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  #31  
Old 08-09-2018, 06:39 PM
H165 H165 is offline
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I sing Paul Simon's own added "concert" verse when I do "The Boxer", but I know it confuses everyone singing along.

Due to cultural factors which have changed over the years, I also change one word in the second-to-last line of the original recorded version (Mason Williams) of "J. Edgar Swoop", which is consistently one of my campfire crowd amusers.

Of course when it comes to altering lyrics I imagine a bunch of us here are like me and my friends - a bit of the "Weird Al" gene becomes dominant when alcohol is imbibed during jam sessions and such
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  #32  
Old 08-09-2018, 07:13 PM
archerscreek archerscreek is offline
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Yes. I’ve read enough articles about music and even endured an oral history of African folklore course in college to state with 100% certainty that changing the lyrics of songs and tweaking tales has been going on for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I have no morally aligned hesitations changing lyrics.
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  #33  
Old 08-09-2018, 08:58 PM
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Goat Whiskey Picks Goat Whiskey Picks is offline
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I’ll change a he to a she or maybe alter a line a little to maximize effect but that’s about it. Of course when I play You Can’t Always Get What You Want, the third verse becomes “We decided to have a soda. My favorite flavor Budweiser red...”.

Oh and Long Haired Country Boy’s last line always becomes “If you don’t like the way I’m living...Just leave this short fat bald guy alone”.
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  #34  
Old 08-10-2018, 07:08 AM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TBman View Post
There isn't enough money printed to get me to sing that. I probably wouldn't even hum it,
FYI - Those words are the third verse of Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones.
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  #35  
Old 08-10-2018, 07:36 AM
SunnyDee SunnyDee is offline
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Originally Posted by sad99 View Post
I remember Kris Kristofferson telling a story about singing Me And Bobby McGee live shortly after Janis Joplin made it a big hit. It was a song the audience always sang along to, and she had changed a line or two. Kristofferson sang his original lyrics, which clashed with the audience was singing, so after a few shows, he gave up and sang it Janis's way. As I recall, he was quite amused by the whole thing, saying that once a song is out in the world, it has its own life to live.
I guess if people were singing along, I'd just let them sing it, but, I change lyrics frequently in folk tunes. Me and Bobby McGee is a great example. It was recorded something like nine times before Janis did it and had a number of changes along the way. I grew up with Roger Miller's lyrics, so now I blend his and Kris's and Janis's to the ones I like. That's what folk tunes do. I wrote a couple of extra verses to an old British folk song because the story seemed unfinished to me. I doubt anyone would even realize they are new. I'm a pretty good lyricist (much better than player), so I feel comfortable making changes.
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  #36  
Old 08-10-2018, 09:06 AM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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In my core I guess I'm a folk musician. That means an approach that there is no "official" version of a song, that if you're playing for an audience you might fit the song to the audience, that authorship belongs somewhat to the singer, and that you can freely move between the antique charm of a very old song to the immediacy of making it sound like it happened last night.

I revere wordsmiths and songwriters, and I even take a persnickety exception to those that assume more famous musicians must have written the lyrics to their songs. But then I revere John Coltrane too and I don't play My Favorite Things note for note (not that I could!) and it's unlikely he felt he had to follow Julie Andrews' phrasing exactly either.

Others feel differently, and produce fine performances too.


The folk process, where stuff gets modified by performers produces plenty of failed attempts to improve things, which isn't a definitive argument against it because it can also keep things alive.

As to mistakes and mondegreens: there's a line in one of my favorite Dylan lesser-known songs Please Crawl Out Your Window which is usually written down as "their religion of little ten women" which is a bad enough line that "Dewey Cox" could have written it. Dylan never got a take he liked, and there several bootleg/out-take versions where he sings slightly different lyrics, but in one I heard him sing what sounded like "his religion of polluted women." I've loved that misheard line so much that I always use my mondegreen when I sing it. I just think it's a great line and adds to the song's impact.

In a version of Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Trail, Peter Green reversed the blues stanza Johnson sang and instead sung "If today was Christmas Day/If today was Christmas Day/and tomorrow was Christmas Eve." Mistake or intended? I don't know, but it's a genius line isn't it. There are whole songs wringing out that metaphor: If I Could Turn back the Hands of Time, Yesterday, and so on. But in the middle of that dark song with wind sounding leaves in December trees, it sure works.
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  #37  
Old 08-10-2018, 09:39 AM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is offline
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I was in a cover band that played "Take It Easy." Bob the singer liked to do the third verse with "... just a little hard to find," like in Jackson Browne's version. On a break, one club owner called Bob over to the bar and told him to stop doing that.
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  #38  
Old 08-10-2018, 10:26 AM
SteveBurt SteveBurt is offline
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I just write new lyrics to fit the tune if I don't like the original ones....
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  #39  
Old 08-10-2018, 11:02 AM
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Would "The Boxer" verse refered to be the "Years are rolling by me, they are rockin' easily" verse? I've often wondered why I don't hear it on radio(edited for time?). When I play the song, I nearly always sing that verse, many people don't seem to know it.

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  #40  
Old 08-10-2018, 02:05 PM
jdambrosemusic jdambrosemusic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3notes View Post
Ya, no. Never change the lyrics.
I present you the final boss of this lyrical debate.



"There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings" - America

You changing that or?
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  #41  
Old 08-10-2018, 02:52 PM
RedJoker RedJoker is offline
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I hereby grant you all permission to change the lyrics when you sing my songs.
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  #42  
Old 08-11-2018, 08:19 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Originally Posted by posternutbag View Post
What about changing the key of a song to better fit your voice? Is that "a big no no"?

