THE TOP ONE HUNDRED POPULAR SONG LYRICS THAT WORK AS POETRY

The phatic is common to both song lyrics and poetry; music aids the lyric, condemning it to be not quite poetry forever, while poetry is its own music, condemning it to be naked without music forever.

The two are never reconciled—the standard of poetry is never–-never—reached by song lyrics, which breaks the poet’s heart, a heart which travels into music’s realm, shunning its help.  Madness and torture!  Why do the two exist–-never to meet!  Poetry and music!  Divided heart!  Divided mind!  Poor, divided mankind!

As a healing device, we list the top 100 Song Lyrics As Poetry of All Time, with the single criterion: when we hear the song, do the lyrics intoxicate us as much as the music?

Note we do not ask the song to be judged as poetry—as words on the page.   And yet—and yet—words are being judged.

The list below is not based on reading the lyrics alone on the page as if it were a poem, for this is to take the creature out of the water: we judge the lyrics with its music as poetry.

If an especially beautiful music accompanies the words of a particular song, making the words even more beautiful, we have to assume the words are responsible; the songwriter will sometimes experience this phenomenon: words inspire the music, as if the words and music were born together.  It is as if the music were an aura around the the words—words which nonetheless are not strong enough to be poetry, since they need the music.  We celebrate this paradox—in our list—of poems which are not poems.

If one were to boil down the two essential criteria they would be: 1. originality and interest and 2. strongly realized feeling or idea, but we’ll briefly comment on why for each song.

