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-   -   Does it ever seem to you that songwriters get more credit than they deserve? (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=601563)

mc1 12-20-2020 10:22 AM

Does it ever seem to you that songwriters get more credit than they deserve?
 
I like songs, and appreciate good lyrics. They can be powerful and meaningful, and the message is certainly enhanced by their musical and repetitive nature.

However, sometimes when people talk about Dylan or Cohen or whomever, I think they give them way too much credit. They aren't really in the same ballpark as Shakespeare or Yeats, but from some of the statements I read, it would appear that some think they are.

Songs are typically pretty short with lots of repeated sections. There just isn't much there, less that many nursery rhymes.

I'll end this post with the lyrics to Blowin' In the Wind.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

Yes, 'n' how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

Yes, 'n' how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take 'til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

rick-slo 12-20-2020 12:30 PM

How much time have you spent reading Shakespeare or Yeats this last year?

They're different category of communication with different expectations and boundaries.

Put a melody to the following and see if it makes it into the top forty.

"Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain's to die.

How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare he view alone
His future doom which is but to awake."

hubcapsc 12-20-2020 12:37 PM

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fools gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying

Temptation's page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan, but unlike before
You discover that you'd just be one more
Person crying

So don't fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It's alright, Ma, I'm only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons, great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don't hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without lookin' too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

And though the rules of the road have been lodged
It's only people's games that you got to dodge
And it's alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs that con
You into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime, life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, ensure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he, or she, or them, or it
That you belong to

But though the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to


For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destiny
Speak jealously of them that are free
Do what they do just to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And say "God bless him"

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in

But I mean no harm, nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn't talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer's pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death's honesty
Won't fall upon 'em naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false goals, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say, okay, I've had enough
What else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only

;)

Mycroft 12-20-2020 12:37 PM

To a degree you are comparing apples and oranges. Songs are generally short by nature, due in part to the attention span of the listener. Neither Shakespeare nor Yeats had that limitation: their works could be as long as they needed to be to say what was needed.

There is some skill to being able to convey your point in a short space. Dorothy Parker could say some awesome things in two sentences. Savvy Haiku?

Songwriters are also more limited by being restricted by the form of the song structure itself. I was listening to a dissection by Polyphonic on YT yesterday of the Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," which has a couple lines that go something like "More than 40,000 coming every day, 40,000 men and women coming every day" implying that 40,000 people die every day, when it fact, even in 1976, it was far greater. But the songwriter, Buck Dharma, has said in an interview, that it was the number that he used because it had the right number of syllables to fit the scansion of the song.

Leonard Cohen was a poet before he was a songwriter. Many works of prose are no longer than many a song is. Consider Yeats "The Stolen Child," performed as a song by The Waterboys (with the blessing of the Yeats estate) It has 4 unique verses, each followed by a repeated chorus (for lack of a better word. I am sure it is called something else in poetry-speak)

There are many song lyrics that have the power to move the listener. Will they still do so over time? Ask this question in a hundred years.

Just my two Rupiah.

Straw 12-20-2020 12:54 PM

If Dylan isn't in in the same ballpark as Yeats, it's because they're not playing the same game. Of course, both are working with language. But Yeats is writing for the page, where the music must inhere in the words themselves or be lost. Dylan has the benefit and limitation of writing for, or along with, music. And there is also the emotional element brought by a singing voice. Both are impressive artists, in their own way.

mc1 12-20-2020 12:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rick-slo (Post 6581184)
How much time have you spent reading Shakespeare or Yeats this last year?

Ok, touche, about as much time as I spent listening to Dylan. :eek:

But I did read a lot of other classics and novels by fine authors.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rick-slo (Post 6581184)
Put a melody to the following and see if it makes it into the top forty.

"Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain's to die.

How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare he view alone
His future doom which is but to awake."

I would like to hear that rapped.

edit: found this, lol


mc1 12-20-2020 01:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mycroft (Post 6581194)
To a degree you are comparing apples and oranges. Songs are generally short by nature, due in part to the attention span of the listener. Neither Shakespeare nor Yeats had that limitation: their works could be as long as they needed to be to say what was needed.

There is some skill to being able to convey your point in a short space. Dorothy Parker could say some awesome things in two sentences. Savvy Haiku?

