Thursday 12 August 2010

The enigma that is the song-writer's mind

The last five years or so, or is it six. Ah! no worries about that. For quite some time now, I have been very interested in the lyrics of some of the songs I would like to listen to. Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the like have wonderful lyrics and I always want to know more about the process of the creation of some of their lyrics.

Now if I call them poets, I can't be more right. Sample this:

It's a still life water color, 
Of a now late afternoon, 
As the sun shines through the curtained lace 
And shadows wash the room. 
And we sit and drink our coffee 
Couched in our indifference, 
Like shells upon the shore 
You can hear the ocean roar 
In the dangling conversation 
And the superficial sighs, 
The borders of our lives.

~ From  "The Dangling Conversation" by Simon and Garfunkel written in 1966

Isn't this sheer poetry? A magical weaving of words. This might not be a great example but the lyrics definitely has soulfulness in it. This quality always makes me to probe why the song was written and what were the social or emotional conditions behind it. I don't much find lyrics as this in many of today's songs. Maybe I don't listen to  much contemporary music. 

Now this leads me to ask questions like what is the difference between a poet and a song-writer? Apart from the very obvious 'song has a tune,' what are the other differences. The lyrics I have quoted above even have a rhyme pattern in some of the lines. 

The internal landscape of a poet and a song-writer are interesting to study and I am truly thankful to the internet which has enabled me to peek inside a song and travel the lanes of the song-writer to find out about the birth of a song. And I am not surprised when a University has included the songs of Bob Dylan in the literature syllabus. 

If you read how Freddie Mercury wrote Bohemian Rhapsody, it will amaze you. It was a difficult piece musically as well. It was their magnum opus. It reminds me of opium-intoxicated poets writing about ancient cities with their splendour and charm.

But after all this the question remains: What is the difference between a song and a poem? Tell me what you think.


  1. I thought really hard... everytime I got the difference between the two (poem and song), the other form also fulfilled same characteristics...

    Both are imaginative, may be descriptive, conversation, message giving, life, people, river... I guess there is no boundaries that separates the two... Both deals with emotions in some or the other form...

    Nice post... Analysis and interest took you deeper and deeper... soul searching! lol

  2. i think it comes down to form...the breaking of the lines to flow off the lip...and including a chorus....some poets do this as well...i think they are cousins...smiles.

  3. When you think about it, is it poetry set to music, or music set to poetry?
    I know that I read lyrics like poetry at times, and they really sound like poetry!

    It a bit like the "chicken and the egg"!

  4. Yes, very true, Susan - poetry and music are very similar. And reading lyrics can sometimes be like reading poetry.

    But the main and central difference is language. In a song, the focus is on the the notes of the music, how they weave themselves into words and how this is understood and enjoyed. In a poem, the focus is on the language - the layered meanings of different words, the sounds of syllables and the emotions they evoke.

  5. The message conveyed through a poem might differ from one perspective to another. But the message conveyed through a song is very straight and simple and needs not much of an analysis.

    Can i say every poem is a good song but every song cannot become a good poem? :)

    Have a great day Susan...


  6. I know, I know… definitely Song has two additional elements called the music and a good vocal :D.

    On a serious note, till now I used to think that both a song and a poem are one and the same except for a slight difference that a poetry if written in a much simpler form to understand, appreciate and remember is called a song. :)

    As you have mentioned, definitely the songs of yesteryears were high in quality and beauty as they were much similar to poetry. But then there is a reason for the change in quality of the songs now a days.
    The songs of yesteryears were high in standard with respect to language and meaning thus allowing only educated people to relish it. Unfortunately such complex things are not in demand now. It’s sad but true to say that most of the people are not interested in the charm of good poetry and songs with good lyrics.

    Oh, whether you call it a song or a poetry, I just love the interlacing of words. They sound sweet to me :)

  7. Karan:

    They are very similar but are different genres. A poet should be able to answer but still it is not that easy to point out the differences.


    Cousins, yes. Smiles.

  8. Heather:

    Poetry set to music, yes but the other I am not quite sure. I even searched the net for the difference but nothing was comprehensive.


    Lyrics and poetry do seem similar. And we also have a form of poetry called lyric poetry. But the difference is that lyric poetry need not be set to music. It can be read. But can't poetry if it has to be sung, written in notes? Maybe one of the differences could be notes and language.

  9. Sukanya:

    No No. Even in a song one can see different layers of meaning. Just take the excerpt I have given in the post. I thought it was about having a nice conversation but when I dug deep into the history it talked about lack of communication between the man and the woman and so the conversations are dangling without a strong grip.
    Thanks for the argument. It made me think. And you have a lovely day yourself :)


    There is a difference definitely and I am curious to explore this aspect. Being a lover of 'good' songs and poetry, delving into the nuances make the whole picture interesting and clearer. Somehow the argument of 'educated people' does not agree with me. many of the songs were taken from folk traditions and if you look at the place of their origin, everyone enjoyed that music. Maybe in India when the songs came down from there, only the elite were able to relish it. But then every time period has its set of songs which have different audience.
    Today everything is fast from food to phone calls and so people cannot sit down and mull over a song. Everything has to be plain and fast to understand. Maybe that is the reason.

  10. Honestly, Susan, I don't think there is that big of a difference. If we're talking about your run-of-the-mill song, then usually the lyrics have me sitting her saying, "Oh, what dynamic lyrics!" sarcastically, of course! But there are songwriters who really know how to get to the bottom of things and dig... and they find gold.

