Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Lyricists


Naturally if we go back to the days of Porter, Gershwin and Berlin, there are some might fine lyricists-many I am missing here but if we stick to the post-big band music era, who are your favorites?

I am picking Leonard Cohen on the basis of three songs, which read like poetry to me. Dance Me to the End of Love; Everybody Knows, and Tower of Song. It would be easy to come up with many more of his songs, but these came to mind quickly.

Who are your favorite LYRIC writers, if you can separate the music from the lyrics, which is hard. And which of their lyrics do you like most.

42 comments:

Dana King said...

Fred Ebb. The lyrics to the songs from CHICAGO are nothing short of brilliant, and CABARET wasn't too shabby, either.

I'm in the tank for Warren Zevon, too, though he wrote words and music. What makes me mention him here is how often his lyrics matched the music like an octopus matches a mail box. (CARMALITA and EXCITABLE BOY come to mind.)

Fleur Bradley: said...

I'm a fan of Coldplay and Sara Bareilles for their lyrics. I think it's because I haven't figured out what they mean, or that I discover new meaning in them as my perspective changes. Like looking at modern art, I guess.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sara Bareilles is a new name for me. I will check her out. Zevon and Ebb, brilliant, Dana.

David Cranmer said...

Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Carole King and Paul Simon would be my picks.

Anonymous said...

Me too, Dana. You hit it out of the park with both choices.

"I'm hiding in Honduras,
I'm a desperate man.
Send lawyers, guns and money
The Sh!t has hit the fan."


When it comes to rock & roll hits, I'd put Gerry Goffin up there too.

But overall, I'd have to go with Stephen Sondheim.


Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Dylan and Simon would also make my top 10 list for sure.

Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

Love songs, children's songs, topical songs, silly songs...nobody has done it better than Tom Paxton.

Ian Tyson has done some really good lyrics and has made cowboy songs a viable catagory. Gordon Bok has done the same for sea songs. I also like David Mallett and Tommy Makem.

Woody Guthrie's lyrics reflect the heatbeat of America.

Cohen, Dylan, Simon, and so many others should be on anyone's list.

Probably not on anyone's list of the best, but can I get an "Amen" for Shel Silverstein?

Anonymous said...

How do you do, my name is Sue? I'll give you an "Amen" for Shel!
Michel

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow. I have to google some of these names. Music is not my strong suit.

Cap'n Bob said...

Lennon/McCartney, Dylan, George Harrison, Coffin/King, Brian Wilson, and Paul Simon. Maybe Woody Guthrie.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The Beatles combined the best of music and lyrics for me.

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, gosh that's hard, Patti! I love Paul Simon's lyrics. And Bob Dylan - a real poet.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Dylan is awfully good but I have never enjoyed his voice very much. Of course, that is not our criteria.

Heath said...

I know it's awful obvious of me, but Dylan is/was a genius, lyrically. And as for his voice, I really like that it's so distinctive.
I also love Tom Waits lyrics. His stuff is like noir set to music.

Heath said...

Oh, and Hank Williams. His lyrics were simple, but man, sooo moving.

michael said...

John Prine. Tom Lehrer.

Dana King said...

(SLAPS HEAD.) D'oh! How did I forget Tom Waits? And Sondheim? OFFICER KRUPKE is one of the great show tunes ever

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Cohen Dylan Tom Waits, Warren Zevon, Hank Williams have all been mentioned and are among my favorites.
Also would include Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Richard Thompson off the top of my head.
And Brian wilson for such masterpieces as God Only Knows and Caroline No.

pattinase (abbott) said...

every song's lyrics in WSS is amazing. Tom Waits, another genius. Hank Williams.
I am glad someone came up with a woman--Lucinda Williams. How about Carole King.

K. A. Laity said...

Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Yoko Ono, and yeah, Cohen and Dylan. Robyn Hitchcock, very much, Springsteen especially back in the storytelling days. Nick Cave & Waits. Laurie Anderson. Difford and Tillbrook. The longer I think, the more names will come to me...

Steve Oerkfitz said...

How could I forget-Ray Davies who wrote one of the greatest songs of all time-Waterloo Sunset.

kitty said...

Johnny Mercer probably doesn't count -- stick to the post-big band music era -- but I just watched (again) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and his lyrics are still buzzing my head.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Johnny Mercer, oh my god. Brilliant! And I love that movie, book and music.

K. A. Laity said...

And DUH, since I wrote about him today, Mark E. Smith!

K. A. Laity said...

And with you, Steve, on Davies and "Waterloo Sunset": the best London song.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Mark E. Smith-have to check him out too. My blog always makes me go to bed feeling DUMB.

John McFetridge said...

I have to speak up for the Canadians; Robbie Robertson (The Band and solo), Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and the best of them all, Joni Mitchell.

Eric Beetner said...

Got to go Tom Waits for sheer poetic imagery. I do love lyrics that are more about the word combinations than actual meaning so I love Craig Wedren from the band Shudder To Think. Some wild, weird passages there. I also love songs that tell a story and one of my favorites is a guy named Travis Morrison who was in a band called The Dismemberment Plan and went solo. Great little vignettes in his work.
Oh, and Mike Doughty for beat-influenced lyrics. Fun and great images.
There you go Patti. Some I guarantee you haven't heard of.

Eric Beetner said...

And as my iTunes on shuffle just reminded me - the king of nonsense lyrics is Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices. The most prolific man in music is also one of the strangest lyricists.

Deb said...

I'm so glad someone mentioned Joni Mitchell. She was my favorite in the 1970s/early 1980s. In those days, everytime she released a new album, I would sit in my room, playing it obsessively and reading the lyrics along with the songs. Some of that "imprinting" is so strong that when I hear a song from, say, the "Blue" album, I still "see" the lyrics in my head as they appeared (center-justified) on the album.

I'd also mention Morrissey of The Smiths--king of the morose lyric-- especially songs like "Girlfriend in a Coma" (with it's bouncy tune, nothing like the lyrics), "Every Day's Like Sunday," "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before," and "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," among many, many others.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My son would kill me for not mentioning Neil Young and Jon Mitchell long ago.
It is not hard to come up with names I haven't heard of unfortunately.

George said...

I love Enya's music. And Kate Bush.

Charles Gramlich said...

U2 has some great lyrics. I'm partial myself, though, to Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, Danzig, and Motley Crue from "Shout at the devil."

Richard R. said...

I came to this late, but that lets me read all the other names. Lots of great ones there, but for my money, I want Jackson Browne on my record shelf (and his albums are there ).

Anonymous said...

Mose Allison, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've seen Mose Allison perform. Quite a thrill.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

My favorite written song is Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.

Also Night Moves by Bob Segar. It's that last verse, when the whole song gets flipped on its ear, that moves the song into the art category.

I woke last night to the sound of thunder

How far off I sat and wondered

Started humming a song from 1962

Ain't it funny how the night moves

When you just don't seem to have as much to lose

Strange how the night moves

With autumn closing in

pattinase (abbott) said...

Both terrific lyricists and music writers. That driving rock beat is mesmerizing.

Martin Edwards said...

Some great names here, to which I must add Hal David, who has contributed more simple yet truly unforgettable lyrical phrases to popular culture than most. Quite an achievement, when you think about it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

He and Burt were unbeatable in the sixties. "Alfie" is one of my favorites. So poignant and essential to the movie. And "What the World Needs Now..."

Cap'n Bob said...

May I add Jackie DeShannon? I had a girlfriend who thought Laura Nyro was the cat's pajama's.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Phil thinks Laura Nyro was the cat's pajamas but I am not sure it's all based on her songs.