Songwriters are also more limited by being restricted by the form of the song structure itself. I was listening to a dissection by Polyphonic on YT yesterday of the Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," which has a couple lines that go something like "More than 40,000 coming every day, 40,000 men and women coming every day" implying that 40,000 people die every day, when it fact, even in 1976, it was far greater. But the songwriter, Buck Dharma, has said in an interview, that it was the number that he used because it had the right number of syllables to fit the scansion of the song.

Leonard Cohen was a poet before he was a songwriter. Many works of prose are no longer than many a song is. Consider Yeats "The Stolen Child," performed as a song by The Waterboys (with the blessing of the Yeats estate) It has 4 unique verses, each followed by a repeated chorus (for lack of a better word. I am sure it is called something else in poetry-speak)

There are many song lyrics that have the power to move the listener. Will they still do so over time? Ask this question in a hundred years.

Just my two Rupiah.

Well, technically, way more than 40,000 is till more than 40,000. :guitar:

KevWind 12-20-2020 01:02 PM

Does it ever seem to you that songwriters get more credit than they deserve? Not even remotely, But the opposite does .

You are somewhat correct ( not in the same ballpark) in the reverse direction. Written word poets only have to consider and create a prosody, that deals with spoken language and is significantly simpler, in comparison to songwriters having to consider the complexity of the language in the context of the addition of the musical prosody as well,,, inherent in great songwriting . Juss sayin'

mc1 12-20-2020 01:02 PM

At this point I would like to point out that both Yeats and Dylan have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, so clearly some people put them in the same category.

Shakespeare has not. ;)

DCCougar 12-20-2020 01:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mc1 (Post 6581051)
...However, sometimes when people talk about Dylan or Cohen or whomever, I think they give them way too much credit.

I strongly disagree. Plus, they're not novelists, they're not writing plays, they're writing songs. You're comparing apples to grapes, and I'm not saying which is which.

DCCougar 12-20-2020 01:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mc1 (Post 6581216)
....both Yeats and Dylan have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, so clearly some people put them in the same category.

Just as skateboards and space shuttles are in the same "category."

KevWind 12-20-2020 01:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mc1 (Post 6581216)
At this point I would like to point out that both Yeats and Dylan have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, so clearly some people put them in the same category.


Shakespeare has not. ;)

Are you recanting or just observing :D

Also Seems ol' Willy S was dead some 200+years before Al Nobel was even born :confused:

Also if getting a prize is even a measurement of "prodigiousness". then observe as far as prodigious prizes,,,, Dylan just sold his song catalog for $300 million clearly a different category than Yeats, hey ?

KevWind 12-20-2020 01:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DCCougar (Post 6581241)
Just as skateboards and space shuttles are in the same "category."

Well I can now check a shuttle ride off my bucket list, as I have been on many skateboard rides ;)

Mandobart 12-20-2020 01:58 PM

One way I look at it is sure, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney and John Lennon have been lionized in popular culture for the past 50 some years.

But look at other great songwriters who have devoted, but smaller followings/accolades: Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, John Prine, Steve Goodman to name just some of the better known ones. Many of these didn't get much attention until after they died.

And there are other awesome current songwriters you'll never hear or hear of:
Slaid Cleaves, Joe Pug, Jeffrey Martin, Chris Knight....

Its like when I was in the service and we'd roll our eyes at getting medals just for doing our job. The Chief would say "this isn't just for you - its also for all the other squids who work hard everyday and never get any recognition."

IMO the "superstars" help keep it alive for everyone else, though Dylan et al do deserve credit, too.

Mycroft 12-20-2020 02:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DCCougar (Post 6581238)
I strongly disagree. Plus, they're not novelists, they're not writing plays, they're writing songs. You're comparing apples to grapes, and I'm not saying which is which.

Well, they can both be sour.

Silly Moustache 12-20-2020 02:23 PM

Song writers ? No. Publishers - Yes.

DukeX 12-20-2020 02:35 PM

Combine them and you get something mewsical, like Cats.

