History and Future: The Window of Lyrics

Music has always been an important part of my life. Serving as a soundtrack, memory anchor, and source of entertainment and inspiration.

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I am always fascinated by the way the human mind works, memory in particular.

Memory is a mystery. I often cannot recall things I did mere moments ago, yet I can recall the lyrics of songs I haven’t heard in decades.

The lyrics of the songs which have most influenced my life seem to lie just below the surface of my conscious brain, waiting for the first few notes of the melody to bring them bursting forth. I wonder if every generation has such memories.

This got me thinking of the lyrics of songs that made it to the top of the charts over the course of my lifetime. Curious if there was some commonality in the lyrics that made them resonate with us.

Looking at these revealed some interesting things.

I wonder if music, along with economics, social attitudes, and incarceration rates, can measure the health of a society.

I think the sixties marked the emergence from the euphoria of the victorious end of WW II and launched a new era.

In 1956, the year I was born, the number 1 hit was Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley. He holds the number 1 and 2 position for that year. I dare say Elvis resonates with many, foreshadowing the shift in American society coming just over the horizon of the 60’s.

In 1960, the number one song was The Twist.

Twist

Come on baby
Let’s do the twist
Come on baby
Let’s do the twist
Take me by my little hand
And go like this

Ee-yah twist
Baby, baby twist
Ooh yeah, just like this
Come on little miss and do the twist

My daddy is sleepin’
And mama ain’t around
Yeah, daddy just sleepin’
And mama ain’t around
We’re gonna twisty twisty twisty
Till we tear the house down

Once again, the opening lines of a change in the air. Still focusing on the pleasures of music and the freedom to let oneself go as you “…twisty twisty twisty. Till we tear the house down.”

The number 2 song of the 1960’s was Hey Jude and number 3 was Theme from a Summer Place. Of these three, it is the melody and lyrics of number 3 that resonate with me.

There’s a summer place
Where it may rain or storm
Yet I’m safe and warm
For within that summer place
Your arms reach out to me
And my heart is free from all care
For it knows…

…And the sweet secret of a summer place
Is that it’s anywhere
When two people share
All their hopes
All their dreams, all their love

The decade of the seventies, an important one for my friends born in 1956, began with one of the most iconic songs of all time.

Bridge over Troubled Water

…When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

The decade, from my perspective, didn’t end well musically. The number 1 song of 1979 was My Sharona. I had to look up the lyrics. The only part I could remember was the repetitive chorus.

…Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind
I always get it up, for the touch of the younger kind
My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-my Sharona
M-m-m-my Sharona

Hints of the descent into a dismal creative hell. Less elegant lyrics written without heart and soul.

1980, the beginning of the next decade, led off with a mixed bag. The number 1 song was Call Me by Blondie.

Cover me with kisses, baby
Cover me with love
Roll me in designer sheets
I’ll never get enough
Emotions come, I don’t know why
Cover up love’s alibi

Just doesn’t have the same effect as “Like a bridge over troubled water.” There was a hopeful sign with the number 2 song Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd, but by the end of the decade, the descent was out of control.

The number 1 hit of 1989 was Look Away by Chicago. Now I have always loved the music of Chicago, but this was not the same band. Cetera had left the group; the outstanding horn elements were missing. And the lyrics? Once again, I had to look them up.

When you called me up this mornin’
Told me ’bout the new love you found
I said, “I’m happy for you, I’m really happy for you”

Found someone else
I guess I won’t be comin’ ’round
I guess it’s over, baby
It’s really over baby, whoa…

A far cry from Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

By 1998 the demise of civil society was in full, raging rampage. Here are the lyrics to a song from that year. The song is called Ho. If this invokes a Christmas Carole theme in your mind, the words will dispense of it forthwith.

The artist is called Ludacris. And the lyrics? Well, they “speek fo demselfs.”

“Ho”

…You doin ho activities
With ho tendencies
Hos are your friends, hoes are your enemies
With ho energy to do whacha do
Blew whacha blew
Screw whacha screw
Yall professional like DJ Clue, pullin on my coat tail
an why do you think you take a ho to a hotel?
Hotel everybody, even the mayor
Reach up in tha sky for tha hozone laya
Come on playa once a ho always
And hos never close they open like hallways
An heres a ho cake for you whole ho crew
an everybody wants some cuz hoes gotta eat too

Somehow, I don’t see those lyrics inspiring anyone. If they are the soundtrack of the lives of some of our fellow Americans, then perhaps there is something to be learned in the words and melodies of our music history.

Everyone’s taste is different. A style that uplifts one may annoy another. There’s plenty of room in the world for all types of music. Every word written as a part of music doesn’t need to inspire or uplift or even be memorable.

Sometimes, just a catchy tune with simple lyrics is enough.

Yet, when we look at the overall level of literacy and language used within music. When we compare what once filled the musical airways with what came later. We may see something reflective of society.

And we may not like what we see.

 

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About Joe Broadmeadow

Joe Broadmeadow retired with the rank of Captain from the East Providence Police Department after serving for 20 years. He is the author of the novels Collision Course, Silenced Justice, and Saving the Last Dragon available on Amazon in print and Kindle. Joe is working o the latest in a series of Josh Williams and Harrison "Hawk" Bennett novels and a sequel to Saving the Last Dragon. In 2014 Joe completed a 2,185 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail
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2 Responses to History and Future: The Window of Lyrics

  1. Sue Coletta says:

    Those last lyrics leave a lot to be desired, Joe. I’m the same way. Play a song from my younger years, and I know all the lyrics. Ask me what I had for breakfast yesterday, and I’d need several minutes to recall.

  2. “Memories, light the corner of my mind…

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