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We often post a song and sometimes get thoughtful feedback but less often we talk about why a song works. I would like to get some feedback on this Geroge Straight song. I heard a fellow songwriter do it recently and he did it differently that George Straight but it was still complelling and when I drove home, I could recall the lines and was struck that there were no bad or medicore or "fill" lines. Every line said something in an iteresting way all by itself. So what if you had to write a song and every single line had to be interesting. That would be a hard song to write. But it might just be the song we have to write if we want it played. If I get no comments on this, I will probably come back and explain why I think this song works in detail. Feel free to critique it, keeping in mind how enorormously successful it has been and the staying power that it has.


The coyboy rides away
Written by Sonny Throckmorton & Casey Kelly
sung by George Straight


I knew the stakes were high right from the start.
When she dealt the cards, I bet my heart.
Now I just found a game that I cant play,
And this is where the cowboy rides away.

Chorus:
And my heart is sinking like the setting sun,
Setting on the things I wish Id done.
Its time to say goodbye to yesterday.
This is where the cowboy rides away.

Weve been in and out of love and in-between.
And now we play the final showdown scene.
As the credits roll a sad song starts to play,
And this is where the cowboy rides away.

Chorus:
And my heart is sinking like a setting sun,
Setting on the things I wish Id done.
Oh the last goodbyes the hardest one to say,
And this is where the cowboy rides away.

Oh the last goodbyes the hardest one to say.
This is where the cowboy rides away.


"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
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C
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Joe, you must find this tune a lot more interesting than I do, haha. smile


Nashville demos etc:

https://www.soundclick.com/bands3/default.cfm?bandID=431939

other demos:

https://soundcloud.com/wabash-cannibal

Amazon Kindle books by Robert George you may enjoy:

1) Americana

2) Teenage Graceland

3) The Will to Be

4) Fort Mystery

5) Wheel Sea

6) My One True Love
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I see it as a fine lesson in simplicity, without being simpleminded. Every line has a hook, but not overly dense with trying-too-hard double meanings and ambitious imagery. Instead it sticks to its movie cowboy theme married to a real heartbreak. It brings the simple true feelings of heartache to the fore, and with a masterful vocalist like George Strait holding the reins, it's a slam dunk.

I think it's an excellent lyric, and there was enough interest in this one for a platinum album.

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Robert, I should probably link it to a youtube video/song of it. I know it is very simple but this song just will not go away. I don't know how many copies it sold but, for instance, Gary Pinkston, the guy in my songwriter's association who sang this the other night told me his band always ends the night with this song. I love the melody, and like I said, I drove home thinking about the lines and I recalled every word without ever having tried to memorize the song. It doesn't tell much of a story but it taps into and "twist" that romantic notion that all movie lovers recognize. I didn't pick it because I thought it was brilliant writing but just because it works and has worked for years. So my idea in posting it was to pick a song that has proved to have staying power and see what people had to say about it.

Here is a live version of the song. This band is so easy to listen to. I would love to play with a bung of guys like this.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=gH85YIUToqs

Now that I posted it- I can think of dozens of other (and older) simple songs that clearly will be around for a long time. A song that makes people feel good- it has that effect on me- is is Bob Seger's "I Wanna get lost in your rock and roll"

Day after day im more confused
But i look for the light through the pouring rain
You know that's a game that i hate to lose
Oh im feeling strange, ain't it a shame

Oh give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away

Im getting the feelin that im wasting time
You dont understand the things i do
The World outside look so unkind
Im countin' on you, to carry me through

Ohh give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away
Give me the beat boy and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away

And when my mind is free
No melody can move me
When im feelin blue
I guess im coming through and south me
Thanks for the joy that you've given me
I want you to klnow i believe in your soul
Let me rhyme in harmony
You helped me along, you're makin me strong

Ohh give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away
Give me the beat boy and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away

Ohh give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away
Give me the beat boy and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock n' roll
And drift away


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Mark, yeah, well said, that is what I'm talking about!

I don't know why I love this line so much but I do.

"We've been in and out of love and in between"


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First off Sam...thanks for being generous with your time....
Please don't stop critiquing... I don't always agree with you....but You Make Me Think....

I'll take a stab at this.... The first line tells us immediately what position the (singer) is in. It is both simple and to me
strongly written to the point. I like songs that are chockful of connected detail and I also like more simple songs. I don't feel every song has to be filled with detail HOWEVER...a song
better have a freshness and strength about it..if we choose to write in that style.

Love the hook line....a great way of saying It's time to go...
without saying...It's time to go..Good progression and All lines point back to the title.....

Thanks for sharing and teaching....

best..
Kaley




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Incidentally, Mentor Williams wrote "Drift Away" and Dobie Gray had the biggest hit with it---that's the one we always hear on the radio...but Bob Seger covered it too.

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Hey Samuel

Let me point something out now that you've mentiond this as a song with no throw away lines.

Let me begin with the very first two lines. What's this? heart and start rhymes? Obviously whoever wrote this song doesn't know anything about writing music. That rhyme is the kiss of death for a song.

Let's move on to the chorus. Setting is used twice? That's not very original why not closing or ending or something else. Setting sun? isn't that a cliche? Goodbye to yesterday? Another cliche!

I got a couple of changes to make here.

Chorus:
And my pen is quickly running out of ink
As I sit here stumped and tryin' to think
Of how to say these words a different way
This whole is song it just one big cliche

Face it Samuel what is considered worthy of getting air play is not based on how good the write is. It's based on the melody and the artists and getting it cut.

Now saying all I have said I don't dislike this song, but I can find a ton of throw away lines. The whole idea is majorly overdone and not original.

You want a song by George that is a classic with good writing? How bout "The Chair" "The Fireman" "Fool Hearted Memory" "All My Ex'es (live in texas)" "You look so good in love" and many countless others. I consider "The Cowboy Rides Away" to be one of the worst writing jobs to ever become a hit. For once I am with Couch
Derek

Last edited by Derek Hines; 03/28/08 07:48 PM.

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Is that Ronnie Milsap playing keyboards on that video?

This was written somewhere in the early 80's (maybe earlier) -- George released it in 1985. Maybe "heart/start" wasn't as big a cliche back then. Plus the phrasing and the "distance" between the words doesn't seem to make awkward at all.

"And my heart is sinking like the setting sun,
Setting on the things I wish I'd done."

I like these lines. I thought it was a good listen.

Kevin


"Good science comes in peer reviewed journals. Conspiracy theories come in YouTube videos. "
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
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To further Illustrate my point, here are the lyrics I mentioned.


GEORGE STRAIT lyrics - Fool Hearted Memory

Nickels and dimes, memories and wines - she's on his mind once again.
The same old stool, the same old fool; played by the rules, but didn't win.
There's an old love in his heart that he can't lose.
He tried forgettin', but he knows that it's no use.

[Chorus:]
He's got a fool hearted memory.
It won't let him see that she walked out the door.
He's got a fool hearted memory,
And he sits patiently here every night so it can fool him more.

She was his girl, his only whirl, that string of pearls that slipped away.
A thousand dimes, a thousand times - he doesn't mind what they say.
He fills the jukebox, and plays the same old song.
He fills his glass, and then he turns her memory on.

[Chorus:]
But it's a fool hearted memory.
It won't let him see that she walked out the door.
He's got a fool hearted memory.
And he sits patiently here every night so it can fool him more.

He's got a fool hearted memory.
It won't let him see that she walked out the door.
He's got a fool hearted memory.
And he sits patiently here every night so it can fool him more.


GEORGE STRAIT lyrics - You Look So Good In Love


Oh how you sparkle, and oh how you shine.
That flush on your cheeks is more than the wine.
And he must do something that I didn't do.
Whatever he's doing, it looks good on you.

[Chorus:]
You look so good in love.
You want him, that's easy to see.
You look so good in love.
And I wish you still wanted me.

He must have stolen some stars from the sky,
And gave them to you to wear in your eyes.
I had my chances, but I set you free.
And now I wonder why I couldn't see.

[Chorus]

Darling I've wasted a lot of years not seeing the real you,
But tonight your beauty is shining through.
And I never took the time to let you know,
So before he takes you away please let me say.

[Chorus]
You look so good in love.
You want him, that's easy to see.
You look so good in love.
And I wish you still wanted me.

Fireman Lyrics George Strait

[Chorus:]
Well they call me the fireman, that's my name.
Making my rounds all over town, putting out old flames.
Well everybody'd like to have a what I got.
I can cool 'em down when they're smold'ring hot.
I'm the fireman, that's my name.

Last night they had a bad one a mile or two down the road.
Everybody walked out and left this woman burning out of control.
Well I was down there in about an hour or so.
With a little mouth to mouth she was ready to go.
I'm the fireman, that's my name.

[Chorus]

Got a fire engine red - T - bird automobile.
In a minute or less I can be dressed fit to kill.
I work 24 on, 24 off.
When they get too hot, they just give me a call.
I'm the fireman, that's my name.

[Chorus]

They call me the fireman, that's my name.

GEORGE STRAIT lyrics - The Chair

Well, excuse me, but I think you've got my chair.
No, that one's not taken, I don't mind
If you sit here, I'll be glad to share.
Yeah, it's usually packed here on Friday nights.
Oh, if you don't mind, could I talk you out of a light.

Well, thank you, could I drink you a buy?
Oh, listen to me, what I mean is can I buy you a drink?
Anything you please.
Oh, you're welcome, well, I don't think I caught your name.
Are you waiting for someone to meet you here?
Well, that makes two of us glad you came.

No, I don't know the name of the band, but they're good.
Aren't they, would you like to dance?
Yeah, I like this song too, it reminds me of you and me.
Well, baby do you think there's a chance
That later on I could drive you home?
No, I don't mind at all.

Oh, I like you too, and to tell you the truth
That wasn't my chair after all.
Oh, I like you too, and to tell you the truth
That wasn't my chair after all.

These to me are excellent examples of writing with no throw away lines.
Derek

Last edited by Derek Hines; 03/28/08 08:15 PM.

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I think it's pretty good. Chorus is strong and the tie to card games and movies works nicely with the cowboy theme. The only line I think is weak is "Now I just found a game that I can't play". I think it's the word "found" that is screwing it up for me.....

Scott

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Derek, I can't help thinking you are pulling my leg. You've gotta be kidding. Here, listen to it and see if you feel this song does not deserve air play.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=gH85YIUToqs


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Samuel

If you or I wrote this and posted it on board three we'd be blasted into next tuesday. The writer had other cuts before this one (many in fact) this one isn't his first or best. Think about what makes this song work. Women love "King George" his Stetson hat and whole image screams cowboy (the kind women like). That is what makes this song work. If I heard anyone else doing it I'd say oh my gosh I can't believe how sappy that sounds. The melody is awesome yes, but the words are uninspired as is the whole theme.
Derek
Derek

Last edited by Derek Hines; 03/28/08 08:20 PM.

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Derek, I'll agree with "You look so good in love". That is a great song with a great idea driving it. I have always hated "Fool hearted memory" and found it cliche and uninteresting. If I hear "walk out that door" or girl and whirl in the same sentence one more time, I am going to explode!

But let's talk about "You look so good in love"- That is a magnificent POV- completely unique and natural at the same time. I love it. Let's write songs that good!


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I gotta disagree (about this song being not-so-good). I think this is one of the dangers we face in accepting what we as obsessive songwriting aficionados believe to be "rules". So we really are not allowed to rhyme heart with start? Does the general public think so too? And if the song is about connecting the image of a movie cowboy riding off in the sunset with that of a true-life break-up, then the cliche is just right for the concept, isn't it?

I don't know...this one went platinum, and the lyrics keep sticking in Joe's mind. I don't know that that is entirely due to big money or George Strait...it seems to be a very effective song.

Then again, I'm one of those people who think too much attention to the lyric sort of overbalances the idea of a song...I probably tend to lean too far on the music side. If I hear John Lee Hooker moaning three words over and over, it's a great song for me. grin

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Scott, you may have uncovered a flaw in the song so no I guess it isn't perfect. But I can't imagine that a reasonably good demo singer doing this with just a guitar could not get a publisher excited about it.

By the way, the song "Remember when" sung by Allen Jackson might get blasted for not being original but add the mandolin and the amazing recording by Jackson and you would have to be a tree stump not to be moved by it.


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See Mark that's the problem

I love what George did with this song. He made it a hit. Would it have been without him? In my honest opinion it wouldn't have been. I'm not saying it's a bad song or even poorly written; however, it's not on the level of great it's good. You and I write "good" songs Mark. However, we don't get our songs played on the radio. My point is this, why worship a song based solely on it's recorded populsrity? I'm not saying it a bad song, it's just not what I would consider hit worthy. If I had penned this I would probably have either rethought it or recycled it.
Derek


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I hear you, Derek. Only I really do think it's a great song.

Wish I knew what it was that sometimes takes a simple idea over the edge and makes it great...but to me, the combination of this lyric with that melody and those chords...I think it's a killer song.

Still, I totally understand your view...I'm probably in the minority with my take on it. Still, I really would call this one a great one.

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Hey Samuel

Well ok at least you agreed with one of my songs lol. About fool hearted memory what's cliche about it? I think the idea (at the time) was a rather fresh idea. I love this line

"The same ole stool the same ole fool"

Now onto the other one.

I agree we should try to write songs as good as "You Look So Good in Love" That is a very tall order though, I think that is truly one of the greatest melodies and songs in Country music; however, that's only my opinion.

Now about "The Chair"

To me you can't get anymore conversational! He is literally talking to someone else in the song, carrying on a full dialogue without skipping a beat. To me this is an incredibly well written song! As far as writing goes it's on the top of the heap.

Derek


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Yes Mark the production and the melody are great... now what about the lyric on it's own??
Derek


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What do y'all think about "The Gambler"?

Great song or timely performance by the right charismatic singer?

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Originally Posted by Derek Hines
Yes Mark the production and the melody are great... now what about the lyric on it's own??
Derek
Well, I spoke my piece in my first post. I really admire it. Call me crazy...lots of people do. grin

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Hey Mark

Now there is an interesting debate, I know most people will probably say Kenny Rogers made this song. I'll admit his performance was very good; however, I think this lyric stands very good on it's own. Tells an interesting story worthy of much more detail in a very short period of time. The ideas in it aren't exactly spelled out "We took turns a starin, at the window at the darkness", but even so they paint an incredible picture. I think it's 1/3 Kenny and 2/3 music and lyrics, but that's only my opinion.
Derek


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Crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy Crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy Crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy Crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy Crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy
That good enough wink lol

that's fine you're in good company at least: Me---> crazy

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I agree, Derek, about "The Gambler". A great lyric...but we could still tear it apart on the lyric boards. I think we lose the plot sometimes, over-analyzing lyrics.

I'm not saying I "get it"...in fact, I'm saying most of the time I don't really "get it"...

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To be honest Mark

A lot of Kenny Roger's songs remind me of "couch's" lyrics. Now before Robert gets offended lol. What I am trying to say is they are great story songs. To me songs that don't tell a story don't go anywhere. That's one of the biggest problems with "The Cowboy Rides Away" it's a metaphor. It's not a story of how this all came about it's one huge metaphor that doesn't go anywhere filled with cliche's. One of my favorite songs from the 70's was
Leblanc and Carr's "I'm Falling in love with you" (only hit of theirs I know of. It's simple yet it tells a story and one I can indentify with. Here are the lyrics

Falling Leblanc and Carr

I think about winter when I was with her
and the snow was falling down
Warmed by the fire I love being by her
When there's no one else around

and I'm falling, woah, I'm falling
I'm falling in love with you

I think about summer my head was swimming
You wrote my name in the sand
We walked together hoping forever
Please don't let go of my hand

Cause I'm falling, woah, I'm falling
I'm falling in love with you

The fall and the springtime were like in between time
You're here and then you're gone away
Woah, I just wanted to stay
Won't you please, please stay
Cause I'm falling, woah, I'm falling
I'm falling in love with you

In love with you
In love with you


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I have to interject one more thing here before I retire to the bedroom television zombie zone-

I am not sure I can express this quite right but I have to try to say it anyway: The thing about a song is that it isn't the sum of it's parts- it isn't a poem married to or grafted onto a melody, harmony and rhythm.

A song is, at it's best, more than all of it's parts. And what makes it more than those parts that we objectively discuss, is that it has an element we cannot objectively discuss. A good song reveals the very emotion that was present during the writing process. A good song magically reproduces the precise emotions and thoughts felt by the writer- first in the performer, and then in the listener. I am saying that a good song is the best "communications delivery system" ever invented by the human race. And it is delivering something precious. Songs move us because they moved the creator of the song and moved the performer of the song. When we hear the song, "Love lift me up where I belong", we are in fact lifted up where we belong. The more I write and the more I study songs, the more I am convinced of this: If your song does not move you, it will not move anyone else. If it does move you, your job is to find out how to deliver it so that it can move someone else.



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My thoughts in a more general nature:

First I really like the SONG. The LYRIC is very good...the SONG is excellent. Keep in mind...this song is 23 years old...hard to believe, eh??!! What was the criteria for writing a country song at that time? Music, and the process of making music can change a whole lot in 23 years. So, we cannot in fairness use today's standard of writing as an appropriate point of reference for a 23 year-old song. We can only evaluate it, as a hit song of that time, in the context of other hits songs of that time. If you want to do an analytical comparison of a hit country song today with a hit country song of 23 years ago, as a compare and contrast excercise, then that is fair. Probably 80% - 85% of country HITS from 20 - 25 years back would be butchered on our JPF Lyrics Forums today. And I am talking about Top Ten hits of the era...not simply those that made it briefly to the Top Forty and then quickly disappeared. Which brings me to my next point.