Feste 12-20-2020 03:08 PM

All this comparison is a bit premature ... if any of these writers, regardless of the genre, form, etc. are still being read and/or listened to as Shakespeare still is today, then, I’d say we have room to say they are of all time. Then again. We’ll never know. If it means something to you, that is the true measure today. I know there are things I listen to again and again and have for decades. Similarly, I also re-read certain authors works in the same manner. It makes no difference if others do.

Mr. Jelly 12-20-2020 03:22 PM

When you say there isn't much there I'm not sure what you are trying to say. What is much? Granted anybody can write a song. The popularity of a song does not mean it is any good. It just means it's popular and there can be many different reasons for that. The idea that some or many give something or somebody credit or whatever means just that. Many obviously don't. When I look at the result of an artists labor my personal litmus test is if I can do as well or better in expressing myself in the same way. If I think I can I feel I have a right to voice my opinion. If not I can only state whether I like it or not. But that's me ....

Pattern 12-20-2020 04:46 PM

When done by one with skill, running a rack of nine ball should make the average person watching think “this is so simple, I can do it”

I feel like the same is true for songwriting. To make a powerful statement, a vivid picture, tell a story etc, with just a few sentences that seem so simple you think you could’ve written them yourself. That’s when you know someone is a master

JonPR 12-20-2020 05:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mc1 (Post 6581216)
At this point I would like to point out that both Yeats and Dylan have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, so clearly some people put them in the same category.

Shakespeare has not. ;)

Shakespeare died in 1616. The Nobel Prize for Literature was established in 1901.

It's not awarded posthumously ;).

JonPR 12-20-2020 05:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Silly Moustache (Post 6581283)
Song writers ? No. Publishers - Yes.

This! :)

Have you read It's One For The Money?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-One-Mon.../dp/1472111907
- a brilliant history of how songwriting was monetized by publishers over the last 100 years or so: for their benefit, of course, not for the songwriters themselves.

Having said that, the concept of "intellectual property" is a tricky one. Creators should be rewarded for their work - but how much, and in what way?
When something like copyright can be bought and sold, something smells funny somewhere...

mc1 12-20-2020 05:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hubcapsc (Post 6581193)
Lyrics to Bob Dylan's "It's alright ma (I'm only bleeding)"

Well, this was a pretty good choice. I of course know this song, but I don't think I've ever sat down and read the lyrics. And having done so, I'm still not sure I understand it, and will need to read it again and think about it.

But it has some very nice qualities, and some great lines.

mc1 12-20-2020 05:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rick-slo (Post 6581184)
Put a melody to the following and see if it makes it into the top forty.

"Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain's to die.

How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare he view alone
His future doom which is but to awake."

To clarify, my point wasn't that songwriters should write like Shakespeare. It was that the opinion that some songwriters are at his level is hard for me to swallow.

ljguitar 12-20-2020 06:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mc1 (Post 6581051)
However, sometimes when people talk about Dylan or Cohen or whomever, I think they give them way too much credit. They aren't really in the same ballpark as Shakespeare or Yeats, but from some of the statements I read, it would appear that some think they are.

Hi mc1
I could not DISAGREE more.

You need to cover a writer's catalog (song or literature) in it's entirety, and in context to be able to measure why they are considered relevant, or poignant.

Dylan is not considered 'profound' or 'relevant' because he was popular. He has remained 'profound' and 'relevant' through many phases of society. His lyrics are amazing.

And we won't know for at least 404 years after he dies (that's where we are marking time with William Shakespeare's place in history in 2020)

I don't think lyricists are overrated at all.




mc1 12-20-2020 06:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mycroft (Post 6581194)
To a degree you are comparing apples and oranges. Songs are generally short by nature, due in part to the attention span of the listener. Neither Shakespeare nor Yeats had that limitation: their works could be as long as they needed to be to say what was needed.

There is some skill to being able to convey your point in a short space. Dorothy Parker could say some awesome things in two sentences. Savvy Haiku?

Songwriters are also more limited by being restricted by the form of the song structure itself. I was listening to a dissection by Polyphonic on YT yesterday of the Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," which has a couple lines that go something like "More than 40,000 coming every day, 40,000 men and women coming every day" implying that 40,000 people die every day, when it fact, even in 1976, it was far greater. But the songwriter, Buck Dharma, has said in an interview, that it was the number that he used because it had the right number of syllables to fit the scansion of the song.

