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”