Author C. S. Lewis once said:
Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors.
Lewis was talking about his sense of obligation to books and their creators, but I have long felt a similar debt owed to songwriters. Oh yes, I’ve learned a lot from books, but many of the songs that I’ve heard have taught me something new – about the world, about other people, about what it means to be human – in the space of two to five minutes. Without them, as Lewis went on to say, I would truly inhabit a “tiny world” that would feel like a prison to me.
Song listeners today are living in a golden age. We’ve had great songwriters, singers, performers and recording artists hard at work for a long time, and almost all of this treasure is now available to us via CDs, downloads and streaming services.
At the same time, though, we are living through a time in which songs are mostly used as aural wallpaper. Wherever we go, there they are, playing in the background. And, of course, most of them don’t deserve any more attention than we give them. As Raymond Chandler once observed about popular art forms:
There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that.
And so, I fear, many of us have learned to expect little from the songs we listen to.
I would like to raise those expectations.
My approach on Words About Songs will be to write about one song at a time, exploring the depth of meaning each of these has for me, and sharing some of my observations and insights about the nature of the songwriter’s art in each piece. My goals with this writing will be to encourage readers to:
In no case will I be trying to suggest that my writing can fully convey the meaning of a song that I’m writing about, nor will I ever be trying to impose my interpretation of a song as some sort of absolute canon. I will be happy if each reader listens and thinks for themselves, but perhaps engages in both of these activities more deeply than they may have done before.
As I go, I will try to categorize songs by theme. This may seem a bit simplistic or forced at times, but so many people are creating so many song lists today, based on so many odd criteria, that I thought it might be at least a little bit interesting to gradually create lists of songs grouped based on what they are about, as opposed to what sort of mood they supposedly evoke, or what decade they were written in, or some other equally meaningless category.
I will of necessity be quoting lyrics as I go, and will also be sharing cover art, and my intent with such borrowing is never to damage the original copyright holder, but simply to make fair use of this material.
The original words on this site are copyright © 2001 - 2017 by Herb Bowie and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
I will provide links to Apple Music (for streaming) and to iTunes (for downloads) alongside of each piece, and clicking on the album cover art will give you the option of purchasing the CD on Amazon. In all cases I encourage you to listen to the music I’m talking about, no doubt using your usual sources for such things.
I will notify readers of new pieces via Twitter, via Facebook, via email and via an RSS feed. I encourage you to follow Words About Songs using the service of your choice, and hope that you will find each new entry to be rewarding. Feel free, of course, to share liberally with friends, family and coworkers.
I hope you will join me on this new venture, and will enjoy the journey.
If you have feedback, always feel free to shoot me an email at Herb@WordsAboutSongs.com.