Wednesday afternoon of this week, while at home with the boys, I pulled out my ‘’good’’ acoustic guitar, which I hadn’t played in probably half a year. I also dug out my folder of chords and lyrics of songs that I cover (such as Johnny Cash’s ‘’Folsom Prison Blues’’), and my green(!) binder of songs I wrote a zillion years ago.
Some of the songs in that green binder are ‘’regulars’’: songs I used to play when I was in the band with my cousin and my roommate. Others are works in progress: missing verses, the chorus, or even the fundamental melody. One of them was a song called “I Wish That I Was Cool”: last touched, 6/18/98. It has a basic set of lyrics, but – even though I had some chords penciled in – the melody I was using wasn’t very good. It was trying too hard. Not very catchy.
Different people have different styles of songwriting. For me, all of my best songs just ‘’appear’’ – either I have a riff or series of chords on the guitar, and the lyrics just come out of my mouth – or I come up with some lyrics, and the melody is built right in. Unlike some songwriters, I can’t just ‘’force’’ good music, or lyrics. I can come up with functional stuff – but it’s not really good.
And now today is Friday. This morning, as I was driving my daughter to school – somewhat sleep-deprived, due to staying up very late to do some stuff for work (due today! e-mailed it to my colleagues around 2am) – I was reciting the chorus to myself., over and over. And – as often happens in the car or in the shower, when my mind is unfettered – the melody suddenly came! I kept on into the verse: yay! a corresponding melody!
So, I was a little giddy when we stashed the car and walked the girl to the school grounds.
‘’Did you know that sometimes Daddy makes up songs?’’, I asked my daughter as we walked along. She did.
‘’And sometimes I make up music and words for myself,’’ she said. Which is true (and which makes me proud!). Some of them are sing-songy, meandering things, while others have an actual verse/chorus/verse structure to them.
‘’Well,’’ I said, ‘’Daddy finished another song, in his head, while we were in the car’’, I said. I wrote dowthe words a long time ago, but I couldn’t think of the music. And just now, I did.’’
‘’You know,” I said, some people make up songs for their job.’’ I sang the theme song to ‘’Malcolm in the Middle.’’ ‘’People ask them to write songs, and then they give them money.’’
‘’’Some people are good at making up the words,’’ I said. ‘’And some people are good at making up the music. And some people are good at both.’’
I’m not sure whether this was interesting to her, or not.
But I felt that it needed saying.
ADDENDUM: On my way to work, I had to pull over every few minutes to jot down additional lyrics, or instrumentation ideas.
By the time I got to work I was all giggly with accomplishment.