I said that 80% - 85% of the Top Ten country songs from 20 - 25 years ago would be butchered on our JPF Lyrics Forums. And I believe that. Actually, the percentage might even be higher than that. I feel that one thing we do as songwriters/lyricists, that I try to avoid, is to nit-pick a song to death rather than just trying to enjoy it as a listener. Indeed, some songs are so horrible that it would be almost impossible to enjoy them, regardless. But, I am sure that you get my drift, here. There are many songs that I enjoy because they put me in a good mood, have a story that I can relate to, or have a melodic composition that makes me want to dance, etc. But, if I were to do a finite critique on any one of them; I would probably be able to rip them to shreds. There are, in fact, few hit songs of any era that wouldn't be lambasted on our Lyric Forums. We try so hard to be near-perfect as songwriters/lyricists that we cannot simply enjoy a song for its "fun factor" or it's emotional impact. We seem to have this unquenchable need to slice and dice every song we hear and every lyric we see. I try hard to avoid that. I find that I can enjoy the music I listen to a lot more by doing that. A good example for me is Kenny Chesney's current hit, "Seven To Eleven". I love listening to it. First, I like Island Music. Second, I like music that is a little "out of the box" for its genre. Third, the melody makes me feel good. The lyrics...not terrible, but not wondferful, either. But ya know...I really don't care. The song makes me feel good when I hear it. As Brian always says, "Does it move you?" Yes, it does. And I don't care about the technical flaws of the lyric. I doubt that the writer's checking account cares, either.

Third, although I suspect that the business end of the music business has a lot of influence about what eventually makes it to the radio, it is still the public that is going to choose from what is available, regardless of who decided what the available offerings are. The general public buys the CDs, puts out big bucks for the concerts, etc. And you know what? I doubt that more than one one-hundredth of one percent of that buying/paying public is a songwriter or lyricist. They buy what they like to hear. Technical merit is not one of their criteria for liking or disliking a song. Music will trump lyrics almost everytime, although that is less true in country music than most other genres. But still, even in country muisc, the music is still king over lyrics. As songwriters/lyricists, that's a hard pill to swallow. But it's also true.

When I write a song for a pitch, I'll critique it to death...well, not really. I'll critique until I like it. But that's where my finite critiquing stops, unless I have specific cause to further critique it. So, why not try to just enjoy a song without critiquing it to pieces? For me, at least, it sure makes listening to music a lot more enjoyable!

One more thing and then I'm done...aren't you glad!? There are two sets of rules for writing country songs. If you are a new or aspiring writer, the rules that have been force-fed to us apply almost all of the time. I don't like a lot of them. But, nobody put me in charge of "Rule Making For Country Songs". So, I have to live by them, or very selectively skirt them when absolutely necessary for the song. However, once you are "in the club", the rules have a lot more flexibility. In fact, you can largely ignore the rules, once you are "in the club". Not fair, you say? Take a look at the rest of your life. Are all the laws fair? Is the tax structure fair? Is compensation for labor/skills provided fair? So on and so on. In that regard, the music business is like the rest of our lives. It isn't always fair. But, we work within the paramters that are given us. And so it is in music.

For the record, my favorite George Strait song is one that never made the Top Ten. It made Top Forty, but not Top Ten. The song is "You Can't Make A Heart Fall In Love". But Joe, I agree with you. "The Cowboy Rides Away" is a very good song. The arrangement and George's delivery sell it.

Wishing all of you the best,

Al

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I think it is a decent song, although when George got famous he started doing more of the Nashville sound music, than the Texas stuff he did in the 70s, which I much preferred. The song definitely has a hit quality, and I happen to disagree with Derek, I think it was a strong song. That is why I always have problems with critiques, because too many people focus on the mechanics and overlook the overall piece of work. What we keep saying are cliched rhymes will appear again and again in hit songs, because it is not a specific rhyme that sells a song, it is the overall effect: story, setting, accompaniment, beat and the delivery. while you can hear thousands of songs that are cliche to the point that you cannot stand them, it is not cliche as much as the overall package that is weak.

Pretty much all the criteria today for songwriting that you will hear in seminars and read in books is the same advice that they were teaching in the 70s. If you don't believe me read some of the early books written on the "craft" of songwriting, or check out the original Songwriter magazine from the 1970s that I mentioned in another post.

Still, there are tons of songs that have become hits in all that time that violate the rules, especially on the cliched rhymes and themes. That is because a hit song is not determined by a single element, but the sum of its parts. The artist who performs the song will always be part of the equation.

My personal favorite song that George did was written by my old friend Clay Blaker called The Only Thing That I Have Left. It is a song about a musician on the road and both George and Clay know about the subject quite well. I always loved Clay's version the best, but I must have heard him sing it a thousand times, so his version to me is the best.

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Well, those last three posts absolutely nailed it for me.

A rule all alone is really just a big "NO" staring you in the face. A generalized philosophy seems to apply better...but each rule looked at in an absolute way is just a roadblock.

We still need to analyze and critique our songs, no doubt about it. But the guidebook we use is flawed...it's too hard to describe what Joe talked about, the Whole. It's funny how some of the best songs ever written were cranked out in no time flat. A lot of my favorite Beatles songs were written overnight.

I guess we just keep writing and hope for the best. Sort of like fishing...you catch a lot, but you always hope for a big one.

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Gotta agree with many of the recent comments - the whole of a song is greater than the sum of the parts. It's for this reason that I hardly ever venture onto the lyric boards anymore. Something that doesn't quite look right in print can hit like a hammer in a song.

As for even hits getting slammed on the forums here, I agree that they would. And rightly so! grin

But let me explain..... smile

A large group of people is always going to have various opinions on how a song can be improved. I can think of almost no song that I think is absolutely perfect. "What a wonderful world" by Louis Armstrong and "Yesterday" maybe. A few more....

