Friday, September 5, 2008

Songwriters & poets

Anyone who has listened to any amount of altrock over the past decade has certainly heard a tune or two by Our Lady Peace. The Canadian band, perhaps best known for the song "Superman's Dead," among others, is fronted by Raine Maida (left), who as it turns out, professes his love for poetry. So much so, in fact, that he has morphed some of his work into a new solo album called "The Hunter's Lullaby."

Yeah, it's almost cliche for a songwriter to boast his poetry roots, and frankly, after Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Jim Carroll, and Henry Rollins, not to mention the entire genre of rap, who can compete on the same level? But for the sake of argument, who in your experience writes great songs and great poetry? Can you name a song that is really, truly great poetry? For starters, I'll throw out Medicine Hat by Son Volt. I'll be very interested to hear what you come up with.


michael salinger said...

Tom Waits -

I am completely enamored with his imagery. He drops phrases that require the reader (listener?) to fill in the blanks with a sort of assumed mythology. One of my favorite quotes re: writing from Ray Bradbury is, “Go ahead and put two and two on the page just don’t add them up for your reader.” Waits does this in spades here are three exemplary lines.

• “Drop a highball in the crankcase and nail a crow to the door”
• “Will you sell me one of those if I shave my head?”
• “Follow me to Beulah’s on dry creek road – I gotta wear the hat my baby done sewed”

Pressin On said...

i think K.t. Tunstall's entire first album is a chapbook of extra fine poetry. i listen and marvel. and the music is tops too.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michael regarding Tom Waits. Have to admit that with K.t. Tunstall, Bree introduced me to someone new (thank you!). I'd be inclined to suggest several songs by John Cale (hard to pick just one), who's best known for his part in the seminal Velvet Underground, though (in my opinion) his solo work transcends anything he accomplished in his early group career.

I'm also inclined to recommend any number of songs by Nick Cave.

Theresa Göttl Brightman said...

I'm biased of course, because he's a good friend of mine, but I honestly believe that one of the best poetic musicians out there comes from right here in NE Ohio: Zach.

The things he can do with words and music never cease to amaze me.

It's worth a minute of your time to check him out.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Cleveland's Cletus Black just had a collection of poetry come out, consisting of poems which were originally his song lyrics-- reads pretty well as poetry.

I've also been very fond of Al Stewart--e.g.,
Flying Sorcery, Merlin's Time, etc.

pottygok said...

I'm wondering if specific songs should be mentioned. With lines like "The Mississippi Delta was shining like a national guitar" and "My travelling companions are ghosts in empty pockets," I think "Graceland" by Paul Simon deserves a nod, even if some of his other work is less poetic.

Also, can we mention the whole genre of sexual metaphor in early blues songs? "Phonograph Blues" and "Terraplane Blues" by Robert Johnson are good examples.

Mark S. Kuhar . . . said...

I would actually agree that Graceland deserves mention, as do others on the same album. Simon, especially early on, did some magical things with words. I would certainly throw away "You Can Call Me Al," and "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," tho. More like 50 ways to write a useless song lyric.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau