:49am Top

I don't mind Annie Lennox, she has good voice, although I do prefer the Tourists and earlier Eurythmics material to most of the recent stuff. I haven't heard 'Bare' though, which got good reviews. I just think 'Medusa' was a mistake, IMO she doesn't improve one song - it is funny that she takes so many tracks from UK punk bands, and removes all the energy. The Blue Nile are a real cult band in the UK and by the time AL recorded her version, "Downtown Lights" was a much loved song.

Judging by the song, "Bordertown", you either own 'Setting the Woods on Fire' or 'Watermarks'. Despite being American most of their albums have been released by Blue Rose in Germany, so it is not always easy to find them. They started as a jangly guitar band but are much more than that now - all their albums are worth listening to but the best introduction to them is probably 'Drunken Soundtracks', a double cd that collects single mixes, b-sides, non-album tracks, etc. Why they aren't better known is a mystery.

Bert - agree with about Aimee Mann. Has been a great songwriter for years, it's over two decades since the first Til Tuesday album (and she probably still has nightmares about her hairstyle). I thought the 'Magnolia' soundtrack was going to break her through into the big time.

Delirium - I'm yet to be convinced that Pete Doherty is more than the tabloid 'junkie of the year'. The last album had some moments but not enough to justify the hype.

Jan 13, 2007, 5:42pm Top

I liked all of Medusa, but several tracks stood out. I liked the way she did Take Me To the River, even though I loved the Talking Heads version. I also liked Whiter Shade of Pale and Waiting in Vain. If you are predisposed to disliking her later things, you probably won't like Bare. I liked it very much, but I was prepared to love it. I think that often makes a difference in how we receive something. (I am predisposed to disliking Leonard Cohen, for instance, even though I have tried to keep an open mind.)

I have Setting the Woods on Fire. It's a fine album, start to finish. If you think of other artists that are similar, please feel free to share. :)

Jan 13, 2007, 7:11pm Top

I think I just have a predisposition against albums of covers, it's usually the sign of an artist suffering from writer's block or contractual agreement. One that is worth hearing is by Elizabeth McQueen, she's nominally a country artist from Texas, but her album Happy What We're Doing" is a selection of covers of UK new wave/pub rock songs. What makes it worthwhile is that it sounds like she really loves these songs.

(Bad cover versions are legion - some are just stunning, I have a dance version of "Layla" by a girl group called Chica. Jaw-dropping).

You may like an artist called Jeb Loy Nichols, imagine J.J.Cale influenced by soul music and reggae. He has an unusual voice but you soon get used to it. His album Just What Time It Is is the sound of a late summer evening - mellow and joyful. (His latest album Now Then is even better but it hasn't been released in the US).

Jan 14, 2007, 11:28am Top

The Nichols sounds wonderful. Thanks for that.

Have you listened to Shawn Colvin? She has an album of covers, "Cover Girl," that has a really interesting selection of songs. She does a very creditable version of "(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night." She also does a pretty good job on "Every Little Thing." I think my favorite is "One Cool Remove." Several of the posters here might enjoy it, if you don't already have it, assuming you like her voice and style.

Jan 14, 2007, 2:05pm Top

I have listened to Shawn Colvin, I have several of her albums including Cover Girl. It is an interesting selection of songs and I enjoy it but it's not a patch of some of her other albums, such as Fat City or A Few Small Repairs. I like the two songs you mention but some of the others just drift by. I agree that "One Cool Remove", with Mary-Chapin Carpenter (another good singer-songwriter), is the stand-out track.
I think she could appeal to people who like Suzanne Vega and similar artists.

Jan 15, 2007, 7:24pm Top

Yes, A Few Small Repairs is much better. I haven't heard the other one.

Does anyone like the lyrics of Marc Cohn? Or maybe Mark Knopfler?

Jan 23, 2007, 6:46pm Top

i just copied a best hits cd of Cohn's from my public library. i did enjoy it upon the 1st listen.

Jan 23, 2007, 8:12pm Top

Bert, I have 3 of his cd's. I would be sorry to have to choose a greatest hits set from them, because they are all good in my opinion. Does your cd have Paper Walls or Lost You in the Canyon? I'm curious if they are considered greatest hits.

Jan 23, 2007, 9:39pm Top

This is rubbish, a whole page of songwriter poets and nobody mentions Elvis Costello. John Carey even heretically suggested he was a better poet than Dylan (Bob).

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues

Jan 24, 2007, 5:07am Top

The problem with quoting John Carey is that John Carey has argued that all art is equal, therefore not only can Elvis Costello not be 'better' than Bob Dylan, he can't even be 'better' than George Michael.

As to Costello, I like him but I have real problems with much of his later work, not lyrically but musically. The most succinct, and accurate, criticism of the later material is that Costello is writing songs he is no longer capable of singing. It is admirable that he seeking out different musicians to expand his palette but he is severely hindered by his voice. There was no problem when he was doing the angry pop of his youth, the voice worked, but when blended with classical instruments, or trying to be soulful, the whining grating aspect of his voice really does become whining and grating. This then leads to problems with his lyrics, if you can't listen to his voice, how can you listen to his lyrics?
(Just for the record, albums like My Aim Is True and Get Happy! are fantastic).

Re Marc Cohn - I haven't heard much since the first album, it wasn't bad, but he just seemed to fall off the radar after that. Am I imagining this or was he was shot during an attempted carjacking ?

