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Improving Lyrics?

PHJim 10 Sep 13 - 11:49 PM
GUEST,Grishka 11 Sep 13 - 09:36 AM
DMcG 11 Sep 13 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,John from Kemsing 11 Sep 13 - 12:23 PM
GUEST 11 Sep 13 - 05:10 PM
Nigel Parsons 11 Sep 13 - 05:42 PM
Joe_F 11 Sep 13 - 06:27 PM
Joe_F 11 Sep 13 - 07:57 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 12 Sep 13 - 02:09 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 12 Sep 13 - 02:19 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 12 Sep 13 - 03:25 AM
GUEST,henryp 12 Sep 13 - 11:58 AM
GUEST,Stim 13 Sep 13 - 01:58 AM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Sep 13 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,CS 13 Sep 13 - 01:56 PM
PHJim 14 Sep 13 - 01:45 AM
GUEST,Stim 14 Sep 13 - 07:17 PM
GUEST,John Condon 15 Sep 13 - 06:18 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 15 Sep 13 - 03:40 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 15 Sep 13 - 04:04 PM
mg 15 Sep 13 - 05:46 PM
Commander Crabbe 15 Sep 13 - 06:58 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Sep 13 - 08:04 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 16 Sep 13 - 02:21 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 16 Sep 13 - 03:58 AM
GUEST,Grishka 16 Sep 13 - 04:23 AM
Nigel Parsons 16 Sep 13 - 05:58 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 16 Sep 13 - 06:17 AM
Nigel Parsons 16 Sep 13 - 06:50 AM
Nigel Parsons 16 Sep 13 - 06:56 AM
johncharles 16 Sep 13 - 07:06 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 16 Sep 13 - 07:21 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 16 Sep 13 - 07:44 AM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Sep 13 - 07:48 AM
Dave the Gnome 16 Sep 13 - 08:01 AM
GUEST,tunesmith 16 Sep 13 - 08:01 AM
Jeri 16 Sep 13 - 08:02 AM
Nigel Parsons 16 Sep 13 - 08:11 AM
johncharles 16 Sep 13 - 08:27 AM
GUEST,John Condon 16 Sep 13 - 08:47 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 16 Sep 13 - 11:02 AM
GUEST 16 Sep 13 - 11:26 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 16 Sep 13 - 11:52 AM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Sep 13 - 11:52 AM
johncharles 16 Sep 13 - 02:06 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 16 Sep 13 - 03:23 PM
Commander Crabbe 18 Sep 13 - 05:19 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 18 Sep 13 - 08:22 AM
Stringsinger 18 Sep 13 - 08:48 AM
Commander Crabbe 18 Sep 13 - 06:55 PM
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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: PHJim
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 11:49 PM

I usually learn songs from CDs by listening to them in the car. I have accidentally changed a few words, thinking tat I'd memorised them properly but not the meaning. I even recorded a song using the wrong words. When I discovered my mistake, I used the proper words in future performances.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 09:36 AM

Joe, in my understanding, what a day's work gets us is what we can buy for our wages per day, some commodity as well. I conceded that other listeners may have a different understanding. It does not matter much in the given context, as I said.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: DMcG
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 12:10 PM

If I have Grisha right, what he is saying is that it takes so many minutes to earn enough to buy a loaf of bread. In that context it matters not a jot whether you earn $10 in that time and the loaf costs $10, or whether you earn $1 and the loaf costs $1. When economists talk about inflation they are normally concerned with the $1 or $10 figure. What matters for day-to-day purchasing is the 'time required to buy a loaf'. The economists inflation does matter to us lesser mortals as well, but more in terms of debts and savings, not day-to-day living.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 12:23 PM

Jame Blount sings a song in which he states, "I have a plan". Within a line or two he then states, "and I don`t know what to do". Hello!!!
Some plan. Some improving here necessary, perhaps.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 05:10 PM

There's an old performer's trick, to put a sting in the tale. Or tail. It would depend on a clear "hit" on the end of each verse building to a climax in the last verse - when it changes.

The folk tradition is of people making songs their own, the copyright law the opposite, and you not infrequently find busk books using the former to avoid the latter. As performers we're in a cleft stick, hating it when it's done to us but reliant on the language of music, which is kind of the accumulation of everything copyrighted that's ever been done by anyone else. Generally it's courteous to discuss it with the writer, if he's still around.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 05:42 PM

Tunesmith:
I've mentioned this before, I think.
I was once asked to teach "Jamaican Farewell" to a bunch of kids, but on scanning the lyrics I realised that the opening line, " Far away where the nights are gay" would lead to silly reactions from some of the children.
I changed it to " Far away where the warm winds play".