1 Perfect Day  (Lou Reed)  performed by Lou Reed   —Why: The haunting ambiguity: drug fix or romance? “I thought I was someone else, someone good”
2. Day In the Life  (Lennon/McCartney)  performed by The Beatles   –“Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”
3. The Good Life  (Distel/Broussolle/Reardon)  performed by Nancy Wilson  –A love song with a tantalizingly puzzling message
4. Coming Back To Me  (Marty Balin)  performed by Jefferson Airplane  –“Through a window where no curtain hung I saw you…coming back to me…”
5. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)  performed by Bob Dylan –“You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you”
6. America (Paul Simon) performed by Simon & Garfunkle –“Toss me a cigarette I think there’s one in my raincoat…”
7. Over the Rainbow  (Arlen/Harburg) performed by Judy Garland  –“That’s where you’ll find me”
8. Is That All There Is?  (Lieber/Stoller) performed by Peggy Lee  –A life-flashing-before-your-eyes song
9. Ruby Tuesday (Jagger/Richards) performed by Rolling Stones  –“She comes and goes, no one knows…”
10. Both Sides Now  (Joni Mitchell) performed by Judy Collins  –“I don’t know clouds at all…”
11. I Want You (Bob Dylan) performed by Bob Dylan  –“The cracked bells and washed out horns blow into my face with scorn…”
12. Forbidden Fruit (Oscar Brown Jr) performed by Nina Simone –“Eve and Adam had a garden, everything was great…”
13. American Pie (Don McLean) performed by Don McLean  –A perhaps overly sentimental tribute to Buddy Holly…”the day the music died…”
14. Lather (Grace Slick) performed by Jefferson Airplane  –A haunting lyric about growing up…”Lather was thirty years old today…”
15. She Loves You (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –“She” instead of “I” makes it a song about three people instead of two…
16. Me and Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson) performed by Janis Joplin  Best going-down-the-road song ever.
17. If You Go Away (Jacque Brel)  performed by Shirley Bassey  –One of those crushingly crushed-up love songs
18. Horse With No Name (Dewey Bunnell)   performed by America  –“The heat was hot…”  You can walk into this song…
19. Yellow Submarine (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –Intimates the ‘we’re-all-together’ spirit so nicely…
20. Jennifer Juniper (Donovan Leitch)  performed by Donovan  –“I am thinking of what it would be like if she loved me…”
21. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles –Phantasmagoria at its best.  “And of course, Henry the horse…”
22. Maggie Mae (Stewart/Quittinton) performed by Rod Stewart  –“I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school”
23. Play With Fire (Phelge) performed by The Rolling Stones  –“Well you’ve got your diamonds and you’ve got your pretty clothes…”
24. Mrs. Brown You Have A Lovely Daughter (T. Peacock) –The boy complains to the mother…different.
25. You’re Lost Little Girl (The Doors) performed by The Doors –The “little girl” is really the one in control; one can hear William Blake in it…
26. Sunny Afternoon (Ray Davies) performed by The Kinks  –“telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty…”
27. Yesterday (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –A simple, but perfect lyric: “yesterday came suddenly…”
28. Fakin’ It  (Paul Simon) performed by Simon and Garfunkle  –a  masterpiece of introspective nostalgia
29. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles  –“Rose and Valerie screaming from the gallery…”
30. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Bob Dylan) performed by Bob Dylan  “When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Eastertime too, and your gravity fails…”
31. Fire and Rain (James Taylor) performed by James Taylor  — a wreck of a song, in the best possible way…  “I always thought I’d see you one more time again…”
32. Irreplaceable (Beyonce, Ne-Yo, Eriksen, Hermansen, Lind, Bjorklund) performed by Beyonce  “You must not know ’bout me…”
33. Mona Lisa (Evans/Livingston) Nat King Cole –“They just lie there and they die there…Are you real, Mona Lisa?”
34. Cry Baby Cry (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“The duchess of Kircaldy always smiling and arriving late for tea…”  one of John’s best…
35. Night And Day (Cole Porter) Fred Astaire  –“in the roaring traffic’s boom, in the silence of my lonely room I think of you, night and day…”
36. As Time Goes By (Hupfeld)  Dooley Wilson  –“hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate…”
37. Ferry Cross The Mersey (Marsden) Gerry and the Pacemakers  –“we’ll never turn you away…”
38. Georgia On My Mind (Carmichael, Gorrell) Ray Charles  –“Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through…”
39. Ring Of Fire (Gilgore/Carter) Johnny Cash  –“the flames gettin’ higher…”
40. The End (Jim Morrison) The Doors  –“this is the end, beautiful friend, no safety or surprise, the end…”
41. The Times They Are A Changin’ (Bob Dylan)  Bob Dylan  –the ultimate protest/wake-up-to-reality song…
42. Everyday (White, Crisler)   Buddy Holly  –“Everyday, it’s a gettin’ closer, goin’ faster than a roller coaster…”
43. All You Need Is Love (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“There’s nothin’ you can’t do that can’t be done…”
44. This Land Is Your Land (Woody Guthrie) Woody Guthrie  –“This land was made for you and me…”
45. My Generation (Pete Townsend) The Who  –the slinging, self-righteous, celebratory anger of the 60s in 3 minutes…
46. Let It Be (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“Mother Mary comes to me…”
47. What’d I Say (Byrne/Robinson) Ray Charles  –“Tell me… What did I say?”
48. Sympathy For the Devil (Jagger/Richard) Rolling Stones  –Jagger wrote a Bob Dylan-type ballad and the Stones added mayhem..
49. Crazy (Willie Nelson) Patsy Cline  –“Crazy for cryin’ and crazy for tryin’…”
50. A Whiter Shade Of Pale (Brooker, Reid, Fisher) Procol Harum  –“and the waiter brought a tray…”