Jan 24, 2007, 8:41pm Top

You aren't imagining. I read on the Net somewhere about his having been shot. As far as I know, he did not sustain permanent injuries. (I hope!)

He is a slow mover when it comes to recording. Maybe that's why he fell off the radar. The three albums I have range from 1991 to 1998. A couple of years back, his website announced he was working on a new album, but I haven't visited again, so I'm not sure if it ever came to fruition.

Jan 25, 2007, 5:08pm Top

Well I would certainly agree that Costello can be annoyingly too experimental but I don't agree that his voice is whiney and gratey; although I prefer an interesting voice over a technically perfect one.

As for Carey, saying all art is equal does not mean it is all equally good, just that all has equal right to be considered and judged as art. He certainly said he thought Costello better than Dylan which suggests he is either at odds with his own thesis or that he really does think George Michael stinks.

Saying all art is equal merely allows people to discuss singers on bookish websites and compare them to the poets of so-called high culture. It does not imply that they can not be distinguished.

Jan 25, 2007, 7:18pm Top

yes Paper Walls and Lost You In THe Canyon made the cmpilation- atotal of 18 songs, the other 16...

true Compassion
silver thunderbird
ghost train
perfect love
dig down deep
walk through the world
the rainy season
rest for the weary
the things we've handed down
sainta preserve us
turn on your radio
fallen angels
healing hands
one safe place

Jan 26, 2007, 6:19am Top

#142 - Carey's argument is that since art is really about what the reader feels, then concepts of good and bad don't matter. Therefore, if a reader believes something to have value, it has value, it doesn't matter what critics say. I think this grows out of his critique of modernism, when he criticised the major figures of British modernism for pursuing a deliberately obscure path, and alienating the mass of the people, who they despised anyway.
When the book came out, What Good Are The Arts?, Carey appeared on a panel with some experts debating his point. One expert kept saying the Beatles were better than Westlife, to which Carey kept replying "That's only your opinion".
He does have difficult saying things like that with a straight face when it gets to Shakespeare, etc. Carey, to be fair, is fairly inclusive, he is the main reviewer for the Sunday Times and has been known to review bestselling writers like Stephen King.

As I said, I like Costello. As to his voice, it wasn't a criticism as such, it works well with a rock backing but struggles outwith that, because he lacks the range. You have admire the fact that he tries something different though, rather than release the same album ten times. Is he better than Dylan? Mmmmm.

Jan 26, 2007, 8:06pm Top

bookish and jargon, I am enjoying your discussion. I had not heard of Carey before, but I'm definitely in his corner. Imo, art (music, books, etc.) is in the eye of the beholder.

Bert, thanks for the list. I'm glad to see the two I mentioned are on it. What do you think of him?

Jan 27, 2007, 9:31am Top

I am not that familiar with the body of Cohn's work - only familiar with his one big hit-Memphis-and his semi-notoriety as a criime victim and husband to a very attractive TV newscaster.

when i borrowed his 'very best' from my public library-on 1st listen- it was an impressive album both musically and lyrically.

Jan 28, 2007, 11:46am Top

Bert, I didn't know he was married to a newscaster. And you are probably better acquainted with his body of work than you realize. He hasn't been prolific by any stretch. (Quality over quantity.) Many of the songs from the three albums are on the Greatest Hits. A couple that I particularly like that aren't on it are Ellis Island (from Burning the Daze):

I was driving down Ninth Avenue
As the sky was getting dark
Didn't have nothin' else to do
So I kept on riding to Battery Park
I stepped out in the damp and misty night
As the fog was rolling in
Man said, "Last boat leaving tonight
Is the boat for Ellis Island"

As my feet touched solid ground
I felt a chill run down my spine
I could almost hear the sound
of thousands pushing through the lines
Mothers and bewildered wives
that sailed across the raging sea
Others running for their lives
to the land of opportunity
Down on Ellis Island

"What is this strange paradise?"
They must've wondered through their cries and moans
After all they've sacrificed
Their faith, their families, friends and homes
Then on the Inspection Stairs
They were counted out or counted in
Frozen while the inspectors stared
Down on Ellis Island

Now me I only stumbled in
Just to wander around that empty hall
Where someone else's fate had been
Decided in no time at all
And cases filled with hats and clothes
And the belongings of those who journeyed far
They're strange reminders I suppose
Of where we're from and who we are

But as the boat pulled off the shore
I could see the fog was lifting
And lights I never seen before
Were shining down on Ellis Island
Shining down on Ellis Island

and Saving the Best For Last (from Marc Cohn):

Got into a cab in New York City
Was an Oriental man behind the wheel
Started talking about heaven
Like it was real
Said "They got mansions in heaven
Yeah the angels are building one for me right now
And I know...

They're saving the best for last
Look around this town
And tell me that it ain't so
They're saving the best for last
Don't ask me how I know
'Cause it must be
Saving the best for last for me

You can go a hundred miles a second
Don't have to drive no lousy cab
Got everything you want and more man
And the King picks up the tab
You walk around on streets of gold all day
And you never have to listen
To what these customers say and I know...


I remember when I was a child
Lost in the streets of Chinatown
My mother had a vision and I was found
(Saving the best for last for me)
Oh-oh -- saving the best for last

And when I finally take this journey
I'm gonna wave goodbye to Earth
Gonna throw this meter in the ocean
And prove what I was worth
And I don't care who tries to flag me down
They're gonna have to find another ride uptown
And I know
They're saving the best for last..."

