Mudcat Café message #3559564 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #152141   Message #3559564
Posted By: Stringsinger
18-Sep-13 - 08:48 AM
Thread Name: Improving Lyrics?
Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
Changing lyrics in a song is part of a folk process and this is how many traditional ballads and songs survived. When they were changed from whatever original source there was, they were referred to by folk song scholars as "variants".

Sometimes they were not changed for the better. There is nothing sacred about a lyric although it has to be determined what a good lyric is. If a lyric change is accepted by the public over time, it may have been improved. Most of the time, it usually reverts back to the original if the original is good. But this is not true in all cases. The question remains,
what constitutes a good lyric?

Only one but important principle is this, is it memorable? Does it sing well so that people
can want to sing it if they didn't write it? That ensures its life.

Pete changed the last verse of "Over the Rainbow" which Yip Harburg, the lyricist didn't like.
"If happy little bluebirds fly above the rainbow why can't ?

Yip wrote it for the young girl. Pete tried to generalize it to express optimism in
humanity. Who is right? Most people remember Judy in the Wizard of Oz and would
ignore Pete's change. OTOH in a millennium from now, if people are still around,
Pete's change might be picked up if the original source is forgotten but that's a
big .

I think that if someone wanted to change the tune, they would be hard put to improve on the original by Harold Arlen. The question remains, is Yip's original have more integrity
than Pete's generic political change?

Context is important here. Pete had a message that he wanted to get across. Yip wanted fidelity to the character in the show.

Paul Robeson changed "Old Man River" to express a political idea, "Keep on fighting until I'm dying"............................ Which would survive, Oscar Hammerstein's lyric from the original show or the Robeson change? Again, context, meaning why and for who
the lyric was intended.