51. I Say A Little Prayer For You (Bacharach/David) Dionne Warwick –“The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup…”
52. Dream A Little Dream Of Me (Gus Kahn) Mamas and Papas  –“Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper I love you…”
53. California Dreamin’ (Phillips) Mamas and Papas  –“Well I got down on my knees and I began to pray…”
54. Hotel California (Felder, Henley, Frey) The Eagles  –“But they can never leave…”
55. Walk On By (Bacharach/David) Dionne Warwick  –“make believe that you don’t see the tears…”
56. Guess Who I Saw Today? (Grand/Boyd) Eartha Kitt  –what a beautifully constructed little urban story…
57. Lovely Rita (Lennon/McCartney) The Beatles  –“sitting on a sofa with a sister or two…”
58. White Rabbit (Grace Slick) Jefferson Airplane  –“and the white knight is talking backwards and the red queen is ‘off with her head!'”
59. My Favorite Things (Rodgers/Hammerstein) Julie Andrews  –“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”  Keatsian.
60. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Kern/Harbach) The Platters  –“Now laughing friends deride…”
61. Stranger In Paradise (Borodin, Wright, Forrest) Tony Bennett  –“If I stand starry-eyed, that’s a danger in paradise…”
62. Misty (Garner/Burke) Johnny Mathis –“When I wander through the wonderland alone…”
63. (They Long To Be) Close To You (Bacharach/David) The Carpenters –“Just like me, they long to be close to you…”
64. Ain’t Misbehavin’  (Waller,Brooks, Razaff) Fats Waller –“I’m home about eight, just me and my radio…”
65. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Ellington/Russell) The Ink Spots –“They’d have asked me about you…”
66. I’ll Be Seeing You (Fain/Kahal) Billie Holiday –“In all the old familiar places that this heart of mine embraces…”
67. Mack The Knife (Brecht/Weil, Blitzstein) Bobby Darin  –“Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear…”
68. Pirate Jenny (Brecht/Weil) Lotte Lenya  –“Asking me, kill them now, or later?”
69. Tiptoe Through The Tulips (Burke/Dubin) Tiny Tim –“tiptoe from the garden, by the garden of the willow tree…”
70. What Is And What Should Never Be (Led Zeppelin)  Led Zeppelin –“and if you say to me tomorrow oh what fun it all would be…”
71. Golden Vanity (anonymous) Pete Seeger –a tearful adventure novel packed into song…”and down sunk he…farewell, farewell to the Golden Vanity…”
72. Star Spangled Banner (Key) Various Artists  –“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light?”
73. Tiny Dancer (John/Taupin) Elton John  –“Jesus freaks out on the street, handing out free tickets for God…”
74. White Christmas (Irving Berlin) Bing Crosy     Best-selling single of all-time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records
75. Barbara Allen (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –the most popular of the old ballads…”oh mother, mother go make my bed…”
76. Tenderly (Lawrence/Lawrence) Sarah Vaughan –“the evening breeze caressed the trees tenderly…”  this is not corny; this is poetry
77. Lady of Carlyle (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –another beautiful old ballad…”and for a space of half an hour, this young lady lay speechless on the ground.”
78. Take Me Home, Country Roads (Denver, Nivert, Danoff) John Denver  –a big, outdoors song, one the best…”Almost heaven, West Virginia…”
79. Winter Wonderland (Bernard/Smith) Various Artists –so many great Christmas songs, but this one is especially charming…
80. If I Had A Hammer (Seeger/Hayes) The Weavers –Pete Seeger, who cut Dylan’s cords at Newport, was Dylan before Dylan…
81. Wayfaring Stranger (anonymous) Burl Ives  –“I’m going there to see my father, I’m going there no more to roam…”
82. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) Various  –the Ur-Christmas carol…
83. Paint It Black (Jagger/Richard) Rolling Stones  –“I see a red door and I want to paint it black…”
84. Every Breath You Take (Sting) The Police –“I’ll be watching you…”
85. It’s All In The Game (Dawes/Sigman) Tommy Edwards  –“And your hearts will fly away…”
86. You’re So Vain (Carly Simon) Carly Simon –“And your horse naturally won…”
87. Killing Me Softly With His Song (Fox/Gimbel) Roberta Flack –“I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud…”
88. It’s My Party (Gluck, Gold, Weiner) Lesley Gore –“I’ll cry if I want to…”
89. The End Of The World (Shave, Smith, Pebworth, Astasio) Skeeter Davis  –“Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?”
90. Under the Boardwalk (Young/Resnick) The Drifters  –“People walking above…”
91. It’s Now Or Never (Schroeder, Gold) Elvis Presley –“Tomorrow will be too late…”
92. I Will Survive (Perren/Fekaris) Gloria Gaynor –“At first I was afraid, I was petrified…”
93. Moon River (Mancini/Mercer) Andy Williams –“we’re all after the same rainbow’s end…”
94. Paper Moon (Arlen,Harburg, Rose) Nat King Cole –“it’s only a paper moon over a cardboard sea, but I’ll believe in make-believe if…”
95. Bennie And The Jets (John/Taupin) Elton John  –“she’s got electric boots, a mohair suit, you know I read it in a magazine…”
96. Freed From The Gallows/Gallows Pole (anonymous) Ledbelly  “I think I see my mother coming, riding many a mile…”
97. She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –“she’ll be riding six white horses when she comes…”
98. Jam On Jerry’s Rocks (anonymous) Pete Seeger –“crushed and bleeding on the beach lay the form of young Monroe”
99. Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens (anonymous) Pete Seeger  –I wish I were a little sparrow and I had wings and I could fly…”
100. Groundhog (anonymous) Pete Seeger –“We’re all going out to hunt groundhog…”
101. September In The Rain (Warren/Dubin) James Melton –“The leaves of red and brown came tumbling down, remember?”
102. Pretty Polly (anonymous) Pete Seeger   –“Leaving nothing but the wild birds to moan.”   We had to include one murder song…
103. Danville Girl (anonymous)  Pete Seeger  –“She took me to her kitchen, she treated me nice and kind…”   And one hobo song…

