Tag Archives: lyrics

Where Do Songs Come From?

 They’re everywhere, a seemingly infinite variety, proliferating constantly. Songs, songs, and more songs. And like snowflakes, no two completely alike, despite the odd plagiarism lawsuit.

 This never ceases to amaze me. Our musical scale consists of only 12 notes (which repeat in octaves, but still…). And yet Western musicians seem to find endless ways to combine those notes for melodies and chords.

 And then there’s the lyric variety. Not as much of a surprise there, since the English language contains at least 170,000 words currently in use. (Which makes you wonder why so many lyricists still focus obsessively on analyzing their love lives, or lack thereof, and use the same old phrases and rhymes, such as “tonight/all right” to do it – but that’s another story!)

 I write songs, but even I can’t tell you where half my ideas come from. The creative process is part blood, sweat and tears, but it’s also part magic.

 For instance, I just wrote a song for a friend’s wedding. And yet I can’t recall where the idea sprang from, even though I started it just barely 48 hours ago. (No, for better or for worse, I’m not one of those folks who dash songs off in 10 minutes…) The first half of the first line just appeared: “When love comes a-calling…” And then, from some mysterious place, came the idea to repeat that line, completing it each time with a colourful expression or idiom.

 E.g., “When love comes a-calling / you can run but you just can’t hide,” and “When love comes a-calling / all your ducks line up in a row.” Anyway, thank god for Google and sites that list idioms and proverbs and the like, which helped me find more. And then other phrases just appeared in that magical way, seemingly out of thin air, without research.

 Also, the “love comes a-calling” line soon began to create a melody for itself as I repeated it in my head.  By the time I picked up the guitar, the song was half written musically too.

 The song’s now finished, I think it’s pretty good, and I even worked the couple’s names into it. (We’ll see how it goes over at the post-nuptial party.) But I still can’t tell you where it came from!


 Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction. www.marielynnhammond.com


The Musician’s musician blog

One of the great things about playing music is that one can do it from from age 2 to 92 as the Xmas song says. I recently attended a presentation at Cosmo Music that featured the Tower of Power horn section. This legendary band began 43 years ago complete with the 5-piece horn section. Most top studio musicians have been influenced and played the Tower of Power songs over the many years.
Imagine yourself playing the horn of your choice 43 years from now and the experiences you would have had, playing with the world’s finest musicians, recording CD’s, LP’s? MP3’s ? And at every venue there are multiple generations of families knowing all the lyrics to your songs and the trumpet or sax players in the audience knowing every line because they play in a cover band of you. Then you must be the musician’s musician.
There are numerous autobiographical books about musicians like Keith Richards, Sammy Hagar and Glenn Gould. Whether it is classical or rock n roll or soul rhythm and blues there will always be legendary live musicians. May we all support their live shows and buy their music recordings. If you are reading this you realize how much great arts activity goes on in York Region and if you want more, clear a space in your home, invite a few musicians  plus an audience of your friends and host your own House Concert. And if you do not know musicians, ask me, for their are many great ones who are your neighbours.