Edited: Jan 31, 2007, 7:25am Top

I'm almost afraid to dip my toe in here---what a maelstrom this thread has become! But I must do it. The subject being "Songwriter Poets", how is it no one has mentioned Stephen Sondheim, or Kris Kristofferson, or Joan Baez, or Willie Nelson, Andrew Lloyd Weber or Hank Williams, Sr.
Poets, all.
And to hop back to a thought that was briefly entertained earlier, EVERYBODY "steals" from everybody in writing songs,and poetry, and novels. If they didn't, written art would have fizzled and died in the last 400 years. What is West Side Story but a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet? "Cats" is pure T. S. Eliot (admittedly, of course), who is purported to have said "good poets borrow, and great poets steal". How many versions of the Song of Roland were there, even before Stephen King writ it large in his Dark Tower series?

Duvalier's Dream
(Kris Kristofferson)

I scandalized my brother
While admittin' that he sang some pretty songs (and he did)
I'd heard that he'd been scandalizing me
And, Lord, I knew that that was wrong (and I was)
Now I'm lookin' at it over
Something cool and feelin' fool enough to see
What I had called my brother on
Now he had every right to call on me

Don't ever cuss that fiddle, boy
Unless you want that fiddle out of tune
That picker there in trouble, boy
Ain't nothin' but another side of you
If we ever get to heaven, boys
It ain't because we ain't done nothin' wrong
We're in this gig together
So let's settle down and steal each other's songs

I found a wounded brother
Drinkin' bitterly away the afternoon
And soon enough he turned on me
Like he'd done every face in that saloon
Well, we cussed him to the ground
And said he couldn't even steal a decent song
But soon as it was spoken
We was sad enough to wish that we were wrong

Don't ever cuss that fiddle, boy
Unless you want that fiddle out of tune
That picker there in trouble, boy
Ain't nothin' but another side of you
If we ever get to heaven, boys
It ain't because we ain't done nothin' wrong
We're in this gig together
So let's settle down and steal each other's songs

I know that it sounds silly
But I think that I just stole somebody's song

Jan 31, 2007, 8:48pm Top

Brave woman, lw3. You've mentioned some good ones. I agree with you completely on Hank Williams, Sr. He had an astonishing talent!

Feb 1, 2007, 4:24pm Top


i really liked the Ellis Island - thanks- being a NY'er I can tell you he has nailed the experience one has visiting "the island of dreams"...all my grandparents passed through those lines and i am forever grateful (despite what Bush is doing to drag this country down) that they came here to start a new life.

Feb 2, 2007, 7:07pm Top

You're welcome, Bert. It's a beautiful song to me. I hope, if you haven't heard it, that sometime you will. The melody and the voice are as wonderful as the lyric.

Feb 8, 2007, 4:19pm Top

Um, hating to bring up an unspoken elephant but - hip hop? Reggae? Dub? Er, any non-white singer/songwriters at all? Classical reggae (ie: not the homophobic Beenie Man chart-filling current stuff) has probably the most powerful embrace of the Blakean prophet/poet/singer, with lyrics of Biblical verve and intensity. Not just Bob Marley, but for sure he's the best known.

The poets of the Harlem Renaissance were deeply influenced by jazz and blues, both rhythmically and lyrically.

Having taught undergraduates in North America, I can tell you that the poetry they know best is by Eminem and Tupac, Jean Grae and Missy E - and it's powerful stuff. If you're looking for someone who writes it down in a book, go for Sarah Jones, whose "The Revolution Will Not Happen Between these Thighs" was banned by the FCC the same week as "Stan."

There's the poets of the blues - from Ma Rainey through BB King to Jill Scott (and don't forget Gil Scott Heron). And then there's the griots of African music, from Fela and Femi Kuti through Rokia Traore.

And, just to cast the net further (and with reference to my post above), most Arabic (pop) music comes from a long and living tradition of performed poetry. There's many twentieth century performers and writers drawing on Rumi, among others.

On a completely different note: Van Morrison's legendary setting of Patrick Kavanagh's "On Raglan Road."

Feb 9, 2007, 4:43am Top

I hate to point out the obvious but reggae has been mentioned a few times earlier in the thread, as has rap. The problem with rap is that the crap has overwhelmed the good stuff, and unfortunately the crap is sexist homophobic machismo at it's worst.

I love artists like B.B.King but he isn't exactly known for his lyricism, except on the guitar. When you listen to Robert Johnson however, you have to wonder exactly what was happening to that man.

The problem with African artists is that it is hard to comment on their lyrical content when you can't understand what they are saying. That's not to say they are not very good - Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita, etc. The best band in the world just now are Tinariwen, made up of Tuareg nomads from Mali and it's surrounds. Brilliant desert blues.

There is also Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who promoted Qawalli in the west.

I love this music but I can't comment on their abilities as lyricists though, like most people who buy their records in the west I don't have the necessary language skills but I can recognise the power of the music.

I would be nice about Van Morrison but he was really really bad at the last concert I saw so he doesn't deserve it!

Feb 10, 2007, 5:33pm Top

hey jargoneer: agree with you on Tinariwen. You should also check out Tartit, a female Touareg group who've released a couple of albums.