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90 Comments

  1. drew said,

    November 9, 2013 at 2:24 am

    What – no AEROSMITH?
    I may have to renounce my membership…

    http://connecthook.wordpress.com/tag/nobodys-fault/

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      I hate Aerosmith. The Doors are a thousand times better, much closer to Poe and Blake. Aerosmith, even when they try to be profound, are never beautiful or subtle. That song of Aerosmith’s you analyze on your blog has some interest but it’s finger-pointing and preachy, too.

      • noochinator said,

        November 9, 2013 at 2:01 pm

        I loved Aerosmith as an adolescent,
        E’en shoplifted their tapes—
        Now my interest is quiescent,
        But this song still elicits gapes—
        Thanks, drew!

      • drew said,

        November 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        I like the Doors too.
        I probably like the Aerosmith song because of it’s preachiness… I go for that sort of thing.

        I thought you might like the connection to Poe in the blog post… the first notes evoke “The City in the Sea” for me.

        • thomasbrady said,

          November 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

          Yea, the Poe is beautiful.

          • rich smith said,

            February 20, 2016 at 7:22 pm

            Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my own way to be free.

            • thomasbrady said,

              February 20, 2016 at 7:49 pm

              I am metaphor mad. I’m naming the good in an effort not to be too bad.

      • March 21, 2015 at 6:45 pm

        Thank you.

      • Anonymous said,

        April 15, 2016 at 2:59 pm

        Btw aerostats is WAY better that the stupid DOORS!!!

        • thomasbrady said,

          April 16, 2016 at 9:58 am

          Doors made rock an art form. The Doors cast an insouciant spell. I guess you either get them, or you don’t. They are easily in the top ten of any must include list. Good guitar playing alone is not enough. Doors’lyrics often hit that rock song sweet spot, too. Poetry, no. But song and poetry will never be the same thing.

  2. thomasbrady said,

    November 9, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I love Aerosmith but I’d rather not pay.
    Store detective surprised me: “Walk this way.”

    • noochinator said,

      May 31, 2016 at 12:00 am

      Andrew, do you remember this one by the ‘smith?

      • Desdi said,

        May 31, 2016 at 3:04 am

        Happy Memorial Day Noochinator —
        That song is not by “the Smiths. ”
        It is pure Amerikkan poetry by St. Tyler and Joe Perry from Sunapee NH. New England poetry played on electric guitars. It is in fact a Dionysiac dithyramb.
        Puts Edgar Poe back in his place of course.

        Almost as good as Mahler’s 6th (or was it his 4th ?)
        As poetically enlightened Amerikkans, it behooves us to draw the line.

        • noochinator said,

          May 31, 2016 at 9:01 am

          Yes Desdi — it is a Dionysian work of our time… I wrote the ‘smith (short for Aerosmith) — but thank you for inspiring me to cue up “The Headmaster Ritual”:

          • Desdi said,

            June 1, 2016 at 5:15 pm

            Go forth and Noochinate every last one of them.

  3. noochinator said,

    November 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    104. “Cool Calm Collected” (Jagger, Richards) Rolling Stones — “She’s so affected, cool calm collected” (although that’s really the only quotable line; features Brian Jones on kazoo and electric dulcimer!)

  4. noochinator said,

    November 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    105. “Snookeroo” (Elton John, Bernie Taupin) Ringo Starr — “I need someone to cook for me/ and turn me loose at night/ I could be happy with a factory girl/ ’cause a factory girl’s my type” (Yeah, I know, I know, but who said lyrics have to truly express the feelings of their creators?)

  5. noochinator said,

    November 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    106. “Stay with Me” (Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood) The Faces — “Red lips hair and fingernails/ I hear you’re a mean old Jezebel/ let’s go upstairs and read my tarot cards”

    • noochinator said,

      November 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      I always thought of “Stay with Me” as the ultimate sexist song, but in this version Rod Stewart appears to be addressing a guy dressed in drag: “I don’t mean to tell ya/ that you look like a fella/ but you really shouldn’t wear your hair that long” — these lines are not in the well-known single version, though these later lines are, and they reinforce my theory: “Yeah I’ll pay your cab fare home/ you can even use my best cologne/ just don’t be there in the morning when I wake up”

  6. drew said,

    November 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    What about Roxy Music (my favorite band all around)

    or John Dowland?
    Do not poetry and music kiss each other and become one in these songs?