    One of my favorite singing groups of all time is "Marillion". They are Scottish, and they were famous in Europe, but not very famous across the rest of the world. I'm a big fan of the "Fish-era" as I call it, when a man who called himself "Fish" was lead singer for Marillion. He was also the song-writer, and until this day, I listen to those four albums he wrote with devotion. The lyrics are pure poetry. They are life. They are amazing... and they make me cry. I don't cry easily. So, when Fish makes me cry, I know I'm listening to some good stuff. "Script for a Jester's Tear", "Fugazi", "Misplaced Childhood", and "Clutching at Straws" are the soundtrack of Nevine's mind.

    So, yes. I really do think there isn't that much of a difference between a song and a poem. They both can have an amazing effect on one's psyche, that is for sure.

    It's such a pleasure to be reading you again, Susan.


  11. Hello there, found your blog through blogaratti.

    Really lovely blog you have here.

    My thoughts on your question:

    A poem could be a song and a song could become a poem - when altered slightly.

    Almost all Poems / Poetry can become a good song; however I don’t believe this is true of songs to poetry.
    Poetry is about the expression of experiences, feelings, situations and much more.

    When a poet writes, the emphases are embedded within the words. Each word written and delivered with the intention for the expressions to be felt in its singular form, or collectively within the piece itself - in the minds of those who read it.

    I don’t believe a song does the exact same thing. A song is put together based on rhythm and not necessarily the meaning or emphases of the words.

    Have a great day..

  12. Nevine:

    At the end of the day, the song-writer and the poet play with words and create magic! Glad to know of your favourite group and some of their songs. I did hear a bit last night but the people sleeping in the next room did not allow me to relish it completely.

    It is great to have you back and and it definitely a pleasure to be reading your comments and thoughts :)

    Joy always.

  13. Remi:

    Welcome to the meanderings. I did see your comments at Blogaratti. Thanks for the time and patience you have taken to explain the subtle difference and your explanation is quite plausible.

    Come by when you find the time and inclination. It was a joy to read your comment, Remi.

    Joy and peace always :)

  14. I Susan Deborah, and thank you for coming by the Marmelade Gypsy today! I love the music of Simon and Garfunkel -- and you're right, their lyrics are stunning. What a positive and thought-provoking blog!

  15. Jeanie:

    Congrats again on the BON. Welcome to the meanderings. Happy to see your insights. S&G are indeed a lovely duo. I can hear them over and over any time. Thanks for the kind and warm words.
    Come by again when you find the time.

    Joy always :)

  16. Dylan is a poet for sure. I agree with Brian that it's the technical aspect of how words are put together and sentences formed so it goes well with music.

  17. Menina:

    Your name sounds nice ME NI NA. Welcome to the meanderings and I am glad you took the time to write few lines.

    Dylan rocks!

    Be sure to drop by when you find time. Joy always :)

  18. aha! nice question!! tried to make out the difference but couldn't make out any.....Well, it wouldn't be wrong to say a song and a poem both are mostly the same. I say 'mostly' though I don't know when they can be different... both hhave thhe same soulful touch of creativity, both are rhythmic to read, and they both offer deep meaningful insights which can only be understood when I deeply think of....... And it is truly enlightening when I understand one....
    Happy writing,

  19. Sunny:

    Yes, the doubts arise but the answers elude. Let us just enjoy the process.

    Joy always :)

  20. I feel the primary difference is the music. If the music doesn't capture our attention, I doubt it we'll look at the lyrics. A poem however stands on its own. It is meant to be read and experienced. A song is meant to be heard and experienced.

  21. A valid explanation. Glad :) The song it is always the effect of the music followed by the lyrics. Right okay :)

  22. I love music, that is an understatement, and for me lyrics are poems with music. Since a number of commenters wrote about that lyrics nowadays are no poems I have been looking into my library and I chose this one to share. The song is called Nothing I've ever known sung by Bryan Adams.

    Right now I feel - just like a leaf on a breeze
    Who knows where it's blowin'
    Who knows where it's goin'
    I find myself somewhere I - I never thought I'd be
    Going round in circles
    Thinking about you and me
    How do I explain it when I don't know what to say
    What do I do now - so much has changed

    Nothing I have ever known - has made me feel this way
    Nothing I have ever seen - has made me want to stay
    but here I am - ready for you
    I'm torn an', I'm fallin' - I hear my home callin'
    Hey - I've never felt something so strong - oh no
    It's like nothing I've ever known

    Now you're the one I'm looking for
    You're the one I need
    You're the one that gives me - a reason to believe
    Following a star - has lead to where you are
    It feels so strong now - this can't be wrong now

    Nothing I have ever known - has made me feel this way
    Nothing I have ever seen - has made me want to stay
    Here I am - ready for you
    I'm torn an', I'm fallin' - I hear my home callin'
    Hey - I've never felt something so strong - oh no
    It's like nothing I've ever known
    It's like nothing I've ever known

    Right now I feel - just like a leaf on a breeze
    Who knows where it's blowin'
    Who knows where I'm goin'

    If you go to youtube you can find the music and it is, in my humble opinion, a fantastic song.

    Have fun.

    xoxo e.

  23. Elizabeth:

    What you have stated here is quite a vaild one. We tend to generalise every things from a particular period. If we look carefully, there are many songs like the one you have mentioned here. I liked this song and though quite familiar with Bryan Adams, I have not heard this one.

    Thanks for you time and insight, dear Elizabeth.

    Joy always :)



Related Posts with Thumbnails