I also meant to mention Joy Harjo, a Mvskogee Creek poet who is also a saxophonist and lyricist. Her performance poem/epic song cycle She Had Some Horses is an awesome companion to Patti Smith's Horses.

Edited: Feb 11, 2007, 8:09pm Top

I haven't heard Morrison's rendition of Raglan Road, but I love Joan Osborne's with the Chieftains on Tears of Stone. Beautiful song.

Jargoneer, I agree with you on recognising the power of music, even when the lyrics are unknown. I listen to Celtic music a lot and I don't have a clue what they're saying unless they happen to sing in English. I don't really care. The sound is beautiful.

Wasn't Khan the one who did some music with Peter Gabriel?

Feb 12, 2007, 9:38am Top

Yes, Khan was signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label. His best collaborator around that time was Michael Brook, who developed the infinite guitar sound popularised by U2. The combination of Eastern spiritual music and ambient guitar works very well.

Have you heard throat singing? That is one of the most amazing sounds you can hear.

Being Scottish I have heard my fair share of Celtic music. It's probably best they stick to singing in Gaelic because lyrically most of these songs are either depressing or very depressing, even the supposed happy ones. The Scots got all the angst and dourness, the Irish got the optimism.

Feb 12, 2007, 7:49pm Top

I love that "infinite guitar sound." And I love the mix of unusual instruments when cultures collide. Some of the greatest sounds I've ever heard have come out of those mixes. There are many examples, but I'm thinking right now of Loreena McKennitt's Book of Secrets, with it's myriad influences, especially the Arabic. Great album, if you like that kind of thing.

I haven't heard throat singing, as far as I know. I am familiar with shape-note singing. I wonder if they might be similar…? Could you give me an example?

I'm sure you have heard more than enough Celtic. (Geography does make a difference.) But for those of us who didn't grow up with it, Celtic can be very beautiful. I hear its influence in Southern mountain music, with the fiddles and harmonies. But something of the real Celtic did not translate. There is a flatness to the mountain music that is full and rich in Celtic. Maybe it's just that we lack bagpipes. :) You are right: Celtic can be a bit depressing. But many of the songs are old, old ballads. They came out of some very hard times. I love the history of them almost as much as the music.

Apr 1, 2007, 10:25am Top

#152, #153

I have to agree, reggae has featured quite a bit in this thread.

However, as it has been mentioned again, I forgot in my earlier comments to mention Bunny Wailer`s lyrics - I`m thinking particularly of the albums Blackheart Man and Liberation, also two very good songs from the Burning album - Hallelujah Time and one other - the title escapes me. Someone else might have a better memory for titles than me.

Jumping from one style to another a bit, Tim Finn`s CD Imaginary Kingdom is very good if you like a good lyric. I`,m not best qualified to know what stylistic `box` you might put it in - parts of it put me in mind of Steve Harley, Al Stewart, The Beatles.

Apr 1, 2007, 10:26am Top


I forgot to say - I do like the phrase "unspoken elephant".

Apr 1, 2007, 10:59am Top

Well, if you all are looking for musicians who have set poetry to music, you can't get any better than Loreena McKennit, who has put Shakespeare, Yeats, and Tennyson (among others) and does an incredible job at it! As far as songwriters who have poetic lyrics, I'm standing by Paul Simon.

Apr 1, 2007, 1:44pm Top

He's not a poet as such, but I've been listening to The Fall a LOT this month and now recall how witty Mark E Smith's lyrics are. I think his main strength is putting his bizarre 'scenario' songs to powerful music - though his delivery-ah can sometimes-ah overwhelm / confuse the listener (!).

Apr 2, 2007, 8:58am Top

Ah yes--The Fall--Impression of J. Temperance and Jawbone and the air rifle. I always liked them a lot--a very clever songwriter--kind of dadaist/sci-fi and horror lyricist rolled into one with a touch of noir and that very unique way of delivering his rant songs. Took their name from the Camus book.

Apr 2, 2007, 8:53pm Top

Ben Folds is still one of my favorite lyrists, "You can't fool me, I saw you when you came out. You've got your mother's taste, but you've got my mouth."

After Ben would be Connor from Bright Eyes, "So if you want to be with me, with these things there's no telling, we'll just have to wait and see. But I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery. I mean, maybe this time it's different. I really think you'll like me."

Apr 12, 2007, 12:13pm Top


Not to sidetrack you, but the song I couldn`t remember was Pass It On.

Apr 17, 2007, 8:10pm Top

I was thinking of Conor Oberst when I saw the title of this thread and happened to be playing:

"Corporate or Colonial
The Movement is unstoppable
Like the body of a centerfold it spreads
To counter-culture copyright
Get your revolution at a lower price
Or make believe and throw the fight, play dead
It's exploding bags, aerosol cans
Southbound buses, Peter Pan
They left it up to us again
I thought you knew the drill
It's kill or be killed"

I really liked "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" and am just digging into this new one "Cassadaga" right now. He's worth checking out.

Apr 18, 2007, 11:29pm Top

I still like the song, "First Day of My Life" from that album. It starts off as such a sappy love song and then the last few lines flip your understanding of the song on its ear.

"If you want to be with me/with these things there's no telling/we'll just have to wait and see./But I'd rather be working for a paycheck/ than waiting to win the lottery./ I mean this time it's different, I really think you'll like me."