  7. thomasbrady said,

    November 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Bobby Darin made a bet with a friend that he could turn any lyric fragment into a hit song and he won (Splish splash I was taking a bath) and what this demonstrates is that music does not need poetry to appeal and lyrics don’t need poetry to appeal and poetry and song lyrics, as similar as they seem, are not at all the same EXCEPT in some inexplicable realm which I have tried to intimate with my list and its introduction. I think we can peer at a certain set of words on a page for the first time and get a definite sense that: oh this sounds like 1. a clever insight 2. poetry 3. song lyric 4. joke 5. social commentary and so on. Now we can work backwards from this idea to see not the vague similarity but the crucial difference. The Dowland seems more like poetry than song lyric to me and this may be a compliment, I don’t know.

  8. drew said,

    November 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    John D. was, is, and ever shall be THE Elizabethan rock star.
    Long live Albion’s white rose our Gloriana Queen Bess and I hope they sink the armada…

    I think he was a poet first and lutanist second but that order may be backwards.

  9. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    November 10, 2013 at 2:24 am

    American Tune

    Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
    And many times confused
    Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
    And certainly misused,
    Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
    I’m just weary to my bones,
    Still, you don’t expect to be
    Bright and bon vivant
    So far away from home, so far away from home.

    I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
    I don’t have a friend who feels at ease.
    I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
    Or driven to its knees.
    Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
    For we lived so well so long,
    Still, when I think of the road
    We’re traveling on
    I wonder what went wrong,
    I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong.

    And I dreamed I was dying
    And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
    And looking back down at me
    Smiled reassuringly.
    And I dreamed I was flying
    And high above my eyes could clearly see
    The Statue of Liberty
    Sailing away to sea
    And I dreamed I was flying.

    Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower,
    We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
    We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
    And sing an American tune.
    Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
    It’s all right, it’s all right,
    You can’t be forever blessed.
    Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
    And I’m trying to get some rest,
    That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.

    © 1973 Words and Music by Paul Simon

    • drew said,

      November 12, 2013 at 1:34 am

      I was definitely wondering why Simon & Garfunkel were nowhere on T. Brady’s list…
      American Tune is a good choice –
      lyrics from the albums Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme come to mind as well…

      I think it is very subjective in the end.
      Scarriet’s creators get to pick their favorites and then proclaim that those particular songs meet the stated criterion
      ( the lyrics intoxicate as much as the music)
      but then – one man’s high art is another man’s black velvet painting.

      • thomasbrady said,

        November 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

        “America” & “Fakin It” are S & G songs on the List. Yes, Drew, obviously there’s subjectivity involved but as the great Alexander Pope said a great judge is as rare as a great poet and Scarriet, in case you hadn’t noticed, is heav’n inspired.

        • drew said,

          November 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm

          I didn’t see them there – my bad (as the Heav’n inspired poets say…)

  10. November 10, 2013 at 2:32 am

    Dear Tom, Wow, things have really been cooking on Scarriet while I have been busy with a couple of things like planning my mother’s 87th birthday party and mailing out copies (to friends) of my article on Northwestern University Prof. Ernest Samuels. It was just published in the Fall issue of “Western States Jewish History.” You know, I haven’t forgotten that it was on Scarriet where I saw some mention of Mr. Samuels, whom I took a course from myself in college, that inpired me to write the article about him. Asked to cut it and give it more pointedness, I ended up with just a five-page story, short and sweet. I think that now it is a “better read” than before. You yourself said it was a “good read” but you weren’t sure what its point was. Maybe now that it is a manageable size and shouldn’t overwhelm anybody — or perplex them– I’ll post it one day soon.
    In the meantime, I got hold of Mary McCarthy’s book, “Birds of America,” where I remembered there was a brief description of Epicurus, the Greek philosopher often misunderstood as a “hedonist.” Peter Levi, the novel’s protagonist who is spending his junior year of college abroad, sets the matter straight: “Most people don’t realize he was an ascetic. I did a paper on him for a course in ethics. He lived on barley, bread and chese and water because he thought the simple life was the the way to achieve happiness, which he considered the “summum bonum.” Naturally nobody would believe that. Instead they believed all the lies the Stoics spread about him being a gourmet and lecherous with women. So now Epicureanism means just the opposite of his teaching.” I — this is David Bittner speaking again — can testify to the truth of that. As a child in Europe, my father and his fellow scholars would get a stinging blow on the cheek for trying to stump their teachers, along with the insulting epithet, “Apikoris”! (That’s Yiddish for “Epicurean.”)
    Before I turn in, just a comment on songs. If the most important thing is the lyrics and not the music, how do you account for the fact that new lyrics are very often writen for old melodies, but not the other way around? Am I just “blanking” on the matter, or when are new melodies written for old lyrics? Good night!

