Thursday, January 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Lyrics

If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?

* What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love?
* Why?
* And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?

I can't resist today's Booking Through Thursday topic because yes, I am a lyric girl. I can enjoy catchy music with bad lyrics, but for a full on love affair to take place, the lyrics have to express what I myself cannot. If that makes sense.

So of course I've chosen Andrew Peterson, who has such a way with words it makes me weep...that makes me long to write myself, to somehow bring expression to the things that are deeper than words can ever describe.

Because I know a lot of you are probably not familiar with Andrew Peterson, he's a Christian artist, singer/songwriter type. He's also the author of a children's fantasy book which is pretty darned good. Truth be told, though, if he released a book of his essays, I'd put down a good bit of money for it, buy it for everyone I know, and keep it in a cherished place. So, um, I'm a fan.

He often uses the device of storytelling in his songs...which of course I love. But I've picked out a few of my favorites here. This was incredibly difficult. I don't think there's a song I don't like. I have listened to all of his music so much that each song has woven itself a bit into the fabric of my life. I love that about lives and captures our memories for us.

From "Queen of Iowa" about a living room concert performed for a woman suffering from AIDS
"She was pretty as a flower in a crystal vase
It lights up the room as it withers away"

For some reason I love that descriptor

And possibly my favorite lyric that I seem to quote all the time, from "The Silence of God"
"And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God"

And from "For the Love of God" I love the truth of these words...
"Now, love is not a feeling in your chest
It is bending down to wash another’s feet
It is faithful when the sun is in the west
And in the east

It can hurt you as it holds you
In its overwhelming flood
Till only the unshakeable is left"

Another example of the beautiful poetic nature of his lyrics can be found in "Just As I Am" (a song that played a big role in healing for me)
"All of my life
I've held on to this fear
Its thistles and vines
Ensnare and entwine
What flowers appeared"

(The album Love and Thunder is absolutely full of this kind of goodness)

I could pretty much go on forever. If I still have readers left who haven't checked out Andrew it now. :)

I do want to mention a few other music wordsmiths that I love. I would be remiss in not saying how much I love the lyrics of Paul Simon. And I know I'm choosing quality here because we studied them as poems when I was in high school. :) One of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs is "The Dangling Conversation" here's the part that I love the most:
"And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we've lost.
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Couplets out of rhyme,
In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives."

Man is that ever good writing. And the whole song has that sorrowful feel to it. ;)

And of course the masterpiece, "Sound of Silence"
"Fools said I,you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence"

Absolutely chill bump inducing even without the music!!!!

Okay, one more! Then I'll stop, I promise! This is the lovely Sara Groves, from "Add to the Beauty" and I have always thought this line to be brilliant--
"This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful."

Okay I'll stop...but if you love any of these artists, I'd love for you to share your favorite lyrics by them in comments. (chances are it's one of my favorites to if it's an AP lyric. ;)



Ali said...

Paul Simon's lyrics are some of my favorites, too. How cool that you studied them as poetry in high school!

Chris said...

My first thought as I was reading through the first few lines of the blog was "Andrew Peterson!" So I certainly would second the suggestion to explore his singing and writing if you haven't already.

The next group that comes to mind is Over the Rhine. They are named for a neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I grew up. While the members of Over the Rhine are Christians, I'm not sure whether or not they would label themselves as a Christian band.

Over the Rhine has a knack for honest lyrics reflecting the world as they see it. These lines from "Jesus in New Orleans" is a good example of their self-reflection/criticism:

"I know I'm not a martyr
I never die for anyone but me
The last frontier is only
The stranger in the mirror that I see

But when I least expect
Here and there I see my Savior's face
He's still my favorite loser
falling for the entire human race"

An example of the imagery that they use to tackle heavy topics is found in "She", a song possibly about abuse:

"And she cuts herself on you every night
She's just dying to lay down the knife"

Here is perhaps my favorite lyric from OTR, from the song Spark:

"What you think you'll solve with violence
Will only spread like a disease
Until it all comes 'round again
Was John the only dreamer?...

Obsessions with self-preservation
Faded when I threw my fear away
It's not a thing you can imagine
You either lose your fear or live your life
With one foot in the grave
Is God the last romantic?"

Over the Rhine does a great job of asking the right questions, and while I don't always agree with their answers, they get me thinking with nearly every song.

Anonymous said...

You're right - I'm not familiar with him. I tend to listen to music from my youth - I think it's hard to beat Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Simon and Garfunkel.

claire said...

I love The Sound of Silence, too, but have never heard of The Dangling Conversation.. that's just beautiful, thanks for sharing. :)

S. Krishna said...

I love the Sound of Silence as well!

Thomas said...

I am a big big fan of Andrew Peterson.

One of my favorite songs lyrics is from Rich Mullins~ Hold Me Jesus~ A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band Every time I hear this song it stops me in my tracks.

Well, sometimes my life just don't make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It's so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

I'm singing hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace
There was a period of time when Shaun Groves song Damaged Done represented me.

Damage Done
Words and Music by Shaun Groves

Once again
I fell down and broke a friend
Words were said
Out of place
I hope that it's not too late
To right this wrong
Cause I was wrong

I struck the match
I burned the bridge
I'm to blame for all of it
I lost your trust
When I drew my sword
This distance is my just reward
Can I undo
The damage done

Couldn't sleep
Part of me
Was crying out from hurting you

So afraid
You would say
There is nothing I can do
To right this wrong
I was wrong


Listen friend
I must confess
You deserved more
I gave you less
It tears me up
That I let you down
I'm sorry
I'm sorry

©2001 New Spring Publishing, Inc./ (all rights administered by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.


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