Apr 20, 2007, 11:57pm Top

Can't believe I didn't see this thread before. I'm always delighted to find a new-to-me artist who is really good with words. Lately I've been listening to Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Jamie Cullum, Madeleine Peyroux, and David Gray.

I enjoy many of the musicians mentioned: Loreena McKennitt, Tom Waits, Simon & Garfunkel, Japan, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Cowboy Junkies, Elvis Costello, The Finn Brothers and their varous incarnations - Crowded House/Split Endz...

Some of my favorites not already mentioned: Sting, The Police, Andy Partridge (of XTC), Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Alanis Morisette, Peter Gabriel....

Does anyone remember the female folk combo "The Story" from the early '90s? Their first CD "Grace in Gravity" has e e cummings poem "Love Is More Thicker Than Forget" set to music...

Apr 24, 2007, 2:29pm Top

Despite some initial reservations I really enjoy this thread (though I still think academics should keep out of popular music - don`t suppose I`ll find much support for that view here !).

Anyway, while we`re on the subject, I wondered if anyone can answer a question that`s been bugging me - I know that reggae singer Jackie Edwards wrote the Spencer Davis Group`s Keep On Running and I gather he also wrote another of theirs - Somebody Help Me.

I gather from reasonably reliable sources that he actually wrote 3 or 4 tracks for them, but I`m not sure which. I`ve checked on the net, and find there are two others with an Edwards credited as co-writer
- Back Into My Life Again (Edwards/Miller) and When I Come Home (Edwards/Winwood) - but is it the same Edwards ?

Does anyone know ? Cheers.

By the way, I saw a recent version of the Spencer Davis Group support a recent version of The Yardbirds a few years ago - well worth seeing either band if you get the chance.

Apr 25, 2007, 5:49am Top

Nick - I have checked my old vinyl copy of "Back in the High Life" and the co-writer of the songs you list is Will Jennings, who is a well-known lyricist. (He's guilty of writing the lyrics to "My Heart Will Go On" and other monstrosities like that). On a lighter note, the one song not co-written by Jennings is co-written by Viv Stanshall, of Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band fame (if you can call that fame).

Apr 25, 2007, 9:19am Top

Still no further on, then. Someone will know, I`m sure. Funnily enough, I`ve seen Viv Stanshall live too !

Thankfully, I`ve never heard of My Heart Will Go On. I`ll try to keep it that way.

Apr 25, 2007, 11:09am Top

Sorry, my brain went off a little there. It is indeed Jackie Edwards who co-wrote those songs. He was a staff writer at Island Records when the SDG were up-and-coming. He actually wrote their first three hits - "Somebody Help Me" is the other track.

Apr 25, 2007, 2:00pm Top

#170 Surely even in the UK... You may have heard it but don't make the connection. Celine Dion? Titanic?

May 8, 2007, 6:45pm Top

I can't believe that no one mentioned Tom Waits

May 10, 2007, 12:09am Top

Message 173> You'll find Waits mentioned frequently towards the beginning of this long, long thread. First mention is message #26, then again in message 35, 36, 40, 42 and 50, 51 and 52, etc.

So it appears there are lots of Waits fans here (and, though I don't believe I mentioned him in my post on this thread, I count myself among them).

May 26, 2007, 11:05am Top

Tom Waits is pretty cool.

I`ve been meaning to mention this for a while and never got round to it - has anyone mentioned Ray Davies yet ? I was listening to my wife`s copy of Something Else by The Kinks not so long ago and I was really taken with his songs.

He is also on the list of acts I`ve seen live, and I though he was very good.

There is a supercilious streak to his writing here and there - I`m told he`s not like that in person - but I think he merits a mention in this context.

Aug 22, 2007, 3:28pm Top

Did you know that "All I Do Is Have Some Fun" song by Sheryl Crow was a poem by a man?

Aug 24, 2007, 11:39am Top

176: Yes, as mentioned in #7. They asked Wyn Cooper about it in David Lehman's Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms. I know a friend and I kept forgetting we were in that workshop together, so one of us would say, "Hey, you know that Sheryl Crow song...?" and then oh, duh, you were there. It became a running joke for a while.

Dec 27, 2007, 2:39am Top

A few names came to mind, but the name that jumped out from my dusty memory bank is Chris De Burgh. I know, a lot of people don't like him, and think of him as "The Lady In Red " singer. But especially his early work such as "Crusader" or "Spanish Train" are -at least to me- poetry in motion.

Opening lines from Crusader,

"What do we do next?" said the Bishop to the Priest,
"I have spend my whole life waiting, preparing for this Feast,
And now you say Jerusalem has fallen and is lost,
The King of Heathen Saracen has seized the Holy Cross"

Then the Priest said "Oh, my Bishop, we must put them to the sword,
For God in all his mercy will find a just reward,
For the Noblemen and Sinners, and Knights of ready hand
Who will be the Lord's Crusader, send the word through all the land,
Jerusalem is lost"

Edited: Mar 8, 2008, 7:19pm Top

michelangelo antonioni by caetano veloso

vision of silence
empty street corner
page with no sentence
letter written on a face
in stone and mist
a useless window


