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Friday, January 26, 2024



                                                  SONGWRITING 101 #2

                          "Beautiful Day Down Paradise Way" and "The Beach!!!!" 

                                                  And other songwriting tidbits

(I love to play live music! I love to play guitar! However, above that, first and foremost I am a songwriter. I've been in the Key West Songwriter's Festival (the largest festival of it's kind, in the world) seven times. BMI Nashville initially invited me in via my publisher, McClure and Trowbridge Publishing. My songs have been requested by Trisha Yearwood, Garth Fundis, Chuck Norris... etc. I'm told that I'm one of a few songwriters in Key West that are published in Nashville. I was also told I am the only songwriter in Key West to be published in both Nashville and London, U.K. “Millennium Production Music” My oldest song, "Wahoo Sunrise", was written in 1994. A few years back, journalist and music producer Burt White was kind enough to call me the best songwriter in Key West.)

I always wondered about how I approached songwriting. It worked and it worked really well. However, it was quite different than the way most others do, or so I thought. As I say,I knew it worked, and if it didn't work really well, I'd never have become a songwriter to begin with. However, it does.

After several years of doing it "my way" I heard an interview on NPR with Paul McCartney on song writing and it hit me like a brick. “That's exactly what I do!”.

My view has always been the same. I'm not writing poetry. I'm not a poet. I'm a songwriter, therefore I'm writing a song. What is a song? Well, first and foremost it is a musical foundation that works 50/50 with the story it's supporting. For myself, this can happen in a verity of ways, however the overall format is the same.

Lets take my song “Beautiful Day Down Paradise Way”” as an example.

I was living on Whitehead Street and I stepped outside one morning. There was a good, relatively hard shower going on and it looked fabulous! I could feel the adrenaline and passion flow when I knew I had to write a song!

I went back inside and grabbed my guitar. “What melody would capture the feeling of a rainy day in Key West?” was the question at hand.  I searched for maybe five minutes thinking of Whitehead Street which I had just seen, in a pouring rain shower. It was a solid rain, yet it had delicacy and grace to it as it filled the air with freshness and washed the street, with a fineness of a ballet dancer, as it danced on the pavement. I went back out the door in the rain a second time. It was cool and refreshing. This second step out the door answered the key question, as everything answered it's own question. It was plain as day, as I went back inside. This couldn't be anything but a jazz song.

The first thing I came up with was a chord change of C to C6/9 and it was in a 6/8 time signature. Next came F,  F Maj7. For the turnaround I came up with Em F Maj7 Em7 F Maj7 G and resolving back to the C C6/9 progression.

The point here is that at this stage... there are no lyrics, or a name for the song. However, the music paints a picture of, is a rainy day in Key West. You can close your eyes and feel it. For me, in songwriting this is essential and so often forgotten. The music in a song has to say as much as the lyrics.

With this accomplished, the lyrics just plain floated through the room and into the song. It was as if given to me. 

“Skies are cloudy, rain's falling down, thinking of you wish you were in town

Silver drops ricochet high off a once busy street

And it's a beautiful day down paradise way

In Key West”

With that, suddenly, the song now had a title!

“Beautiful Day Down Paradise Way”

It was about a rainy day in Key West, with the twist in the title that it was suggesting it was a sunny day. 

Paul McCartney had stated that all of his songs and the songs he co-wrote, except one, were written with the music first.

Later, I heard Keith Richards say that songs just float through the room and you grab them. Overall, he writes the 'Stones music and perhaps a few lyrics, often with a title, and hands it over to Mick for the lyrics, who goes to town with them.

Jerry Garcia would write the music and a lyric line setting the stage for the story and Robert Hunter would take it from there.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin... same thing.

"The Beach!!!!"

My song “The Beach” was a bit different than “Beautiful Day Down Paradise Way”. It just floated by out of nowhere, out of the blue one morning:

A A6 A E9 A A6 C7 ….. C#7 F#m7 Bm7 D7 E7

It was an Afro/Cuban type song... where did that come from? Suddenly, it was there.

Then the bridge went

Bm7 C#7 D E7

That had a textbook Motown feel

It was perplexing. What was this song anyway? It sure was different! The main body being Afro/Cuban and a Motown bridge? Over five days I'm sitting in my living room playing the progression on the first day, nothing. Second day, nothing. Third day, nothing. Fourth day, nothing. Fifth day..... I'm playing and all of the sudden the lyric floats by and I grab it. “Todaaaaaaaay I'm going to the beach!”

It fit like two pieces of a puzzle meant for each other. That's a good part of songwriting:

It's like putting a puzzle together.

In both of these cases, each song has a very unique sound. Musically, they stand on their own.

While it may not be for everyone, a couple up in Ohio named their bar “Paradise Way” after my song! :-D

I look at song writing kind of like building a house. The first thing needed is a solid as concrete foundation, when one builds a house one doesn't build the roof first.

I also see a song as a 50/50 split between music and lyrics. So much stuff I hear today, is 90% lyrics. The music so often, seems more like an afterthought.

In writing a song, the foundation of the song is music, how the hell does one make the music an afterthought?????

I recall back around 2009/10 I heard a Trop songwriter release a new song, which I liked. I bought the CD it was on. The first song was the song I liked. The next song came on and it sounded like the first song. The third song came on and it sounded like the second song. So on and so fourth.

I never listened to the CD again.

However, that CD I hold very valuable because it reminded and instilled in me to always make every song different.

Going back to Paul McCartney, in his book “Paul McCartney – The Lyrics” I don't recall the songs he was referring to, however he and John were writing a song and they had a unique word in the song they were working on. While it wasn't a common word, it was a word everyone knows.

They changed it. The reason was they had used the unique word in another song several years earlier!

Only one word and they changed it!

It's a lot like an actor being type cast. Lennon and McCartney were artists and made every song it's own being.

It's all a matter of where you hold your standards

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