I have been writing songs for a long time now, and I have so many incredibly talented songwriters to thank for their expertise and inspiration. It is high time I pay tribute, sitting at the feet of these creative masters, trying my hand (and voice), exploring with my heart and brain and seeing what happens when I’m sipping their wine…. A toast to some of the greats!!!!
Heart Of the Matter
– Mike Campbell, Don Henley, JD Souther
One of the wisest, most truthful lyrics I have ever heard and a favorite Henley solo recording. He and his co-writers got it right, talking about “forgiveness… even if you don’t love me anymore”.
Fire and Rain
– James Taylor
I was ecstatic when I “accidentally” found the chord progressions for this song, not because it seemed simple, but because it is so well crafted and the pieces just fit together. I recall Taylor being asked early in his career what the song is about and he responded that he didn’t like to explain his songs, he preferred the listener decide what it means to them. Good songs do that.
Love Must be the Answer
– Wes Farrell, Peggy Clinger, Johnny Cymbal
A frequent sing-along Partridge Family song from my kid-hood with simple straightforward words, an infectious melody and oh, those killer harmonies, concocted by three of the most talented music industrialists of the day.
– Neil Diamond
One of the first Diamond songs I ever sang, beautiful and romantic. It also contains a lyric that called on him to create a new word (BRANG) to match the intricate rhyme scheme he wanted. Bending rules and stepping outside the lines is something I have learned to embrace over the years and I guess I have him to thank for that too.
I Think It’s Going to Rain Today
– Randy Newman
I first heard N Diamond’s version and then as I learned more about Newman’s work, my respect for his talent grew. I love his wit, his melodic turn of phrase and his courage to express the unique perspectives of narrators both good and bad. There are so many great Newman songs to explore; this one is just the tip of the iceberg.
Joan of Arc
– Leonard Cohen
I came across this one by way of Jennifer Warnes’ angelic voice and was immediately drawn in. I could hear how the lyrical and melodic imagery created by the singular Mr. Cohen are at once powerful, deep and raw.
Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque
– Tony Romeo
A story song from the first Partridge Family Album (the first LP I ever bought with my own money) and written by my favorite PF writer. When a new PF record came out, I could always identify the songs Romeo wrote or co-wrote just by the way I connected with them.
Killing Me Softly/Superstar
– Charles Fox, Norman Gimbel/Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell
Crafted by some of the most prolific songwriters of the 70’s, Roberta Flack and Karen Carpenter each were perfectly matched voice to song, expressing such sadness and longing. Not sure when I thought they might fit together, but they do. Both are about how music creates a relationship between performer and listener.It is a joy to sing with Steve Garrigan’s beautiful, haunting tenor to add a new layer to these classics.
Never Been to Spain
– Hoyt Axton
I heard the Three Dog Night recording (they scored big with Axton’s work more than once – “Joy to the World”) and it just grabbed me. Whimsical and smart, playful and happy, it was a real pleasure to discover how best to play with it in my own way.
– Leonard Cohen/John Lennon
Combining these iconic songs occurred to me as a chance to look at different reflections of the same image, written by different men who wanted the same thing: a peaceful world. The way the chorus of each works with the verses of the other makes this arrangement profoundly special to me.
Can’t Cry Hard Enough
– David Williams, Marvin Etzioni
The Williams Brothers 80’s hit kind of tore my heart out when I first heard it.Thanks to Williams and Etzioni for expressing something so hard to go through. It took quite a while for me to find the right way to perform it. I sing this for our brother Jake, too soon gone from this world but but still in our hearts and lives.
I’ve Been This Way Before
– Neil Diamond
I discovered I like Diamond’s songs after a wilderness camping trip in ’73 and his next studio album included this song. A few years later as a high school senior I sang it for our spring choral concert. I like how it captures the search for a deeper meaning (a prevalent theme for songwriters during that time) and its message has guided me over the years as I have grown older and hopefully wiser.
Listening to Levon
– Marc Cohn
Cohn has had other hits, but when I heard him play this one live (before the release of “Join the Parade”) it spoke to me as a perfect match of words to music, reminding me of what a great songwriter can do (as well as a fitting tribute to one of his songwriter heroes, Levon Helm).
A Day in the Life
– John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Is there a songwriter/musician who has not been influenced by Lennon and McCartney (or not influenced by other songwriter/musicians who were influenced by these two)? While it was tough to choose a Beatles song with which to try my hand, this one has always shown out brightly to me as something special as one that captures their adventurous spirit and boundless creativity.