Future Lovers byChico Buarque

Don’t rush, don’t
It doesn’t have to be right now
Love has no hurry
It can wait in silence
At the bottom of the cabinet
In the chest
Millennia, millenia
On air
And who knows, maybe then
Rio will be
Some city submerged at the bottom of the sea
The divers will
Explore your home
Your room, your things
Your soul, your hiding places
Wise men in vain
Will try to decipher
The echo of old words
Fragments of letters, poems
Lies, pictures
Traces of a strange civilization
Don’t rush, don’t
Nothing is for right now
Lovers will always be kind.
Future lovers, perhaps
will love one another without knowing
They are using the love that one day
I had saved for you


bonus track! caetano veloso singing "train of colors" live, subtitled: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik0U1PIMxTk

Apr 2, 2008, 9:57pm Top

I'd like to contribute two Canadian musicians and poets:

Hawksley Workman and Leonard Cohen

A sample from Hawksley's book Hawksley Burns For Isadora:

Undress slowly. Take all night. Suck into the last droplets of fire light. Shake away the crusts for the pigeons. Tattoo a secret on your ankle for the grave robbers. Keep them guessing. Let the dragging road-jaws grind themselves to dust. Slowly, woman. Down to your scent. I'll peak through the hedges to see your paradise. It's winter out here, but you melt my frozen tongue with sweet lava-like berry juice. Dry the dinner plates on the clothes line and pot plants in the wine glasses. We'll take steamy horses over frozen rivers carrying our precious cargo of ancient light in deep mirror buckets. Sniff the sleeping gardens. Pluck the blue buds of watery wisdom from the other-world's deep flow, then tuck the jewels in your cheeks to pass the border guards. Those jagged-tooth nightmare dwellers wear dark heels to squash dreams under foot. Oh sweetness, we'll shred our passports into wild bird's wings to spread the horizon. Tonight we'll travel forever in our kiss, never to return here again. So, quiet woman. Drench yourself. Undress slowly. Let this journey last. Arrival is surrender. Let us never arrive.

And one from Cohen's The Book of Longing:

Your Heart

I told the truth
and look where it got me
I should have written about
the secret rivers
under Toronto
and the trials
of the Faculty Club
but no
I pulled the heart
out of a breast
and showed to everyone
the names of God
engraved upon it
I'm sorry it was
your heart
and not mine
I had no heart worth the reading
but I had the knife
and the temple
O my love
don't you know that we have been killed
and that we died together

Apr 3, 2008, 9:11am Top

just delicious, different one! i love this poem of his, and, even more, i love when someone delivers a poet to me, one i've missed all these years, i will definitely hunt down this Hawksley Workman and devour him. As for leonard, i've loved the man almost all my life, can still remember the first kiss i dared under the spell of him (but no, not the first kiss i stole, a chuckle into the wind at this . . .)

too true, this story. the woman was a child, i not much more than that, she on her couch and me, bold enough to linger over, lean in and on and down to catch her lip, tear and tooth and tongue. and waited. and the roll still lingers here, and though we went no further i remember "cohen"
and tonight will be fine will be fine will be fine will be fine

for a while.

thanks for the remember.

Apr 3, 2008, 6:04pm Top

Ani Difranco. Much of her lyrics can stand on it's own as poetry.

Apr 4, 2008, 9:43pm Top

Ohhh, I love "Tonight Will Be Fine." Siiiigh. Cohen's just...well. The man is deserving of the title of 'legend.'

Hawksley actually only has the one book out; sad, but true. It's still fairly readily available though. I got my copy on Amazon. It's a slim little volume but chock-full of beautiful words.

Edited: Apr 5, 2008, 6:01pm Top

I'd nominate Frank Zappa as one of America's finest comic poets. Here's a sample:


I might be movin' to Montana soon
Just to raise me up a crop of
Dental Floss

Raisin' it up
Waxen it down
In a little white box
That I can sell uptown

By myself I wouldn't
Have no boss,
But I'd be raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Well I just might grow me some bees
But I'd leave the sweet stuff
To somebody else . . . but then, on the other hand I would

Keep the wax
N' melt it down
Pluck some Floss
N' swish it aroun'

I'd have me a crop
An' it'd be on top (that's why I'm movin' to Montana)

Movin' to Montana soon
Gonna be a Dental Floss tycoon (yes I am)
Movin' to Montana soon
Gonna be a mennil-toss flykune

I'm pluckin' the ol'
Dennil Floss
That's growin' on the prairie
Pluckin' the floss!
I plucked all day an' all nite an' all
Afternoon . . .

I'm ridin' a small tiny hoss
(His name is MIGHTY LITTLE)
He's a good hoss
Even though
He's a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway
He's a bit dinky to strap a big saddle or
Blanket on anyway
Any way

I'm pluckin' the ol'
Dennil Floss
Even if you think it is a little silly, folks
I don't care if you think it's silly, folks
I don't care if you think it's silly, folks

I'm gonna find me a horse
Just about this big,
An' ride him all along the border line

With a
Pair of heavy-duty
Zircon-encrusted tweezers in my hand
Every other wrangler would say
I was mighty grand

By myself I wouldn't
Have no boss,
But I'd be raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss
Raisin' my lonely
Dental Floss

Well I might
Ride along the border
With my tweezers gleamin'
In the moon-lighty night

And then I'd
Get a cuppa cawfee
N' give my foot a push . . .
Just me 'n the pygmy pony
Over the Dennil Floss Bush

N' then I might just
Jump back on
An' ride
Like a cowboy
Into the dawn to Montana

Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon
Movin' to Montana soon

Edited: May 30, 2008, 5:01pm Top

only because someone asked "if they were to get one Thompson lp/cd." The "obvious" choice is Shoot out the Lights; my personal choice is "I want to see the Bright Lights tonight." In general his solo work hasn't been as consistently strong as is work w/ Linda (imho, of course). I doubt that he'd think of his lyrics as "poetry" - his last great release was the "1000 yrs of popular music." "The idea for this project came from Playboy magazine—I was asked to submit a list, in late 1999, of the ten greatest songs of the Millennium. Hah! I thought, hypocrites—they don't mean millennium, they mean twenty years—I'll call their bluff and do a real thousand-year selection. My list was similar to the choices here on this CD, starting in about 1068, and winding slowly up to 2001."
Again, as lyricists, not poets - the McGarrigle sisters; ECostello; Zevon, Chuck Berry and yeah...Mick Jagger. Decades ago Tom Rapp/pearls before swine set "I shall not care" by Sara Teasdale to a lovely tune. (Chuck Berry..one could/should write a dissertation on the Black American experience in the 50s from his songs..Promised Land, alone; and Jagger...v. few rock lyricists are INTENTIONALLY witty - but from Satisfaction on, the Stones songs v. often had very wry and sometimes LOA lyrics.). Yeah..i had RT in by implication, but not explicitly...so he's in too. And several other mentioned above (L&McC, Dylan, Cohen. Joni Mitchell, LReed, Domingo Samudio.).

May 30, 2008, 2:28pm Top

his last great release was the "1000 yrs of popular music." - can't agree with that statement: both Front Parlour Ballads and Sweet Warrior released subsequently are superior works.

Edited: May 30, 2008, 7:41pm Top

Yay Bob for mentioning the McGarrigles. The definitely deserve a place on this list. And really, Rufus could probably be on this list too, with some of the beautiful lyrics he writes.

Good too see a fellow fan of the McGarrigles and Thompsons! Have you heard Linda's solo works? I fell in love with her through Fashionably Late and Versatile Heart. I think her collaboration with Teddy is just fantastic.

Just so this comment is thread appropriate, the lyrics to one of the cutest Kate and Anna songs (IMHO):

Just a little atom of chlorine
Valence minus one
Swimming thru the sea, digging the scene
Just having fun
She's not worried about the shape or size
Of her outside shell
It's fun to ionize
Just a little atom of Cl
With an unfilled shell

But somewhere in that sea lurks
Handsome Sodium
With enough electrons on his outside shell
Plus that extra one
Somewhere in this deep blue sea
There's a negative
For my extra energy yes
Somewhere in this foam
My positive will find a home

Then unsuspecting Chlorine
Felt a magnetic pull
She looked down and her outside
Shell was full
Sodium cried "what a gas be my bride and
I'll change your name from Chlorine to Chloride"

Now the sea evaporates to make the clouds
For the rain and snow
Leaving her chemical compounds in the abscence
Of H2O
But the crystals that wash upon the shore
Are happy ones
So if you never thought before
Think of the love that you eat
When you salt your meat
Think of the love that you eat
When you salt your meat

Talk about making chemistry fun! And in this family of musicians, I'll go ahead and throw out Loudon Wainwright III, too. He's comedic a lot, but there's usually a punch of truth even through the humor. His song, "Hard Day On The Planet":

The dollar went down and the President said
"Who's in charge, now?" I don't know, take your pick.
A new disease every day and the old ones are coming back
Things are looking kind of gray, like they're going to black

Don't turn on the TV, don't show me the paper
(I) don't want to know he got kidnapped or why they all raped her
I want to go on vacation 'till the pressure lets up
But they keep hijacking airplanes and blowing them up


It's been a hard day on the planet
How much is it all worth?
It's getting harder to understand it
Things are tough all over on earth.

I's hot in December and cold in July
When it rains it pours out of a poisonous sky
In California the body counts keep getting higher
It's evil out there, man that state is always on fire.

Everyone has a system, but they can't seem to win
Even Bob Geldorf looks alarmingly thin
I got to get on that shuttle get me out of this place
But there's gonna be warfare up there in outer space


I've got clothes on my back and shoes on my feet
A roof over my head and something to eat
My kids are all healthy and my folks are alive
You know, it's amazing but sometimes I think I'll survive

I've got all of my fingers and all of my toes
I'm pretty well off I guess, I suppose
So how come I feel bad so much of the time?
A man ain't an island; John Dunn wasn't lying


It's business as usual; some things never change
It's unfair, it's tough, unkind and it's strange
We don't seem to learn; we can't seem to stop
Maybe some explosions would close up the shop

You know, maybe that would be fine: we would be off the hook
We resolved all our problems, never mind what it took
And it all would be over, finito, the end
Until the survivers started up all over again


May 30, 2008, 11:54pm Top

yeah..I have Linda's cd's too. I do like them..but being an old fart or something, Pour Down Like Silver and Bright Lights Tonight are the Thompsons' recordings i keep coming back to. I've owned just about everything, from Fairport on, that RT has had a hand in, and like a lot from all his periods..but for listening i go back to the 70s, In concert (esp. acoustic) a lot of the newer stuff is fabulous. I hope it's obvious that in any thread of this sort ..if I (or anyone) says "greatest" it's a personal opinion!
Some of Liz Phair's stuff off of Exile in Guyville reads well ("Divorce" comes to mind). And, surprisingly, so does a fair bit of McCartney's stuff w/ the Beatles. I was surprised by that, though not enough to buy the book!