I finally got around to watching the video of this one, and though I am not a huge fan of country, I thought it very good - certainly deserving of hit status. Still don't like that one line though smile

But others may see perfection where I see imperfection and vice-versa. That's why you should be careful how you use critiques. I use them two ways:

(1) If I get a virtually unanimous critical comment, I feel I have to pay attention to it. It suggests I'm missing something.

(2) If I get a scattershot of comments, I look for the ones that resonate with me and act upon them. Not to say I don't appreciate the others and the opinions behind them but, face it - if we were to act on every comment and then repost - only to act on every new comment, it would take a year to write a song and it would probably sound like it was written by a committee smile

It's a great thing we have - everybody throws their comments at us and we act on the ones that work for us....

This philosophy also explains why I feel absolutely no offense if my comments aren't considered - they simply do not relate to what the writer had in mind...

I think some hit songs could benefit from the same process....

Scott

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Hey Scott

Very good points you made here. I think that's the point songs that are written certainly (in most cases) could be better. However, as you pointed out one can go crazy trying to appease every critic and end up with a rather unfeeling song. I read an article with an interview of Bob Dylan and I like what he had to say "most of the songs I write are never rewritten, they are the first draft with no changes". I think sometimes this is a good policy to have. Sometimes I have tried to change my lyric according to all the different critiquers and either not been able to finish the song (too many competing ideas) or found myself writing a song I never intended to write. Either way I think it's necessary sometimes to ignore people's opinions and make your song what it is. Not that this is a good policy everytime, but sometimes just follow where the song is leading. At any rate I think all songs have good and bad elements, to be a truly great song all it must be is memorable and this song certainly is.
Derek


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To Quote Derek: "Sometimes I have tried to change my lyric according to all the different critiquers and either not been able to finish the song (too many competing ideas) or found myself writing a song I never intended to write."

Derek, in my opinion, that is one of the most important observations you have made. That is why it is important to use other folks' ideas; but to do so very astutely so that you avoid doing exactly what you said you sometimes do. I, too have been down that road. Some folks will feel slighted if you do not, in some way or another, incorporate their suggestions into your lyric. But, you have to hold true to the vision you had for your intitial write. It is sometimes so tempting to use a really good idea that someone has suggested...but the idea doesn't work for that particular song.

I have written several songs, maybe half a dozen or so, based soely upon a suggestion someone gave but was not, in my opinion, appropriate for the song on which the suggestion was made. But, the suggestion was a great idea for a different song. Of course, I always asked the person if they minded me taking their idea and working it into something else. And, if appropriate, I would offer a co-write. No one has ever objected and no one has ever asked for a co-write. But, I did insist that Rachel Kerr take a co-write for my original write of "Dear Heart". She took a pretty decent lyric and turned it into a fabulous lyric. This is one instance in which the suggestions were almost 100% spot on.

As we can see from Joe's original thread starter, some folks love "The Cowboy Rides Away"; some loathe it and some are just indifferent. Joe, and the others who really like, pointed out why the song has so much apperal to them; while others didn't care for it for many of the same reasons. That supports, quite nicely, your comment that I quoted at the beginning of this reply. The same scenario will play out for most of the songs that we write and post here at JPF.

I used to post a new lyric almost weekly on the various Lyric Forums and would have anywhere from 10 to 40 comments on each of them. But, for the resons you mentioned, primarily, I no longer post a lot of my lyrics here. Also, some of the posts have become too acrimonious for me, so I just avoid them. If a lyric or song really blows me away, or has the potential to, I usually comment on it. Otherwise, I just move on to the next thing. I am consideranly more active on the MP3 Forum and the various discussion forums, although I tend to avoid the ones that are politically or religiously oriented. Those are places to make more enemies than friends.

I do a lot of posting at another site. But, they are mostly instrumentals. Here at JPF, instrumental postings that are not Country, Country-Rock, Rock or Blues get little to no attention. Most of my instrumentals are Smooth Jazz, Reggae, various genres of Latin Music and TV/Film Soundtracks. On another forum here at JPF, I was involved in a discussion about that. So I posted 2 instrumentals in the Elctronica genre in an attempt to prove my point. They disappeared off the front page quicker than a politician when the Truth Police show up. On the other site, which is not genre specific, I receive quite a few comments.

So, critiquing a song has as much to do with the critiquer's musical preferences as it does with the merit of the song, in many instnaces.

I'm glad that Joe started this thread. It points out a lot of interesting points that often get little or no consideration. It really makes us think about critiquing in genreal, as well as our own thoughts about what makes a good song.

Al

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Hi Al

Very good points your bring up here. I myself have been tempted to write most of my songs sans critique, although I feel sometimes I do need someone else's opinion on the song. So more often than not I do simply post the song. If it gets mostly good reviews I pretty much stick with those ideas. If for whatever reason it's all negative I go back to the drawing board. Occasionaly I ignore all the negatives and try anyways (sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.

One thing I have learned through this whole process is, life can be an incredible teacher, but it's up to us to decide what to learn. Another thing I have learned is music and lyric writers can be some of the most passionate and cynical bunch of people you'll ever run into. I often times find myself thinking hey if so and so big name artist can get away with this why can't I? So I find myself writing against the norm. I think by the time our music reaches the general public they could care less if we rhyme heart with start (as this lyric shows).

So in the end this is my advice. Learn from those around you, read their work and without stealing draw into your music what you like throw away what you don't and enjoy the process (this goes the same for critiques), but in the end stay true to who you are, not who someone else wants you to be. Do this as a writer, a musician, and a person and I guarantee you'll find some kind of success.
Derek

Last edited by Derek Hines; 03/29/08 03:27 PM.

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I use both the lyric and MP3 forums for feedback. However, I NEVER feel beholden to any critique. I feel very grateful for ANY feedback, and I always make sure to acknowledge the effort of anyone to say anything about what I've written. But, no, we are not honor-bound to do a damned thing to our songs just because someone else believes we should.

I get some great advice, though. More importantly, I get a chance to think through a different set of eyes. Sometimes I change up based on the input, sometimes I stubbornly stick to my own preferences.

