I like to listen to music, and I also enjoy the lyrics to a lot of songs. Sometimes the words are like beautiful poems, and sometimes they are odd, or even baffling.
This morning I was listening to an oldies station, and heard the following lyric from The Five Stair Steps’ song, “Ooh, Child”: “Someday, girl, we’ll put it together and we’ll get it undone.” What are they talking about? Legos? A cake mix?
During my lifetime there have been a lot of songs that were intended to be weird or non-sensical. John Lennon of the Beatles wrote a number of them. “Come Together” has one particularly interesting line: “He wear no shoe shine, he got toe jam football…” Isn’t toe jam the stuff that sock lint leaves between your toes?
My winner for the most interesting collection of words in one song verse goes to Carley Simon’s “Your So Vain.” It includes the words “yacht,” “apricot,” “strategically,” and “gavotte” (a French dance).
Finding words that rhyme can be really difficult when trying to get a message across. Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” includes this rhyme: “I looked for you in old Honolulu, San Francisco, Ashtabula…” I’m guessing that many of the good people of Ashtabula, Ohio don’t even know they’re in a Bob Dylan song.
Maybe the most interesting first line of a song is from Paul Simon’s “Everything Put Together Falls Apart”: “Paraphernalia never hides your broken bones.” The song is about how taking pills to hide sadness doesn’t really work.
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame says that the song “Stairway to Heaven” was intended to be an environmental awareness message. This comes from that song: “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.” Somehow that doesn’t fit my idea of rock lyrics, but then again, I’ve never had a bustle in my hedgerow.
Rap and hip-hop lyrics are often improvised, and as such can be either brilliant or, well, dumb. From Project Pat: “I’m hungry for cheese like hungry, hungry hippo.” What? From Dr. Dre: “Never let me slip, cuz if I slip I’m slippin’.” True. And from 2 Chainz: “She has a big booty so I call her ‘Big Booty.’” Good thinking.
A few song lyrics really bug me, even though the songs are good. David Gates of the band Bread wrote the grammatical abomination: “Baby, I’m a Want you.” Sounds like Cookie Monster. Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Wanna Wait” includes: “Open up your morning light, say a little prayer for I.” It’s “me,” Paula. Besides, “light” and “I” don’t really rhyme anyway.
Many music lyrics are like poetry. But, unlike poetry, if you don’t care that much for the words, thankfully you’ve always got the music!