What about changing a melody note that is either too high or too low for your voice to a harmonized note? Is that verboten?

Will you allow me to rephrase a melody?

What if I don't play the solo or break just like it sounds on the record? That must be a terrible offense, no?

The idea that lyrics are somehow sacrosanct is absurd.
It's a little different, in that lyrics and melody are copyright. The identity of the song resides in them. The key of the song is irrelevant (nothing to do with its identity), the chords are secondary, and as for improvised solos then the sin is arguably the reverse: to copy a recorded one instead of improvising your own.
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Originally Posted by posternutbag View Post
People change songs to fit their own ideas about what a song should sound like. Did Hendrix offend your sensibilities when he almost completely re-wrote All Along The Watchtower, or is that OK because the lyrics were more or less the same?
He didn't rewrite it, he re-arranged it. He sang the same lyrics, and hardly changed the melody at all. He certainly seemed to be trying to sing it the same way Dylan did. But he obviously designed a monster arrangement around it, which highly impressed Dylan himself.

My feeling on changing lyrics depends wholly on the song. If it's a traditional folk song, or a blues, where the original composer is either unknown or never existed (because the existing lyrics are a combination from various unknown sources), then clearly the lyrics are fair game. You sing the ones you like. I don't think I'd rephrase anything, or add new words, I'd just choose the verses I liked. I might sometimes modify a line if I felt it sounded too archaic or unnatural - but if that became a big issue, requiring a lot of modification, I might just not sing the song at all. (Being English, I naturally feel a bit weird singing African-American songs....)

If the composer is known, then I wouldn't change anything - not the lyrics anyway. If I didn't like some of the words, I just wouldn't sing the song in the first place. Why bother? Why not just choose songs where you're 100% happy with all the words? There's surely enough of those about. If not - then write your own songs!

It's not because I care about what an audience might think. I'm sure I would care much more about the content of the song than they will. The point is that I only choose a song to perform in the first place because I love it - meaning all of it. The words as written would speak to me as powerfully as the tune does.
That doesn't mean I'm going to perform it as an accurate copy of an original recording. I might change the key, I might change the arrangement (how I play the guitar, whether I play it with a band). I will certainly improvise my own solo, if appropriate.
On very rare occasions I might even change the chords - but then I know how much I hate it when other people change the chords of songs I like: it always sounds to me as if they just haven't listened properly to the original - if they don't care, why are they bothering at all?
Having said that, I know there are Dylan songs where substantial re-arrangements - including new chord sequences - can work wonders. He does it himself, after all! I think he's a rare case, in that his original songs (i.e., words and melody) are strong enough to take that kind of treatment. Most jazz standards are similarly strong. Not many rock songs are.
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Last edited by JonPR; 08-11-2018 at 08:26 AM.
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  #43  
Old 08-11-2018, 08:24 AM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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Originally Posted by RedJoker View Post
I hereby grant you all permission to change the lyrics when you sing my songs.
Thanks man. I was worried about that.
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  #44  
Old 08-11-2018, 08:28 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Originally Posted by RedJoker View Post
I hereby grant you all permission to change the lyrics when you sing my songs.
Thanks. I'l change the tune and chords too, if that's all right.
Then they're my songs, of course. mwahahahahaaa!
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  #45  
Old 08-11-2018, 11:56 AM
Denny B Denny B is offline
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Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
It's a little different, in that lyrics and melody are copyright. The identity of the song resides in them. The key of the song is irrelevant (nothing to do with its identity), the chords are secondary, and as for improvised solos then the sin is arguably the reverse: to copy a recorded one instead of improvising your own.
He didn't rewrite it, he re-arranged it. He sang the same lyrics, and hardly changed the melody at all. He certainly seemed to be trying to sing it the same way Dylan did. But he obviously designed a monster arrangement around it, which highly impressed Dylan himself.

My feeling on changing lyrics depends wholly on the song. If it's a traditional folk song, or a blues, where the original composer is either unknown or never existed (because the existing lyrics are a combination from various unknown sources), then clearly the lyrics are fair game. You sing the ones you like. I don't think I'd rephrase anything, or add new words, I'd just choose the verses I liked. I might sometimes modify a line if I felt it sounded too archaic or unnatural - but if that became a big issue, requiring a lot of modification, I might just not sing the song at all. (Being English, I naturally feel a bit weird singing African-American songs....)

If the composer is known, then I wouldn't change anything - not the lyrics anyway. If I didn't like some of the words, I just wouldn't sing the song in the first place. Why bother? Why not just choose songs where you're 100% happy with all the words? There's surely enough of those about. If not - then write your own songs!

It's not because I care about what an audience might think. I'm sure I would care much more about the content of the song than they will. The point is that I only choose a song to perform in the first place because I love it - meaning all of it. The words as written would speak to me as powerfully as the tune does.
That doesn't mean I'm going to perform it as an accurate copy of an original recording. I might change the key, I might change the arrangement (how I play the guitar, whether I play it with a band). I will certainly improvise my own solo, if appropriate.
On very rare occasions I might even change the chords - but then I know how much I hate it when other people change the chords of songs I like: it always sounds to me as if they just haven't listened properly to the original - if they don't care, why are they bothering at all?
Having said that, I know there are Dylan songs where substantial re-arrangements - including new chord sequences - can work wonders. He does it himself, after all! I think he's a rare case, in that his original songs (i.e., words and melody) are strong enough to take that kind of treatment. Most jazz standards are similarly strong. Not many rock songs are.


Very well said, Jon...

As I briefly mentioned previously, if the lyrics of a song didn't move me, I wouldn't bother singing it in the first place...and if I thought I could rewrite lyrics better than the original writer, I'd be writing my own...
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