When I post only a lyric, the comments are all over the map. Lyrics all alone ALWAYS lack context, so the feedback is more likely to be informed by all those rules and regulations that I often rebel against. But oftentimes that feedback really turns on the lights for me, and improves the song. Sometimes it's way off base. Only I can make that call, right or wrong.

The MP3s I post get much less feedback on the lyrics...and that's because the lyrics are in context. Quite often I find that the lyrics that seemed to be all wrong in the lyric forum, now are quite all right when set to music.

It ain't easy making all these choices...but in the end, you the songwriter have to listen to your gut. Right or wrong, I find it a great pleasure making these decisions. I try to be as responsible as possible...but I am also definitely influenced by those Dylans and Lennons who like to just kick 'em out and move on.

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George picks songs very well, I think he should have taken Stars Over Abilene when we pitched it to him, but that's beside the point...his loss...ha, seriously his songs almost always have All perfect rhymes, very catchy hooks, a few lines that just won't get out of your head. He picks from the cream of the crop over and over again, hell everytime I see his name I'm callin' my plugger and trying to get a pitch to him...guys like him and Garth, study the lyrics a little, and then listen to how the're delivered, they're not all clever with 50 hidden meanings, they're straight forward, keep it simple so it appeals to the masses, not just the literary elite who want a song to be filled with mystery and hidden truths but memorable lines with great hooks you can sing with him the second time through. Pick it apart or hate it or love it, none of it changes that it's a big success, I wish I had a George Strait cut or two...I write in several genre's as most of you know, but when I write country it's for other artists to be pitched, so yeah I wish had written any of these tunes ya'll listed, in fact I have studied them and hope to write something that feels like something he'd pick up and run with....Lyle, I have felt many times the way you do about lyric critiques, unless it's with music it's hard to say how it'll come off. You and I being music and lyric writers feel much differently in that situation than just a lyric writer...I know which notes I'm going to hold to a whole note melodically, which line has a pause at the end, which one rolls quickly off the tongue. I feel very fortunate to write lyrics and music, being able to write music to someone else's lyric, being able to write lyric to someone else's music, or do both myself. I have continued to challenge myself and am hopefully putting in the effort to get to be a better writer, time will tell...the main reason the cowboy rides away is so successful is because of that main line, This is where the cowboy rides away...that's a great country line, George recognized that as a mass appeal line for his fan base and tied to a good lyric with good melody it was a no brainer, when you've got a loyal fan base like George you know what works and play by the don't fix it if it ain't broke rule, what's he got 50 -60 top five songs now......Moker

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Originally Posted by Moker Jarrett
the main reason the cowboy rides away is so successful is because of that main line, This is where the cowboy rides away...that's a great country line, George recognized that as a mass appeal line for his fan base and tied to a good lyric with good melody it was a no brainer,


Sounds exactly like what I said a few posts back!
Derek

Edit in fact here is what I said verbatim

Originally Posted by Derek Hines
Think about what makes this song work. Women love "King George" his Stetson hat and whole image screams cowboy (the kind women like). That is what makes this song work. If I heard anyone else doing it I'd say oh my gosh I can't believe how sappy that sounds. The melody is awesome yes, but the words are uninspired as is the whole theme.

Derek

Last edited by Derek Hines; 03/30/08 01:20 AM.

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Hi. Other Joe here. Fascinatin' thread you've got going here (and it has ranged pretty far and wide over the map).

Both "The Cowboy Rides Away" and "The Gambler" were standards in The Dodson Drifters' setlist (I was usually the one who sang "The Gambler," because it can be delivered in a monotone, which is pretty much my singing voice). Both are good writing, in my opinion. (I'm not sure I can classify anything "great.") I don't think either song necessarily depended on the delivery by the artists in question to make them good songs.

"The Cowboy Rides Away" is a leaving song (actually, I guess they're both leaving songs)--but it's not *exactly* cowboy imagery: it's cowboy *movie* imagery (remember that reference to credits on the screen). That makes it something every redneck in a tavern can relate to easily--we've all seen those movies. It provides a reference point--cultural shorthand, after a fashion--with which to explain feelings that are difficult to get across, and to explain why we're doing something we don't really want to do. (My opinion, of course.) Remember the classic definition of country music--"Pain you can dance to." This is pain you can dance to. And that's why I think it has been popular no matter who sang it.

Same, I think, for "The Gambler"--except "The Gambler" is one of those unique anomalies in country music. Somebody actually came up with an image, and a story, that hadn't been used before (as far as I know). And it's got very clear, poignant imagery. Even delivered in a monotone, when The Dodson Drifters played that song, there usually wouldn't be a dry eye in the house when we were done. Death *and* hope in the last verse? It's almost a redemption thing.

I agree the "cowboy" song would probably be torn apart on the lyric boards if 'twere submitted here; maybe both of them would. Neither one follows The Rules as I understand them to be. (On the other hand, I maintain there are no rules, only suggestions--though some of them are *good* suggestions.) I always listen carefully to the advice I get here, but I don't always take it. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. (Oh, and sometimes my gut has been wrong, too. Got to remember that.)

Thanks, folks.

Joe

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Originally Posted by Al David
For the record, my favorite George Strait song is one that never made the Top Ten. It made Top Forty, but not Top Ten. The song is "You Can't Make A Heart Fall In Love".


Al, I think you're talking about 1995's "You Can't Make a Heart Love Somebody." It contains the line: "You can lead a heart to love but you can't make it fall."

If this is the same song -- a couple goes to dinner and he pops the question and she declines and says she cares about him but it's not love -- you know, kind of like my dealings with women most the time -- if it's the same song, it went to Number 1. I know that because I first heard it last year returning from a songwriting workshop where I got a ticket for driving 85 in a 65 zone. The radar lied of course! When I heard it I thought it was a new song because I'd never heard it before. I rejoiced because I thought real country music was coming back. Sadly I learned it was at least 10 years old. But it went to number 1.

There's an internet site All Music which lists it twice. One in 94 when it went to 46 but again in 95 when it went to number 1. It also shows up on the "50 Number Ones" CD set.