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      David,

      I don’t recall saying or implying that words were more important than music. I adore a good melody. It is the mysterious relation between the two that is our object here.

      When I was trying to get a band together and looked at want ads, I noticed there was always drummer or bass or guitar or singer needed, but NEVER a songwriter. The singer-songwriter of the 60s replaced the old team of lyricist/composer/vocalist.

      I wonder why poems are so rarely put to music? Is that what you mean? Donovan put music to Poe’s poem “Eldorado” on his album Sutras, a nice record from about 10 years ago. No, I guess you mean a song lyric identified with a melody given a brand new tune. The old ballad, “Barbara Allen” has melodic variations. Cover songs often bend the melody of a song. Paul McCartney wrote a new tune for “Golden Slumbers” when he saw it in a song book and he couldn’t read music. Well, there’s an example.

      • Ashu अशु said,

        March 4, 2015 at 5:13 am

        Oh, and Macca’s melody is SO much better than the candy-assed original. And Macca is actually one of the great rock poets, but SO terrible when he tries to write for the page.

  11. thomasbrady said,

    November 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Gary,

    A friend of my parents in NYC, Francia, who worked in music publishing (she has a writing credit on “In Spain They Say Si Si” ) knew Paul and gave us his albums as they were released in the 70s. She said they thought “American Tune” was going to be his biggest song ever. It never quite caught on with the public, however. It didn’t become another “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Simon was an extraordinary songwriter. He should have stayed with Art. There are intangible factors surrounding the making of song that must be acknowledged sometimes.

    • Ashu अशु said,

      March 4, 2015 at 5:18 am

      [He should have stayed with Art.]

      “A pretty face will last a year or two,
      but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do.”

      The same was actually true of Lennon himself, though he didn’t have the pretty face.

  12. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    November 11, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Don’t forget:

    A) Jimmy Webb, who wrote:

    Galveston
    Wichita Lineman
    By the Time I Get to Phoenix
    Up, Up and Away (In My Beautiful Balloon)
    The Highwayman
    MacArthur Park
    All I know

    B) Leonard Cohen

    C) Woody Guthrie

    D) Joni Mitchell

    E) Neil Young

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Gary,

      I could easily make a list of a 100 more songs but I had to stop somewhere. My daughter was doing a school project on Joni Mitchell at the time—that’s why “Both Sides Now” is high on the list. I found out Joni had a secret kid she couldn’t raise and that’s why she wrote all those songs. I got teary when I found that out. I did consider “Wichita Lineman” and “Suzanne takes you down to a place by the river”…I should have included that one…Neil Young, yes, and “When the Saints Go Marching In”, I missed that one. “This Land Is Your Land” is on the list.

      • Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

        November 12, 2013 at 12:58 am

        I heard a rumor that they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

        • thomasbrady said,

          November 12, 2013 at 12:12 pm

          OK I just got run over by a big ole yellow taxi. Thanks, Gary

      • Ashu अशु said,

        March 4, 2015 at 5:25 am

        [I found out Joni had a secret kid she couldn’t raise and that’s why she wrote all those songs. I got teary when I found that out.]

        You may know that Mitchell and her daughter reunited in the nineties, to much media attention. Less attention was paid to the embarrassing subsequent souring of their relationship. Mitchell had the kid while living on Toronto’s Huron Street round 1970. I’m a Toronto boy meself, and Huron has always been one of my streets.

        • thomasbrady said,

          March 4, 2015 at 1:13 pm

          The daughter probably couldn’t handle Joni’s smoking!

  13. drew said,

    November 18, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Regarding a favorite of mine you included in the list (Lovely Rita by the Fab 4): http://connecthook.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/lovely-reader-meter-made/

  14. thomasbrady said,

    January 25, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zK-VtRTcEAE

    This is Danville Girl, the last song on the list, performed by Pete Seeger. Look at how few views it has. Proves Scarriet is cool.

  15. drew said,

    January 26, 2014 at 12:21 am

    You so ON, bro. 43 hits.
    Danville Girl gots it goin’ ON like a hoochie train.
    Thatz cause it’s not authentic fiction…

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 27, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      Drew,

      It’s an easy song to play if you happen to play an instrument: C then F then right back to C. In the second part, C to G.

