Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lyrically Lost in the Music

Music is an intimate, integral part of Boomer life.

We hear the sounds of our teens and twenties and our body wants to jump up (as high as our aging bones allow), dance and sing along, remembering the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful of decades ago.

Murky memories revisit seventh grade art class.  Six or eight of us sit around a table attempting to create some art project – none of us, if I remember correctly (which I probably do not) were art-focused or talented. We repeatedly broke into renditions of Hey Paula, a popular song that soared to number one in February 1963.

Listening to the song today, I surmise the only reason we sang that particular tune was because it was climbing the charts. And maybe we were hormone-crazed kids imagining our true love years down the road.

In the video below the two singers, Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson (NOT Paula Someone and Paul Somebody!), perform their popular duet.

There were girl groups such as Martha and the Vandellas (Dancing in the Street and lots of others) and the Shirelles (Dedicated to the One I Love and more…), the Ronettes, the Chiffons…

And of course the Beatles. The songs from their 1964 movie Hard Day’s Night, in addition to the title song, classics like And I Love Her, All My Loving, Can’t Buy Me Love, Ringo’s This Boy, quickly became favorites.

Although I cannot carry a tune and am tone deaf, I loved singing along. Listening to the music, hearing the words, everything fit together. The singers enunciated. The music did not drown out the words. Lyrics were not swallowed, sung too quickly, or in an accent or dialect misheard, misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Life gets complicated, and that is exactly what happened to our music. As the ‘60s rolled on simple music and understandable lyrics transformed into a cacophony of indecipherable music and words. Suddenly I could no longer figure out song lyrics. I listened intently and guessed what they might be.

Today I look up lyrics (isn’t the Internet great!) to familiar old favorites and, for the first time, appreciate all the words of a song, from start to finish, chorus and stanzas finally making sense.

I thought this problem was a peculiar weakness unique to me.

I was wrong, and am overjoyed to discover the difficulty was – and remains - widespread.

This late-in-life epiphany came as I began researching a writing assignment for a creative writing class.

I discovered the song Louie Louie by the Kingsmen (1963) is a celebrated example of a song most people could not understand. Apparently no one listening to the song figured out the lyrics. Rumors proliferated the song was laced with obscenity. There was actually an FBI investigation. It found the rumor untrue.

Below the magic of YouTube brings you the Kingsmen singing Louie Louie, with lyrics appearing on screen. Did you have any idea what the words were or the song was about?

There are websites listing song lyrics that make no sense, or are poorly written, or might be meaningful to the composer and/or singer, but the rest of the world remains perplexed – senseless/meaningless songs or phrases from golden oldies to the latest hits.

This bit of trivia in no way changes or enriches my life. But it is nice to know I was not alone in my frustrating efforts to grasp what was (and is still today) blasting on my radio, and what reverberated throughout the house from my 45s and albums, played repeatedly on my record player. (Am I dating myself or what?!)
I still have a collection of vinyl records stored someplace in my house.

Not my original old-fashioned record player, but could be - mine was just like this. 

1 comment:

  1. Who knew so many singers failed to articulate? I actually do not do badly with song lyrics, but I did always wonder what "wrapped up like a douche" was all about.
    I once heard some one singing a Tracy Chapman song as--give me a reason to steer (stay here) ...