I know a man who wrote a number one country hit once who says Strait has taken more mediocre songs to number 1 than anyone. I think there's some truth to that. But hey, it's Strait. He's a phenom!!! Not my favorite phenom (that would be Alan Jackson) but Strait a bigger phenom than Alan and I think overall bigger than Garth in the long run!!! The writers of "The Cowboy Rides Away" are successful writers with a track record. Throckmorton at was called the hottest writer in Nashville for several years running at one time.

I think this song was a hit for three reasons:

1. It was George
2. It was about cowboys
3. Cowboys and George are connected to Texas (Folks love Texas 'cause of the Alamo)

Some other songs by King George II (not to be confused with King George I (George Jones) have been mentioned. My favorite Strait songs are "Amarillo By Morning," "It Ain't Cool (To Be Crazy Over You)" and "Chill of An Early Fall." Those are my faves. George seems to go through phases where I really like almost everything he puts out then I don't like what he puts out as much. He's currently in a "like" phase for me with his last three singles. Before that he was in a "don't like as much" phase for about 4 years. I hate, thoroughly hate, "The Chair." I strongly dislike "The Fireman." But I dooooooooooo love "A Fire I Can't Put Out" and "Fool Hearted Memory."






Last edited by eb; 03/30/08 12:19 PM.
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Originally Posted by Joe Wrabek
"The Gambler"


I've thought about this song a lot through the years. It was recorded about four times I think before Kenny had a hit with it. I think it's a fabulously written song. I think there were 4 major reasons it was a hit, in this order:

1. Tied: Larry Butler's record production and the song itself (the content of the song)
2. The magnificent easy to remember sing along chorus
3. Kenny Roger's delivery

I think you needed all three/four to make it what it was.

One of the things I love about the production is there's this recurring sound that sounds like water dripping to me.
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Hey EB

Good interesting points you bring up. I think King George (the second) can make the mediocre brilliant. Makes me think of a song he did I absolutely detested! "The love bug". I think it's worthy to mention songs he did I like though so here they are in no particular order

Carrying your love with me
The best day of my life
She'll leave you with a smile
Does fortworth ever cross your mind
All my exe's (live in texas)
The Fireman
The Chair
Amarillo by Morning
You look so good in love
Fool hearted memory
Blue clear sky
Check yes or no
Ocean front property
Am I blue
Baby Blue
(he had a lot of titles with blue)

and that's all the ones I can think of off the top of my head! I'll add more once I've had a chance to remember some.
Derek


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Originally Posted by Derek Hines
Makes me think of a song he did I absolutely detested! "The love bug".


That was a George Jones hit back in the 60s. I never heard it by George II but I liked it by George I.

I like pretty much the same ones you mentioned 'cept for The Chair and The Fireman. I guess I actually like The Fireman okay. For some reason, I never ever liked anything about The Chair. Or Marina Del Ray.

George's first hit was a song called "Unwound" about "the girl that I had wrapped around my finger just come unwound" and then last year(?) he had the song "Wrapped Around Your Finger." I thought that was kind of neat.

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Hey Eb

Wow I didn't know that, that is really cool! I saw him live in oakland back in 1997, he was headlining, but there was also Restless Heart (before Larry Stewart Left) and Merle Haggard. Restless Heart was good and no one can knock Merle, but listening to Strait live! I mean you coulda pressed play on a cd and it would have sounded the same except it was live! That man and his musicians had everything so tight you couldn't tell the difference. The only other performer I've heard do that so perfectly was Kid Rock.
Derek


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Hey Eb (and everyone else)

I know this isn't a lyric posting thread, but I thought I might post my Strait tribute song here if that's ok)

Keep on drinkin till I canít see strait

1st Verse
I waited in line forty hours for this show
Starring King George the others I donít know
I really only came here to hear him sang
And to chase away the fires from my old flame

Chorus
So pour me a cold one while I listen to Strait
Heís up there on the stage and boy does he sound great
Iíll keep chasing away those memories of my present state
And Iím gonna keep on drinking till I canít see Strait

2nd Verse
Well I could just hear his singing on the radio
Didnít have to spend my money missing half the show
But to hear George singing live Fool Hearted Memory
Well it warms a special place deep inside of me

Chorus
So pour me a cold one while I listen to Strait
Heís up there on the stage and boy does he sound great
Iíll keep chasing away those memories of my present state
And Iím gonna keep on drinking till I canít see Strait

Bridge
Then out of the blue clear sky old memories are floodiní in
So fill back up my cup lets drown em all out again

Chorus
So pour me a cold one while I listen to Strait
Heís up there on the stage and boy does he sound great
Iíll keep chasing away those memories of my present state
And Iím gonna keep on drinking till I canít see Strait

Copyright March 30, 2008 Derek Hines All Rights Reserved


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Derek, so we agree that "You look so good in love" is a good George Straight song. To me, the Chair is just a novelty pick up song. It is clever but I don't think it would even be on George Strait's top 25 favorites. The Fireman is a novelty song as well but because I have sung it with the band at least 200 times, I can't knock it's appeal. There are lots of ways to sing it so that it doesn't get boring. "Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind" is a really clever and interesting song and I would put it up there in the top 10 George Strait songs.

But back to "You look so good in Love", the idea behind this song is brilliant. Country songs are full of heartbreak and regret but this one adds another dimension. It seems to have been written from the POV of a real emotional revelation. It puts the listener in a place that is recognizable and unspoken at the same time. The songwriter either really experienced this or he saw it happen. You can almost see him sitting in a bar and pulling out his notepad when he asked his buddy, "What's the matter" and his friend is staring across the dance floor and says, "Damn, she looks so good in love". "Three chords and the truth" This one happened.

I was at a meeting of the FWSA about 3 years ago and our guest speaker was the woman who co-wrote Merle Haggard's song, "Lets chase each other round the room". She was twenty something at the time and she was a backup singer for the band. She was commenting about the bar room when she told Merle, "Everybody is just chasing each other round the room". Merle said, "That sounds like a song" and on the bus he and the guitar player starting playing around with it. The bus driver turned around and said, "That's a hit". It was.

