That’s killer

I’ve tried several times to be a songwriter. Every time I hear a great song, I think to myself “Why can’t I do that?” I don’t even have to be a GREAT songwriter. I would just be satisfied with being a GOOD songwriter.

For me, it’s not really the melodies that hang me up…it’s the lyrics. For a song to go from good to great for me, it has to have at least one killer line. That’s all, just one killer line. It doesn’t even half to rhyme…it just has to be killer. I’ve discussed this with many of my friends. My buddy Dan once mentioned that he loved the line in the second verse of Wichita Lineman… “And I need you more than want you”. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about. THAT’S a killer line!

Who’s your favorite songwriter? There are many names that have been thrown around over the past few decades: Lennon/McCartney, Dylan, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb (author of Wichita Lineman), Carole King…just to name a few. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but for my money, the top award goes to Smokey Robinson. He has a knack for putting words and syllables together that just amazes me. He truly is a poet.

Uh-oh…I smell another “High Fidelity” moment coming up. It’s time for my

Top 5 Killer Lines

5 – One of a Kind Love Affair – The Spinners: The killer line for me in this song comes toward the end of the song that describes, what else? One of a kind love affairs. You know, the kind of love that you read about in a fairy tale. The killer line for me is after the group sings “One of a kind…love affair”…when lead vocalist Phillipe Wynne screams “Makes a lame man walk…makes a blind man talk about seein’ again!” That’s killer.

4 – Me and Bobby McGee – Let me start this by saying that the most popular version of this song is the version I hate the most…mainly because I have absolutely no love for Janis Joplin. I don’t even have any like for her. She screeched through a bunch of crappy songs that I can’t even bear to listen to. I just never saw the attraction. Probably my favorite version of this Kris Kristofferson classic is by the late Roger Miller, especially when he sings the line that is OH so true… “I’d trade all of my tomorrows for a single yesterday.” That’s killer.

3 – Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen: I’ve never been a huge fan of this song, mainly because I played it to death when I was in radio. But I do have to admit that it’s a classic, and I don’t think anyone could ever sing it like the Boss…especially when he reaches the climactic third verse of the song. After a dramatic build up, Bruce screams “Highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive!” That’s killer.

2 – Beautiful Boy – John Lennon: OK, again, not one of my favorite songs from John. In fact, if Lennon hadn’t been killed just after it was released, I think Double Fantasy would be remembered as just a so-so album. But it does have a great line in it that sums up society in general, and how we get so busy planning our lives that we don’t take the time to live for the moment: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. That’s killer.

1 – Baby Baby Don’t Cry – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: You knew it had to be Smokey. Listen for yourself…this whole song is a killer line…”Stone blind and out of his mind is what he has to be…so baby straighten up, come on and fly right, it’s no catastrophe”

That’s killer.


About groovyrick

I live in a small town in Illinois with my wife and three kids. I am a part-time musician, part-time writer, and full-time dreamer.
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9 Responses to That’s killer

  1. Ian says:

    Great list, some really potent lyrics. Billy Joel’s Piano Man springs to mind. Despite having transgressed to an unfortunate stalwart in the set-list of many a midi track-backed pub singer, it’s still a great song. I love the line: “Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness. But it’s better than drinkin’ alone.”

    In fact the lyrics for Piano Man are pretty much all killer…

  2. Greg Sutter says:

    “She was just 17. You know what I mean.”

    Sure do.

  3. Themer says:

    I actually have two off the top of my head. One is by The Mike and Amy Finders Band out of Iowa. I saw them play at Sugar Creek Arts Festival, and I really love their harmonies as well as song writing. They have a song about the Muscatine River that is awesome (and slightly depressing, which always appeals to me) and has some great lyrics. My favorite line is:

    Wish he could know what I know
    That the river’s only part water and the rest is flow

    The other song (which I hope I will be hearing live tonight at BCPA!) is a John Hiatt song called “Ride My Pony” which includes this lyric:

    All the trees
    Look like stubble
    On winter’s chin

    So appropriate right now!

    I completely relate to you wanting to be able to write a good line, Rick. Both of those make me think, “Damn, why don’t I have that in me?!”

  4. groovyrick says:

    Great observation Greg, especially since “the way she looked was way beyond compare”.
    Those are great lines Themer…glad to hear you’re going to the show tonight.
    One more that just popped into my head: “Love is like oxygen…you get too much you get too high, not enough and you’re gonna die…love gets you high”

  5. For me, Chuck Berry is one of rock ‘n’ roll’s great lyricists. Check out this line from “Nadine:” “I got on a city bus and found a vacant seat,I thought I saw my future bride walking up the street, I shouted to the driver, hey conductor, you must slow down, I think I see her please let me off this bus.”

    Who else would refer to the driver of a bus as, “conductor?” The words he chose in his songs were always unique.

  6. LMAO at your opinion of Janis–her hits were definitely all pretty bad; I kinda liked her versions of “Summertime” and “I Need a Man to Love” though. Although I want to not listen to Sheryl Crow again, ever since she demanded that we all use only one piece of asswipe per bathroom trip (or some such silliness), I love her song “The Difficult Kind” (“There ain’t nothin’ like regret, to remind you you’re alive”). Also, esp. as done by Bonnie Raitt, the song “Guilty” by Randy Newman (“You know how it is with me baby, you know I just can’t stand myself, It takes a whole lot of medicine darlin’, for me to pretend that I’m somebody else”) Anybody with addictive behavior can relate to that one I think. Or an Emmylou Harris song from the Horse Whisperer, written by Chris Smither (never heard of that person), called “Slow Surprise”: (“I used to be, half of the whole of you and me, Now I’m the limit of all I am”)

  7. Beth says:

    A guy in college wrote a song for me once. The line was: “Days aren’t bright without you. Nights don’t even think aobut having dawn.”

    Well, I liked it….

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