Continuing the music theme, this week as promised it’s the turn of singer/songwriters. I’m absolutely in awe of anyone who can write a song. A book is one thing and don’t get me wrong, writing is hard work. It takes time and a hell of a lot of patience and I enjoy it because I have a love affair with words, the story playing as a choreography in my head as I write. But to be able to combine words with melody? Now that really is something else.
Last week when I finished my first post I made a list of all the singer/songwriters I’ve found quite inspirational. I guess Lennon and McCartney have to figure prominently because for me they started it all. OK in the beginning the songs were very simplistic, the boy meets girl falling in love/break up stuff like She Loves You and I Should Have Known Better but gradually their repertoire developed – musical stories like She’s Leaving Home, Eleanor Rigby, amusing songs like An Octopus’s Garden and When I’m Sixty Four and soulful compositions (my favourites) – For No One, The Long and Winding Road and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
After Lennon and McCartney came The Moody Blues. I had a long-term love affair with the band’s music, helped to some extent by their good looking front man and song writer Justin Hayward. Here we’d moved on from lyrics and melody and now had the addition of amazing guitar work. That I think was the pivotal moment I fell in love with rock music. Justin was an amazing writer whose versatility enabled him to write haunting ballads like Nights in White Satin and Forever Autumn alongside rock numbers such as Question and I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band. In concert they were amazing.
I soon developed a real appetite for rock music although not all bands appealed. One essential ingredient was melody so hard rock bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon were firmly off the list while acts like Asia, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bad English, Roxy Music, Whitesnake, The Blessing and Bon Jovi definitely ticked the box. Along the way my tastes expanded into more contemporary singer/songwriters like Paul Carrack (Ace, Squeeze & Mike & the Mechanics), American Jackson Browne, Australians Darren Hayes (Savage Garden) and Iva Davies (Ice House) and Justin Currie of Scottish band Del Amitri who were all added to my CD library. And taking the list beyond the nineties, artists like James Morrison, The Stereophonics, Keane, Green Day and The Killers are also now part of my music collection.
However, the one song which has stayed with me all through the years is by an artist not many people know. An English singer/songwriter called Al Stewart had a successful career in the States in the seventies and I’ve always loved his blend of lyrics and music. Time Passages and On The Border are two of his better known airplay tracks but all in all he never received the following here that he did in the US. Year of the Cat, which is the only one of his songs to chart in the UK, in 1977, is my personal favourite not only for the story it tells but from the quality of the lyrics and musical arrangement. So I leave you all with this and hope you enjoy it as much as I always do. Back in a week’s time!
One thought on “In Praise of the Singer/Songwriter…”
Very interesting piece Jo, got me thinking about the artists you mentioned and their material/genres and styles. So diverse back then. Now you need to fit into a niche. The charts were so interesting back in the day; such variety, something for everyone. Now I find the whole thing so limited. It began back in the 1980’s when record companies and radio stations needed t make money after the explosion of ‘home recordings/producers’ and the dance genre taking over. DJ this and that. To ensure that labels got their money back they whittled their catalogues and stables down to what sold….and we now live with the consequences. Oh for those golden days……before the 80’s.