If you're teaching children, would it not be better to teach them the 'proper' words, and explain that the word 'gay' has taken on an extra meaning since the song was written? (but only if the reaction you expect arises)
If not, I would suggest you find a different song which you might feel happy to teach.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Joe_F
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 06:27 PM

DMcG: IMO, "it takes so many minutes to buy a loaf of bread" is a summary of what *I* said, not a summary of what *Grisha* said.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Joe_F
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 07:57 PM

I forgot to mention: "If you're a corporate titanic" is also incoherent. Faced with a choice between "If you're a corporation titanic", which would have spoiled the meter, & "If you're a corporate titan", which would have spoiled both that & the rhyme, Paxton gave us a nonsensical mixture, rather than run away to "If your business is titanic" or the like. There are contexts in which that sort of illogic is negligible, but in a song that has pretentions to wit it is embarrassing.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 02:09 AM

Nigel Parsons:

"If you're teaching children, would it not be better to teach them the 'proper' words, and explain that the word 'gay' has taken on an extra meaning since the song was written? (but only if the reaction you expect arises)"

No!No! Certainly not in a Catholic Primary School 30 yrs ago!
Back then, all gays were heading to the fires of hell!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 02:19 AM

Interesting, all of us think that lots of, should we say popular art ( and serious art), could be improved/changed.
Every time, we walk out of a cinema disappointed, we are, in fact, criticising some aspect of the film makers work ( e.g. the film was too long, the characters were two dimensional, the pacing was wrong etc).
Now, we can't change a film, or a book, or a play (well, maybe a local amateur production), but we might like to if we had the chance!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 03:25 AM

The spirit of the early 20th. century folksong collectors, particularly the Rev. Baring-Gould, lives on, it seems.........


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 11:58 AM

There are a number of folk songs that appear to have lost their rhymes.

It seems reasonable to restore the rhymes where they are evident, but it would be difficult where the texts are well known.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 13 Sep 13 - 01:58 AM

You could make your own art, Tunesmith. Or just carry on. It's all good.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Sep 13 - 11:29 AM

<\i>But that was till we opened up the box" seems to tick all the boxes.

Changing lines happens without even thinking about it a lot of time - you remember a line the way it seems most natural to sing it, and that might well not be the way it was originally written.

That happens with songs you wrote yourself very often - when you check back to get ready to sing something you haven't sung in a long time the words always seem a bit different from the way you half remember them, and the changes are generally improvements. We edit subconsciously, our own songs - or other peoples, if we sing them.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,CS
Date: 13 Sep 13 - 01:56 PM

Like the others who have expressed an opinion, I prefer the original line. The OPs' alternate version feels 'clunky' as someone else commented. So far as making a song scan more nicely *for me* to sing, I will alter lines. I will also alter dialect words that feel unnatural to me. But only minimally.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: PHJim
Date: 14 Sep 13 - 01:45 AM

Tunesmith, One of us has made another change in Jamaica Farewell.

I always sing:
"Down the way where the nights are gay," rather than, "Far away..."


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 14 Sep 13 - 07:17 PM

Consider the source....


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,John Condon
Date: 15 Sep 13 - 06:18 AM

Don Wise hit the nail on the head with his earlier post.

The air of arrogance, pomposity and ego mania thrives in this thread. If you want to change a lyric when you sing... do so. But spare us how you can improve other people's songs.

Go write your own song.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 15 Sep 13 - 03:40 PM

Right, so song lyrics, melodies, structures etc must never be changed OR, indeed,it must never even be suggested that they should/might be changed!
What a strange, uninspired world a lot of you must inhabit!
We'd all be still living in caves, if someone hadn't thought, " I can improve that!"
I have that spirit! Did you once have it? Do you even think about anything you listen to, or see, or encounter?
Or does it just wash over?
For example, most of you will have heard the follow line hundreds of times, but how many of you, ever stopped to consider that the choice of a particular word is rather strange - and out of place?
" Later on we'll conspire, as we dream by the fire"


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 15 Sep 13 - 04:04 PM

Come to think of it, there's a Randy Travis connection here!

Randy is at it again!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 15 Sep 13 - 05:46 PM

But radiator does not rhyme with fire.

Anyway, please turn your talents to some of the awful Catholic hymns out these days. They could be improved by swiping a dictionary over them.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Commander Crabbe
Date: 15 Sep 13 - 06:58 PM

Guest tunesmith

In your original post you asked "what do we think?"

Sometimes you just have to accept that not everyone thinks like you do!

It makes us the individuals we are.

As John says, go write your own song and then ask the same question.

Chris


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Sep 13 - 08:04 PM

Later on we'll perspire... Or expire...


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 02:21 AM

BUT! How many of you ever queried the use of "conspire"?
Not many, I would guess.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 03:58 AM

"If it ain't broke don't fix it!"

Or, allowing for the linguistic pedantry/rigidity of the Tunesmiths of this website:-

"If it is not broken do not attempt to repair it."

I'm rereading Pete Seeger's "The Incompleat Folksinger" at the moment and he touches on the rights and wrongs of 'improving' or rewriting all or part of a song quite a bit. In this connection he mentions that somebody decided to 'improve' Ed McCurdy's "Last night I had the strangest dream". When Ed McCurdy found out about this, according to Seeger, he hit the roof...........


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 04:23 AM

Later on we'll conspire
as we dream by the fire
To face unafraid
the plans that we've made
There is a whole theory about this, called conspiracy theory. Plans, before even being carried out, turn directly against the conspirators, so that the latter have to build up their courage to face them - not only the consequences. It worked perfectly in many places including Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, unafraid in friendly fire.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 05:58 AM

From Freedictionary.com:
con·spire (kn-spr)
v. con·spired, con·spir·ing, con·spires
v.intr.
1. To plan together secretly to commit an illegal or wrongful act or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.
2. To join or act together; combine: "Semisweet chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso, Cognac, and vanilla all conspire to intensify [the cake's] flavor" (Sally Schneider).
v.tr.
To plan or plot secretly.

Seems to fit the lyrics perfectly.
I have never seen any cause to query those lyrics.
Were you also planning to "improve" those, Tunesmith?


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 06:17 AM

Nigel you are a very silly person!
Most people ( everyone ?) today - will consider definition 1. to be the current - popular - meaning of conspire.
And, nobody nowadays would use the word conspire except in that way!
And, we are talking now!
It is possible - 80 years ago when the song was written, that the word conspire had a less sinister meaning.
But, I'm interested in how listeners react - or don't react -to that word today.

BTW Pete Seeger is on my side!
A) He changes other peoples songs.
B) He doesn't mind when people change his songs!
So, it's me and Pete against the world!
And, that's fine with me.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 06:50 AM

But, I'm interested in how listeners react - or don't react -to that word today.

Apart from you, I don't believe anyone 'reacts' to the word at all. It is part of the lyrics of the song. Its meaning is unchanged.
I do accept that some people are so intellectually challenged that they are unable to conceive of a word having more than one meaning.
The same has happened with the word 'gay'. I'm sure nobody would believe that all the bridesmaids in G&S's Ruddigore were lesbians:
Every day, as the days roll on, Bridesmaids' garb we gaily don However, it does paint an interesting scene!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 06:56 AM

Sorry, I should have made it clear, by 'conceive' I meant 'think of'.
I shouldn't confuse you by using words with multiple meanings.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: johncharles
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 07:06 AM

where can I find the word perfect, unambiguous, PC songs,
written by Tunesmith?


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 07:21 AM

"So, it's me and Pete against the world!"

Maybe not just you two. We mess around with arrangements, tempo etc of songs, and sometimes even change the tune slightly, so why not change a word or so as well if you feel it would be better?

I do 'Cousin Jack' by 'Show of Hands' and at first I must have been doing it from memory and after a while I noticed that the tune of the verse I sing is a bit different though the chorus is the same. I thought I'd best start doing the proper tune but actually I like the tune I was using better and several club members seemed to agree so I just stuck with it.

I change some Burns songs slightly "eg John Anderson" as I find his written version to anglicised. So I basically use more Scots words than he sometimes does.

There are various other songs which I regularly do where I leave out or change some of the words as I find they just don't scan that well. In my opinion anyway! "Brown Eyed Girl" is one example and especially the 3rd verse of "Waggon Wheel". I also changed the bridge of "Diamonds And Rust" by Joan Baez as my wife found the original just ridiculously over-wordy (is that a word?) though she loved singing the rest of the song.

If you're doing a oover then it is your interpretation so I don't see a problem with putting your spin on it. The danger of course is that people may not like the altered version specifically because you've altered it but you stand up and take your chances!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 07:44 AM

Nigel, your silliness grows with every word you write!"

You stated:
"I do accept that some people are so intellectually challenged that they are unable to conceive of a word having more than one meaning"

BUT, I would safely say that 99.9+% of the population understand "conspire" to have a sinister element!
As in definition 1.

Now, you've heard "Winter Wonderland" lots and lots of times, but did YOU ever query the use/suitability of the word conspire?
No, you didn't!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 07:48 AM

I don't think Tunesmith should assume that his or her understanding of language is universallyr held. Both meanings of the word are completely current.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 08:01 AM

Tunesmith. In the opening post you asked What do we think?