Oh how you sparkle, and oh how you shine.
That flush on your cheeks is more than the wine.
And he must do something that I didn't do.
Whatever he's doing, it looks good on you.

You look so good in love.
You want him, that's easy to see.
You look so good in love.
And I wish you still wanted me.

He must have stolen some stars from the sky,
And gave them to you to wear in your eyes.
I had my chances, but I set you free.
And now I wonder why I couldn't see.

You look so good in love.
You want him, that's easy to see.
You look so good in love.
And I wish you still wanted me.

Darling I've wasted a lot of years not seeing the real you,
But tonight your beauty is shining through.
And I never took the time to let you know,
So before he takes you away please let me say.

You look so good in love.
You want him, that's easy to see.
You look so good in love.
And I wish you still wanted me.


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Hi Sameul

You and me agreeing on something now that's something different lol jk.

Ok I can see what you are saying about the novelty songs so I'll leave it at we'll agree to disagree.

Yes I agree there is so much of the writers heart and soul in "You look so good in love". One of my favorite parts is the spoken bridge, It amazes me just how much emotion was placed there (talk about conversational). It was also an awesome hook, but even without the awesome hook it really shows emotional truth which I think is missing in a lot of songs these days. It takes a very raw emotional situation and places it in the context of choruses and verses in a way most songs don't. I'm actually having trouble thinking of another country song like it. Although if I had to name another song I'd say "When a man loves a woman" would be the closest. Very real and raw emotion not just the singing, but almost a... If I had to put my finger on it I'd say blues. I think that's what makes it what it is it's a country song with a blues feel and boy you sure can feel it. Oh I just thought of a country song in the same realm "I want everyone who hears this song to cry" by Restless Heart. I always used to cry when I'd hear that song on the radio.

At any rate before I ramble on anymore, what makes a writer ready to write like that? Does he have to experience these things? Or can he just conjur up the idea without ever being there? Either way I think if we knew the answer we could write much closer to this level.
Derek

Last edited by Derek Hines; 03/30/08 03:18 PM.

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Derek,

A lot of things go into writing at taht level. I am sure that is no secret to you! But to answer your question more directly, I do not think a writer has to experience something in order to write convincingly and emotionally about it. Look how many songs the great Harlan Howard wrote for female singers. I think you simply have to have enough imagination to out yourself into someone else's shoes and make the idea real to you, as though you were that person.

Every song I write, with lyrics of course, has a movie playing in my head as I write it. It's not just a lot of words that go together nicely and meet he requirements for the genre. One of my criteris is if I cannot see a movie in my mind, beginning to end with visualizations of the characters and the action, I consider the song not ready. That holds true for every single lyrical song I write, no exception. Of course there is much more to writing a hit siong than just that. If thew song is written with a particualr artist in mind, you must know his/her likes and dislikes, singing style, vocal range, ability to put a certain emotion into a certain tyoe of lyric. You must also know the likes and dislikes of the intended auduence.

But most of all, the song has to be memorable, either because of the emotional impact of the story, or because the lines are catchy and easily remembered.

had a few more thoughts, but gotta go. Will be backlater. take care!

Al


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I think a lot of what it takes is nearly unexplainable. It stews below the surface of conscious thought. People say, gee, where did THAT come from? And the writer often thinks, well, not sure...it just did.

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I tried reading all the post's in this thread but got tired so I hope I am not repeating anything.

What makes a song work....that's is the 64 million dollar question.
Being George Strait helps.

But.

Here is what I have been hearing from the folks in Nashville. You know, the folks that matter. The ones that decide what songs get cut and what songs don't. The folks looking for new writers and for the next hit.
You can listen to them or not. your choice.

Simple over used rhymes won't cut it. The most frequently used examples are Heart/start and love/above.
You want proof? Take a song with one of those rhymes to a pitch session in Nashville and see what happens. I guarantee you won't like it.
It is not that there is anything wrong with those rhymes. It is just that they have been used to death. I went to three separate pitch to publisher events so far this year and every one of them pointed it out if it was in a song. And the song was stopped and rejected.

Emotion. They want songs with emotion. Songs that make you feel. It can be the lyrics but a combination of the lyrics married to great emotional music will sell every time. Emotion is a tricky one. Moments had emotion but believe it or not so did Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.

Catchy hooks. Not just the lyric hook either, It needs the musical melodic hook to sell it.

And of course something new, something fresh.....but....they want it to sound like what is top 10 on country radio Today.

Bottom line...you can analyze the heck out of any song and find fault but if you have the above qualities in a song at least you have a chance.
Analyze a hit song from twenty five years ago if you like. Write like it and you won't get a cut.


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Bill, I am pulled two ways on the subject of writing for the market. I think artistically, I am more interested in writing a great song. I am not sure if I can sort out the percentages of all the motivation's involved in writing- from wanting to accomplish something to wanting to leave a part of myself that is lasting, to feeling connected to the world, to living up to my potential etc. from ego and other less noble reasons to write. That part is all tangled up.

Then there is the part that wants to make money. I remember one time in a songwriting workshop, three or four of us were talking about the craft and one of my friends who always writes personal songs said that the only "honest" songwriting was personal. I remember bristling at that comment because clearly, his songs had never sold and I said, "I don't give a damn about "honesty", I just want to get it on the radio. The other's were shocked to hear me say that and I was embarrased after I said it. But, in some ways I feel that way. I was really challenging the idea implied in my friends comment that somehow we are incapable of writing a good song if it isn't about our own personal lives.

I have said this before but I still believe you can write from any point of view and can write without personal experience but that you have to tap something emotionally honest and that if you feel that when you write, you have a better chance of also making someone else feel it. There are exceptions. Paul Starky who wrote the standard wedding song, "There is love", addmitted that it was a phony writing job. A "good" job of writing but that he didn't "feel" anything he wrote when he penned it.


"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
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