Have you ever loved a particular song? Loved it for a long time? But after hearing it over and over, never been sure what it is about. What the words say?
And one day, you finally heard the words and got their meaning? Maybe you figured out that the words, the lyrics, were important, full of ideas you had missed for a long time. Or you heard them and they meant nothing to you? Just something that went along with the music, which you loved.
Songs like these, with lyrical content that you like or don’t, still will be favorite songs that you have heard on the radio, on disc or in live concert. Enjoyable or more. Now that you know what the song is about, or not about, it’s still probably OK to you.
And songs from so many eras and genres work this way, I have to say. It’s true, I am certain. Can’t prove it but I am certain. That’s because I love music. Music in many styles. And so many vocals are important to me.
Some of these vocals just sound good. Some are great combinations of words and music. Some are poetry set to music. Wonderfully meaningful.
So I know that your taste in music is different from mine. That our taste ran on the same stream is very unlikely.
And what music is great to you may not appeal to me. My loss, your gain. That’s fair and I’m happy with that.
Take a dramatic song I like called Send in the Clowns. It’s so slow and heart wrenching. So true to life and full of its pathos. Frank Sinatra has a fine version. Judy Collins, Barbara Streisand and Cecilé McLoren Salvant do great versions. These versions range from the ‘60s to 2018. Great work lasts.
But back to the lyrics of songs. And this listener.
The truth is that I often don’t have a good idea of what the singer in a performance is singing. And I still may love the song. And some songs have been meaningful over a long time to me have stayed that way.
So in the last couple of years I’ve made a habit of checking out the lyrics to music I like. I can look on the web for the song’s lyrics and I can use Apple Music very often to get the words quickly.
Recently Bob Dylan released a new album with a 16 minute and 55 second song on it. I listened and by the time the song was over playing I had forgotten the first half of what I had heard. Or more. But Dylan deserves to be checked out with respect. And some of his songs are amazingly meaningful and impactful.
So, Murder Most Foul is the song’s name and it has so many images in it which I can relate to. So I’m glad I read the lyrics. As a matter of fact, this is a song I really don’t think is important unless the listener really hears the words to the song. And pays attention to the lyrics.
I’m working at being mindful of the lyrics to songs in the music that I listen to.
So, the other day I checked out the Grateful Dead song Stella Blue. That’s a song I have “loved” since around 1975. You’d think that I knew what it was all about. But I have never known much of what the lyrics were there to tell me.
What happens is the band starts playing Stella Blue and its a powerful sound. Bobby Weir singing and Jerry Garcia right up there with him on his guitar. The impact of The Grateful Dead band, the band that played better live that almost any other “rock band” I believe, took hold of the live audience.
OK, make a comment below. It’s just me and I went to a lot of Dead shows. It’s music man, we all have our favs.
And Stella Blue isn’t a screamer. It’s one of the Dead’s slow to very slow songs. It drags you into a mood, a tear in the eye song. The music and the dramatic riffs and interplayed exchanges between the musicians.
One minute the song and the musicians take you ascending into the cosmos of twisted spirit and anxiousness and then carries the listeners down to the deepest hell of remorse smothered with drums from Billy and Mickey . A rebirth of meaning will follow the Beethoven like pounding that will be happening from the speakers of the stage-left keyboard. Sure the final semblance of order to the musical story is resolved. But finished off in a diminishing way to leave the fate told in the story in a song to time and mystery and in a dream. It is created satisfying for the audience which which has been wrung out emotionally and now will crave more in the segue to follow immediately.
One line in Stella Blue I always remembered goes like this.
“I’ve stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel. Can’t win for trying.” Some lines are worth a lot. This is one of those. But the story behind this line? Or any other line in the song?
But from beginning to end the point of the song isn’t really apparent, even if you cheat and look up the lyrics as I did. At least as far as I am concerned they aren’t. Yet I love it. (The lyrics to Stella Blue are at the bottom here.)
The story told in the lyrics isn’t of romance or adventure or of a vision or about a place. It’s more about disappointment and its close to despair I suppose. The words in the lyrics are not rousing for the most part, except in it where a guitarist says his rusty guitar strings will shine, one more time. There is hope there.
But mostly the song lyrics lament “dreams… of melted years… can’t win for trying… In a life there’s nothing you can hold for very long… it seems all this life was just a dream”
(sing slowly)… Stella Blue
And more of a similar nature “A broken angel… there’s just a song… broken dreams (again!)… every lonely street… nothing comes for free… seems like all this life was just a dream…”
(sing slowly)… Stella Blue
And there is no telling who or what Stella Blue is or represents. Except when listening to the band play it and the words, the singing of “Stella Blue.” Here it is accompanied by the twisting and pulling of the guitar strings into a crying tone. The tale is lifted, suspended until it is taken to new depths in an electric lament. In a kind of slow wail. And the point of the song is clear. It’s when the point of the song tares into your heart. And then the audience is brought to silence. The hearing of the music has taught the story that gives the audience an understanding. A lesson that the lyrics don’t explain but that the musicians and the instruments do.
These lyrics are a skeleton to the notes covering them, I believe. Necessary and invisible from view.
So, what my thinking is. Taking the time to find the words to old favorite song lyrics will be a bit of an adventure.
Click link below for a 1990 performance of Stella Blue
All the years combine
they melt into a dream
A broken angel sings
from a guitar
In the end there’s just a song
comes crying like the wind
through all the broken dreams
and vanished years
When all the cards are down
there’s nothing left to see
There’s just the pavement left
and broken dreams
In the end there’s still that song
comes crying like the wind
down every lonely street
that’s ever been
I’ve stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel
Can’t win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just
one more time
Gonna make em shine
It all rolls into one
and nothing comes for free
There’s nothing you can hold
for very long
And when you hear that song
come crying like the wind
it seems like all this life
was just a dream