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"On Writing Serious Lyrics"
I can't tell a songwriter how to write, but I can describe some of my methods that
others may find helpful.
On a serious lyric I try to avoid cleverness. It sucks the sincerity right out of it.
First I stare out the window a while and mentally put myself in a place and situation,
and see where it goes from there. In my case most of them are places and situations I've
been in. I set the scene with a few details I call "furniture", to get the feel of it,
then the story develops from that. I have some examples.
Dandelions that grow along the highway,
Silver gray they blow away like foam.
Trucks roll by and make the blackbirds fly away.
Seems like there ain't no goin' home.
I was broke and hitchhiking in the rain outside Phoenix City, Alabama. I had a
hangover, a new sore tattoo, and no home to go to. Until then I'd thought I was the happy
wanderer. I was hitchhiking vaguely northward because I had remnants of a family
somewhere up there.
Spent what I had in Phoenix City.
Nothin' in my pocket but my comb.
The way I look this morning ain't so pretty.
It seems like there ain't no goin' home.
Oh, it seems like there ain't no goin' home.
I had walked away from a couple of relationships, thinking there would always be
another waiting in the wings. I found you can't depend on that. These were not perfect
relationships, but on that journey, I could have used a partner.
Over on the hill I see a farmer,
Workin' in his field behind a mule.
There'll be smoke from the chimney of his cabin,
In the evening when the air is turning cool;
And a woman cookin' supper in the kitchen.
That's not for me, you see my freedom's all I own.
Here and there I get my share of lovin',
But it seems like there ain't no goin' home.
Yeah, it seems like there ain't no goin' home.*
After a lot of rides to nowhere that left me stranded in desolate places, I wound up
in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania with the flu. It was cold and all I had for warmth was a
folded up plastic raincoat. The town was having a centennial and a bunch of good-natured
men, including a sheriff, wanted to arrest me for not having a beard, as I was sitting
shaking in the Greyhound station.
I had somehow come up with bus fare to Buffalo where relatives agreed to take me in,
but the bus driver didn't want to let me on the bus because of my shaking, and the awful
way I looked, and the wrinkled plastic I was clutching around myself.
But it must have turned out all right because I'm still here.
And I got a song out of it.
Copyright © February 3, 2001 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.
*-"Seems Like There Ain't No Goin' Home" Copyright © Jack Blanchard Songs (BMI).
Lyrics by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.