Monday, April 27, 2009

I Wish I'd Written That (Top 5)

This is the only friend, the end. (No, there aren't any Doors songs, but I could easily name several I wish I'd written.) Here are the Top 5 Songs I Wish I'd Written, the aural works of beauty, power, and/or perfection that cause a tinge of jealousy before I go ahead and sink into their exemplary songwriting craftsmanship. Please take some time to enjoy #20-16 and #15-11 and #10-6. Hope you've enjoyed being reminded of some old favorites or being introduced to some new ones. And the hits just keep on coming!

5) "'Round Here"--Counting Crows

First, there's lyrical perfection like "Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog/ where no one notices the contrast of white on white. / And in between the moon and you / angels get a better view / of the crumbling difference between wrong and right." Then you throw in Adam Duritz's uncanny ability to deliver the phrases with the skill of poet-singer-songwriters like Dylan and Springsteen. Finally, you glue it all together with just a great American rock n' roll band, and you've got a great song with other great lines like "Round here we talk just like lions / but we sacrifice like lambs..." I actually wrote a song called "Dying to Hear It" that was inspired in part by this song. It's a decent tune that a lot of folks like, but I still wish I'd written this one!

4) "Praying for Time"--George Michael

Okay, I finally had to admit that I'm a George Michael fan...and this was the song that did it. To be honest, I was floored by "Father Figure" and a couple of other cuts from the Faith album, but I just couldn't get past "I Want Your Sex" and the title cut (even though it is a decent pop tune), as well as the whole Wham days. But the next album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, allowed me to go back and admit, this guy can write a song...and can sing the hell out of it, too!

Remember when George gave up appearing in videos and became a serious songwriter? "Praying for Time" is beautiful, "Freedom! 90" was a great pop tune, perfectly produced and passionately delivered. If only he'd stayed out of that bathroom... But he also had contract headaches and other personal issues that just kept him from what he seemed like he might become. Maybe there's still hope for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2. Ya gotta have faith...

3) "Walk On the Wild Side"--Lou Reed

This is one of those songs that defies description. Gets under my skin every time, with its simplicity, intimacy, beauty, and horror. All about real people in the Warhol/Velvet Underground/NYC scene that was the antithesis of the hippie stuff happening at the same time on the left coast and up the road at Woodstock. A perfect example of less is more.

2) "Walking in Memphis"--Marc Cohn

What a great, fresh song. That piano riff just carries you along like you're, well, like you're walking in Memphis...with your feet 10 feet off of Beale. (Just fyi, Beale is a street in Memphis, about which W.C. Handy wrote "Beale St. Blues"--see how it all comes together?) Cohn is a super songwriter. Unfortunately, he's also the victim of the "Best New Artist" Grammy curse (see also Starland Vocal Band, Paula Cole, Milli Vanilli, etc.), not to mention the fact that Cohn got shot in the head a few years ago! But he's still going. And if you're gonna be a one-hit-wonder, what a hit!

1) "In Your Eyes"--Peter Gabriel

The most beautiful love song ever written? Certainly one of the deepest and most sincere. A glorious praise song? That's between you and God--it works better for me than many "official" hymns and praise songs. "In your eyes, / the light the heat, / in your eyes / I am complete. / In your eyes / I see the doorway to a thousand churches, / the resolution of all my fruitless searches..." I know that does it for me--toward my wife, toward God--a better lyric expression of love than most others I've found.
And that's it! For now...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hope in a Tomb

The passion of the Lord did not end at the cross. After the cross, Jesus entered the tomb. The tomb is the place of disintegration, where the body rots, falls apart and vanishes into dust. Jesus chose not only to die for us and with us, but also to enter this place of ultimate despair.

From this place of despair, Jesus speaks to us about hope. From this place of rotting, of bad smells, of darkness, he emerges to accompany us as we journey. Even though we are often downcast, Jesus always speaks about hope. And this hope is different from optimism. Jesus is not an optimist or a pessimist. Jesus speaks about hope that is not based on chances that things will get better or worse. His hope is built upon the promise that, whatever happens, God will stay with us at all times, in all places. God is the God of life.
--Henri Nouwen

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
--Romans 8:38-39

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"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ~ Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings About the Boo...