Wednesday, 3 August 2011

My Favourite Lyrics Part 1; Love Songs

A couple of days ago I decided to start writing about my favourite song lyrics. Song lyrics is my favourite kind of poetry. Also it's thanks to them that I'm able to write this blog in English, however flawed it might be. All those free afternoons I spent translating lyrics by The Beatles, David Bowie & Kate Bush! These guys were my best English teachers. :o)

I wanna start with some love songs. Just because I'm not really a fan of love songs per se, so it's not so hard to choose these. In my opinion, if I love a love song & its lyrics it means that the song is really fucking good! :o)

My Funny Velentine

My funny Valentine
Sweet comic Valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Unphotographable
Yet you're my favourite work of art

Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?

But don't change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little Valentine stay
Each day is Valentine's day


I copied the whole text of the song here because it really is a work of art. Quirky humorous & tender lyrics - combined with a very melancholy melody - how very smart and how very beautiful. The lyrics of the song were written by Lorenz Hart in 1937 (he died only 6 years later, aged 48) in my opinion are just as much behind the success of the song as the melody written by Richard Rodgers. Hart's simple message: I know you're not perfect but that's exactly why I love you, is sentimental and touching enough but not smaltzy, almost 80 years after it was written people still connect to it. Even people like me.

Many artists have recorded this song and even more have at least sung it at one point but my favourite version is probably Nico's, from her last studio album Camera Obscura which came out in 1985.



Your Song

It's a little bit funny this feeling inside
I'm not one of those who can easily hide
I don't have much money but boy if I did
I'd buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it's not much but it's the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one's for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross
But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song
It's for people like you that keep it turned on

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world

I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world


Another classic that necessitated for its lyrics to be copied in full. What can I say. Bernie Taupin is a fucking genius. Your Song follows a bit in the path of My Funny Veltine: it's almost as if one of the lovers sang My Funny Valentine and the other one replied in the form of Your Song. It's an evolution: less wit, more awkwardness and a lot of "I'm not worthy but I'd do anything I could for you" feeling mixed in. One says that the partner's looks are unphotographable and the other one doesn't even know the partner's eye colour. What a couple! :o)



Maybe I'm Amazed

Maybe I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time
Maybe I'm afraid of the way I love you
Maybe I'm amazed at the way you pulled me out of time
And hung me on a line

Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need you
Baby I'm a man maybe I'm a lonely man
Who's in the middle of something
That he doesn't really understand

Baby I'm a man and maybe you're the only woman
Who could ever help me
Baby won't you help me understand

Baby I'm a man, maybe I'm a lonely man
Who's in the middle of something
That he doesn't really understand

Baby I'm a man and maybe you're the only woman
Who could ever help me
Baby won't you help me understand

Maybe I'm amazed at the way you're with me all the time
Maybe I'm afraid of the way I leave you
Maybe I'm amazed at the way you help me sing my song
Right me when I'm wrong
Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you


I'd known this song for years before I heard Crystal Bowersox sing it on American Idol last year. I never rated this song that high, it took a woman to make me realize how earnest, straight from the gut/heart this song was. Macca can be a great lyricist just as he can be a mere pale imitation of the best lyricists of the 20's/30's/40's swing songs he grew up listening to. The thing is he just doesn't have the quick wit of Cole Porter and the like but when he writes from the heart the results can be surprisingly brilliant.



I'll Be Your Mirror

I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you're home

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you

I find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty you are
But if you don't let me be your eyes
A hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you

I'll be your mirror
(reflect what you are
)

The lyrics to this song show you just how tender Lou Reed can be. Nothing more needs to be said, really.



The Art Teacher

There I was in uniform
Looking at the art teacher
I was just a girl then;
Never have I loved since then

He was not that much older than I was
He had taken our class to the Metropolitan Museum
He asked us what our favorite work of art was,
But never could I tell him it was him
Oh, I wish I could tell him --
Oh, I wish I could have told him

I looked at the Rubens and Rembrandts
I liked the John Singer Sargents
He told me he liked Turner
And never have I turned since then
No, never have I turned to any other man

All this having been said,
I married an executive company head
All this having been done, a Turner - I own one
Here I am in this uniformish, pant-suit sort of thing,
Thinking of the art teacher
I was just a girl then;
Never have I loved since then
No, never have I loved any other man


Well this Rufus Wainwright song is not a typical "I'm talking to you" love song but I think it qualifies as one of the most interesting love lyrics I've ever heard/read. All of the above songs probably refer to intense emotions of "I fucking love you and wanna fuck you and marry you and be with you for ever and ever." but Rufus found a different point of view: an unrequited love of a married woman who looks back at her youth and realizes she hasn't really loved anyone as much as her teen self loved her art teacher. Wow? Wow.



They Can't Take That Away from Me

The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No they can't take that from me.

The way your smile just beams
The way you sing off key
The way you haunt my dreams
No they can't take that from me.

We may never meet again
On the bumpy road of love.
Still I'll always keep the memory of...

No they can't take that away,
No they can't take that away.


This song written by George and Ira Gershwin probably doesn't have one of the smartest lyrics ever but it just holds a special place in my heart. The scene in the musical called Shall We Dance, in which Fred Astaire first itroduced the song, is wonderful and certainly memorable. Before I saw this film I mostly knew Frank Sinatra's version of this song, which has more swagger but Fred's simple style of singing made me pay close attention to the equaly simple but powerful lyrics. This might be ending but what we've had, no-one can take that away from us.



next time: Breakup songs. Expect loads of ABBA. :o)

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