Edited: May 31, 2008, 4:52am Top

I don't think you can compare Linda solo with Linda with Richard - the LT-RT albums are completely reliant on RT as he is the songwriter; her albums highlight her songwriting., which turns out to be excellent. I have the same attitude to RT as to Neil Young - I like the acoustic material but they are such good, and distinctive, guitarists that I love the electric stuff. (An interesting appearance by RT is on the Golden Palominos' Drunk With Passion; the last track, "Dying from the Inside Out", sees him playing with the equally talented Bob Mould).

For the blending of female voices, it is hard to beat the Roches - quirky, off-beat pop sung beautifully by three sisters. And, to keep the link going, Loudon Wainwright married Suzy Roche, and their daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, is now a singer-songwriter.

May 31, 2008, 9:31am Top

i agree in terms of albums and rt..i prefer the electric..BUT in concert, i was blown away multiple times by how much i enjoyed his acoustic gigs! There are also the 2 lps by kaiser, thompson, frith (sic) et a. Even though RT didn't write the song, Invisible means is one of my favorite songs w/ him playing.

May 31, 2008, 9:32am Top

oh yeah..Martha Wainwright also has some good stuff out!

May 31, 2008, 8:51pm Top

Haha, this thread is turning into a reunion of my favorite musicians. I've been fans of the Wainwrights, Wainwright-McGarrigles, McGarrigles, Thompsons, and Roches for ages.

Actually, and I know I'll get stoned for this, I've never been a fan of Richard's. I recognize that his guitar playing is beyond normal terms like "good" or "amazing," but I don't feel his songs, and I'm not fond of his voice. In terms of the daddies of the families, I'd choose Loudon over Richard any day. Then again, I do tend to lean toward the acoustic, and I haven't felt driven to seek out any of Richard's acoustic works. I just know I feel Linda's music as a solo artist much more than I feel Richard's, though I do agree that if I had to pick a favorite that they did together, it would be Bright Lights.

Martha and Teddy are actually my two favorites out of the whole crowd; I've been following them since before anyone (besides fans of their parents) knew who they were. If anybody is interested in any rarities or live tracks of theirs, hunting something they don't have, let me know, and I'll be glad to share.

Also, to be a good little promoter bug, Martha's got a new album out now in the UK and Australia (the US release is set for June 15th) called I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too. It's her sophomore album and man, it's amazing. Teddy's got a new release coming as well; it's called A Piece Of What You Need, and it'll be out June 17th in the U.S. June is going to be a good month for music!

And just for fun...happy memories with Martha and Teddy:


I love those kids. :')

Edited: May 5, 2009, 4:11am Top

To me, Al Stewart's lyrics are always poetry .. but do yourself a favour and listen to the music, too.

Timeless Skies

While travelling northwards
On a back country lane
I came on the village
Where first I grew
And stopped to climb up
The hill once again
Looking down from the tracks
To the grey slate roofs

I watched the village moving
As the day went slowly by
In the fields we lay here
My very first love and I
Under timeless arcadian skies
Under timeless arcadian skies

The old canal lies
Sleeping under the sky
The barges are gone to a lost decade
On overgrown banks here
Lovers' footsteps went by
Long before ever the roads were made
And in our turn we passed here
And carved our names on trees
As the days washed by like
Waves of an endless sea
Under timeless arcadian skies
Under timeless arcadian skies

Time runs through your fingers
You never hold it at all til its gone
Some fragments just linger with you
Like snow in the spring hanging on

I left the village behind in the night
To fade like a sail in the darkening seas
The shifts and changes in the patterns of life
Will weather it more that the centuries
And in another village in a far off foreign land
The new day breaks out opening up its hand
And the sun has the moon in his eyes
As he wanders the timeless skies

Jun 20, 2012, 5:43pm Top

I see this is an old thread but I have only just found it and it has been very useful to me. I admire a great many of the writers mentioned here and now have lots of new (to me) ones to check out - thanks to all.

My interest is in reconnecting to the bardic tradition and I am embarking on a project in which the object is to test the poetry of song not by "flattening it" (love that) on the page but by reciting it aloud.

Lyrics should not have to prove their worth by being reduced to a two-dimensional form but perhaps the really great ones will survive and even thrive by being spoken clearly and rhythmically as all poetry deserves to be.

The greatest example would be Shakespeare, of course, and we have all experienced the difference between reading it with they eyes and having it leap off the page in a dynamic and well-paced performance.

Jun 20, 2012, 5:53pm Top

> 194. the object is to test the poetry of song not by "flattening it" (love that) on the page but by reciting it aloud.

Some really funny reading aloud of this sort was done by the great Peter Sellers. Check this out:

Peter Sellers Reads The Beatles’ “She Loves You” in Four Voices

The four voices, BTW, are: Irish, Cockney, Upper Class, and Dr. Strangelove.

Edited: Jun 21, 2012, 2:35am Top

Thanks. Yeah - this is very funny, if a little weird. All those Nazi S & M overtones. He was brilliant.

I did something along the same lines (but not weird in the same way) with The Stones' 'Satisfaction' a few years back - you know, imagining all that adolescent angst settling into how Sir Michael Jagger might do it now at a Buckingham Palace garden party.

I'm really talking about something more serious though, although the humour is always welcome .

May 19, 2016, 10:09am Top

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