      Tom

  16. thomasbrady said,

    January 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    And now I find out he died…

    I’ve been playing Danville Girl for the last week or so…

    That’s uncanny…”I pulled my cap down down over my eyes, started down for the track. Caught the very next railroad car. Never did look back.”

    A musical icon from my childhood…

    Fare thee well…

  17. April 26, 2014 at 12:32 am

    […] The Top One Hundred Song Lyrics that Work as Poetry […]

  18. thomasbrady said,

    April 30, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Probably should have included Fools Rush In and Cry Me A River.

  19. Drew said,

    May 31, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Hymns to Gods who choked on vomit
    (undertaken in overdose;
    rocks that never rose to comet
    rolling – but ending comatose),

    from a poem soon to be revealed @
    http://connecthook.wordpress.com/

  20. noochinator said,

    June 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    107. “Long Haired Lover from Liverpool” — this ditty was a number one hit in England in 1972, or so they tell me:

    Jimmy Osmond – Long Haired Lover From Liverpool Lyrics

    I’ll be your long haired lover from Liverpool,
    And I’ll do anything you say.
    I’ll be your clown or your puppet or your April Fool,
    If you’ll be my sunshine daisy from L.A.

    I’ll be your leprechaun and sit upon an old toad stool,
    I’ll serenade you till I’m old and gray.
    I’ll be your long haired lover from Liverpool,
    You’ll be my sunshine daisy from L.A.

    You’ll be my lovely daisy on the mountainside,
    There are lots of other flowers, too.
    But all the other flowers hung their heads and cried
    Because the loveliest of all of them was you.

    But you were evidently the exception to the rule,
    I picked you quickly then I ran away.
    ‘Cause I was your long haired lover from Liverpool,
    You were my sunshine daisy from L.A.

    I’ll be your long haired lover from Liverpool,
    And I’ll do anything you ask.
    I’ll be your clown or your puppet or your April Fool,
    Cut my hair, I’ll even wear a mask.

    I’ll be your Valentine, and you’ll be mine, and things’ll be cool.
    We’ll move along together every day.
    I’ll be your long haired lover from Liverpool,
    You’ll be my sunshine daisy from L.A.,
    You’ll be my sunshine daisy from L.A.

    I’ll be your long haired lover from Liverpool,
    And I’ll do anything you ask.
    I’ll be your clown or your puppet or your April Fool,
    Cut my hair I’ll even wear a mask.

    I’ll be your Valentine, and you’ll be mine, and things’ll be cool.
    We’ll move along together every day.
    I’ll be your long haired lover from Liverpool,
    You’ll be my sunshine daisy from L.A.

    Songwriters: KINGSLEY, CHRISTOPHER
    Long Haired Lover From Liverpool lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., VIRGIN EAR MUSIC

  21. noochinator said,

    August 1, 2014 at 10:34 am

    How about spam e-mails that work as poetry, or at least song texts? This is ‘All-Natural Male Enhancement,’ Boston-based composer Michael Veloso’s brilliant choral settings of spam e-mail texts. The work, conducted here by Allegra Martin, is in five movements:

    I. Fwd: I was looking at your profile (begins at 0:01)
    II. (no subject) (begins at 1:21)
    III. Only ant best way to elanrge your p_e.n|s. voyage scalps (begins at 3:35)
    IV. enemy (begins at 5:40)
    V. Our gilrs is verry yuonng attendees absolves (begins at 6:56)

    Michael Veloso’s website can be accessed at http://mjveloso.com/

    The texts of the spam e-mails are approximated below, but they can be better seen in their raw form at http://mjveloso.com/works/all-natural

    I. Fwd: I was looking at your profile (begins at 0:01)

    Hi, my name is Tiffany! (wink)
    My friend said you were a really cool person and I should get in contact with you!
    I looked at your profile and thought I would contact you.
    I love meeting new people, I also love to talk. I just got my videocam working so you can see me to! It doesn’t cost you anything if you wanna watch/see me! You don’t even need your own videocam! This is not my screenname, but a friends. To contact me you need to go to my personal site (dont worry it’s a FREE site like Yahoo!) its the only way to contact me! My personal site:
    Just Copy and Paste in your Broswer
    http:/www.tifde.com/fritz.html
    Best of love and regards, Tiffany