Leonard Cohen was a poet before he was a songwriter. Many works of prose are no longer than many a song is. Consider Yeats "The Stolen Child," performed as a song by The Waterboys (with the blessing of the Yeats estate) It has 4 unique verses, each followed by a repeated chorus (for lack of a better word. I am sure it is called something else in poetry-speak)

There are many song lyrics that have the power to move the listener. Will they still do so over time? Ask this question in a hundred years.

Just my two Rupiah.

I took a little more time to reread your post. You make a lot of good points. I agree that brevity should not be a considered a barrier to greatness. There are some great short poems.

I know Dorothy Parker a little bit, and just spent some time reading some of her stuff. I liked it. It seemed miles beyond, "Don't Fear the Reaper" to me, but that's a bit of a tangent. Or is it, as I'm still trying to work out my point. Is it that the average poet is miles above the average songwriter, or that the best poets are better than the best songwriters. Or something else. It's still turning over in my mind, but I've already opened the can of worms.

I had a listen to The Waterboys' "The Stolen Child", which was kind of an odd song/spoken word tune. To me these lyrics/words are really, really good. Just the images, the beautiful language sounds Yeats could put together make me think he is a master. And in a very song like structure.

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We footed all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.

For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the worldÂ’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

mc1 12-20-2020 06:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Straw (Post 6581209)
If Dylan isn't in in the same ballpark as Yeats, it's because they're not playing the same game. Of course, both are working with language. But Yeats is writing for the page, where the music must inhere in the words themselves or be lost. Dylan has the benefit and limitation of writing for, or along with, music. And there is also the emotional element brought by a singing voice. Both are impressive artists, in their own way.

Yet I often see these comparisons of Dylan to the great writers of history, and I think that's what doesn't sit quite right with me. And that is, I think, what I'm trying to express. I didn't make the comparison, but when I see it I don't quite buy it.

But I can see I have my work cut out for me here. Might have been easier over at the Goodreads forum. :D

mc1 12-20-2020 06:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevWind (Post 6581215)
Does it ever seem to you that songwriters get more credit than they deserve? Not even remotely, But the opposite does .

You are somewhat correct ( not in the same ballpark) in the reverse direction. Written word poets only have to consider and create a prosody, that deals with spoken language and is significantly simpler, in comparison to songwriters having to consider the complexity of the language in the context of the addition of the musical prosody as well,,, inherent in great songwriting . Juss sayin'

I must say that was a tough read of high diction (like a Joseph Conrad reply, and not a Johnny Cash reply). But if I get you correctly, you are saying that because it's prose put to music, it's harder.

If that is correct, my reply would be that song lyrics generally fall short of prose, and the addition of a musical requirement doesn't make up the gap.

mc1 12-20-2020 06:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DCCougar (Post 6581238)
I strongly disagree. Plus, they're not novelists, they're not writing plays, they're writing songs. You're comparing apples to grapes, and I'm not saying which is which.

That's a fair point. But the line between poetry and songs isn't so much, if anything at all.

But again, I started this thread because of my hesitance to recognize songwriters as literary greats.

Quote:

Originally Posted by DCCougar (Post 6581241)
Just as skateboards and space shuttles are in the same "category."

Exactly. When was a skateboard prize every awarded to a space shuttler or a space shuttle award give to someone on a skateboard.

Yet here we have Dylan and Yeats winning the same honor.

mc1 12-20-2020 06:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevWind (Post 6581253)
Are you recanting or just observing :D

Also Seems ol' Willy S was dead some 200+years before Al Nobel was even born :confused:

Also if getting a prize is even a measurement of "prodigiousness". then observe as far as prodigious prizes,,,, Dylan just sold his song catalog for $300 million clearly a different category than Yeats, hey ?

That was a reply to the comments that these are totally separate things, and can't be compared. I am not a member of The Swedish Academy, but they obviously felt that Dylan's song fit the requirements.

The line about Shakespeare was a joke, hence the wink, as it only stared in 1901.

I don't really follow your use of the word, "prodigiousness". This is more a discussion of quality than quantity. And what his catalog sold for seems irrelevant, so I think I'm missing your point.


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