Well, some people think lyrics can be 'improved', some think they are fine as they are, some think the authors views should be solicited and some think you should not tamper with the lyrics. Now, surely that has answered your question so why argue about the answers?

You think they can be improved, fine. Improve them to your own satisfaction. But why do you want everyone to agree with you? It is coming across like you are not sure if it is an improvement and need some sort of reassurance. Either do it or don't but if you do, don't complain when people say they preferred the original.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,tunesmith
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 08:01 AM

McGrath says:
"I don't think Tunesmith should assume that his or her understanding of language is universallyr held. Both meanings of the word are completely current"

True, but currently 99.9% of the populace would understand the meaning of the word to be:

1. To plan together secretly to commit an illegal or wrongful act or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.

and less that 1% would think of a different meaning!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Jeri
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 08:02 AM

If you sing "expire" the song will be shorter.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 08:11 AM

Now, you've heard "Winter Wonderland" lots and lots of times, but did YOU ever query the use/suitability of the word conspire?
No, you didn't!


Quite right.
I didn't query the use of the word because its use is clear, and unambiguous (if read in context).

BUT, I would safely say that 99.9+% of the population understand "conspire" to have a sinister element!
As in definition 1.

"66.67% of all statistics are made up on the spot!" I doubt that yours has any degree of accuracy.
I would have accepted (if you'd chosen to say it) that most people are likely to read something sinister into 'conspiracy', but that does not automatically carry-through to 'conspire'. A lot of people (probably more than your putative <0.01%) would be unlikely to even link the two words.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: johncharles
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 08:27 AM

given the obsession with definitions, perhaps Tunesmith might consider a change of alias, to Wordsmith.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,John Condon
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 08:47 AM

Lots of people change words/arrangemets/structures of songs when yhey perform.

People often ad lib to introduce humour or currency to songs.

It's the arrogance to think you are improving on the original that gets to me.

As for your off the cuff statistics ....... Spare us!!!!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 11:02 AM

John Condon, have you lost it!
Why would you want to change anything unless, in some way, you thought it was an improvement. For what ever reason.
Otherwise, what would be the point of changing the original?

And, of course, this "thing" posters have with lyrics being sacrosanct doesn't seem to extend to arrangements, instrumentation, tempo, dynamics and so on.
Now why is that?


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 11:26 AM

Tunesmith, have no doubt you are the one who has lost it.

The argument especially


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 11:52 AM

Well, these are two arguments going on here.
First, is the question of whether my new line is an improvement on the original.
Well, of course, I think it is.
Why?
Well, clarity, clarity, clarity! The is no ambiguity in my line!
Some have said that my line is clunky! Well, it's not "clunky" when I sing it!
I have a feeling that some posters are attracted to the "romance" of the original line. Words like "that was long before" are going to have a certain appeal to folkies who are, a lot of the time, dealing with music from the past.
Now, the second "thing" that is going on, is the preposition that lyrics should never be changed and to do so - or even suggest it - is gross arrogance!
Now, the problem there is that so many great artists have "changed things".
I mentioned Pete Seeger who has "improved" songs, and, in turn, other people have "improved" his songs.
Well, what's good enough for Pete is certainly good enough for me1


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 11:52 AM

Not everyone shares the same opinions. That's something we all have to live with.

And words more often that not have a range of meanings, and we learn to recognise which is which by the context. If we don't do that life must get very confusing at time.

There's quite an interesting political blog in England called Liberal Conspiracy - in which the term "conspiracy" is being used in an entirely positive sense.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: johncharles
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 02:06 PM

In many forms of writing a certain lack of clarity and a degree of ambiguity are deliberate, and often prove much more thought provoking than crystal clear certainty, which in my experience of life in general is very seldom the case.
john


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 16 Sep 13 - 03:23 PM

johncharles say:

"In many forms of writing a certain lack of clarity and a degree of ambiguity are deliberate"

That is true! but not in Randy Travis songs!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Commander Crabbe
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 05:19 AM

Tunesmith

If there is no lack of clarity or degree of ambiguity in Randy Travis songs why are you changing one of them?

Chris


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 08:22 AM

Good point!
But, of course, the ambiguity in Randy's song was not intended!
Randy was clearly guilty of some sloppy writing!
But, luckily, I came to the rescue!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 08:48 AM

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.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Commander Crabbe
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 06:55 PM

Of course what was I thinking, you are undoubtedly right.

Your obvious talent for improving things has saved the day!

However, you are wasting your time with song lyrics.

You need to take your vast talent to Iraq or Afghanistan. The situation there is in need of improvement I believe.

The sarcasm is of course unintended and due to my sloppy writing skills.

Have a nice day.

CC


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