    II. (no subject) (begins at 1:21)

    Sitting at home bored . Find a date from us right here
    What have you been searching for?
    Hot sex
    A married mom
    A long lasting relationship
    Find everything you need here

    III. Only ant best way to elanrge your p_e.n|s. voyage scalps (begins at 3:35)

    Hello. I know about your problem, man.

    overseer Maxtor antics Carlisle bulged

    I know that you always see a grin on faces of other men, when you goto shower after GYM…

    greed smash Anabaptist excess helping

    I know that your woman dreams about man with big and hard pne|s…And I know that you have small one.

    weather mountains acetate breezily finders

    I know your shame when you undrsse|ng when women look at you…

    fungible spellings customer grips startup

    I know what is it, because some time ago I had a little pne|s too.

    cored sweetness poured Germans Kalamazoo

    One time your woman will meet a man with a big dc|.k…

    fevered subjecting shorts stiffens faithless

    And you’ll loose her…

    crypt start recoiled reformat calamity

    As I lost my g|rl… But you have chance to correct situation.

    payroll undresses diaphragm lockup economize

    You have 100% guaranteed and safe way to ELNRAGE YOUR PNE|S!

    minded updated donate dishonored repairer

    Read M0R_E.

    IV. enemy (begins at 5:40)

    Rosario Wu,(
    Govenment don’t want me to sell
    UndergroundCD !Check Your spouse and staff
    Investigate Your Own CREDIT-HISTORY
    hacking someone PC!Get a new passport!
    Disappear in your city
    bannedcd2004

    http:/c9003hosting.com/CD3/

    ,affectate ,slut
    ,ammonia ,boredom .

    V. Our giIrs is verry yuonng attendees absolves (begins at 6:56)

    Clara has a prretty face, hoI puusssy, Iong Iegs chloroplast’s

    She came over.. I bussted out the pipe and we smoked and.. Liechtenstein

    Gett ennjoy http:/olefun.biz/true/?enumerate

    It’s nice when these girIIs will posing themselves on camera for a few buc=
    ks Schnabel

    essences derailed adverbs boor’s.
    inclusion’s filmy ate brown bismuth
    appointments elm adaptive auto maestro blacker badger

  22. Anonymous said,

    August 31, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    This Onion piece pretty funny:

    Bob Dylan Lays Off 2,000 Workers From Songwriting Factory.

    Ha ha ha

  23. noochinator said,

    August 31, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    108. I Bought Myself a Parakeet

  24. noochinator said,

    August 31, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    109. You Need Us (The Honey Bees)

  25. noochinator said,

    September 2, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    110. Now That the Night is Falling (Graves/Poe)

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 1, 2015 at 3:21 am

      Thank you Nooch….happy new year, dear friend …I don’t think Poe, as far I know, has anything to do with “Now That The Night Is Falling…” But Graves/Poe sounds nice…

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 6, 2016 at 4:55 pm

        Tom Graves, Now That The Night Is Falling is a beautiful piece by you. As fine a melody as anyone ever wrote. Beautifully, perfectly, satisfyingly melancholy and simultaneously serene, your signature, I believe, musically, poetically speaking. Is it possible you might be inspired to compose others along this line or even, to expand this work? It is a rich and silvery vein. Thank you. If not I will just listen to this over and over for its sheer, undeniable loveliness.

  26. Allan Samuels said,

    December 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    I expected to see the lyrics from Stardust, which I find indescribably haunting and melancholy. Also Begin the Begin. And Deep Purple. I’d love who agrees with me.

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 1, 2015 at 2:25 am

      Allan,

      Scarriet has a 100 best Jazz standard lyrics list…I believe Stardust is on that…

      Happy new year!

    • Andrew said,

      January 1, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Deep Purple are a great band; I agree with you- so love me please!

      Ian Gillan also provided the voice of J.C. in the original cast (not the film version) of Jesus Christ Superstar – which is a great way to begin this New Year!

  27. Anonymous said,

    January 1, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    I meant to say I’d love to KNOW who agrees with me. Also the lryics to Deep Purple. “When the deep purple falls, over sleepy garden walls”

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 1, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      Deep Purple was a piano hit with lyrics added later and it was responsible for the band name Deep Purple. The grandmother played the song at home for the singer as a boy.

  28. Anonymous said,

    January 6, 2015 at 10:24 am

    This list is rubbish. So mainstream… Where is lyrics of Morrissey, Lou Reed, Ian Curtis, Roger Waters, Bono, David Bowie and Patti Smith?

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 6, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      Well, Lou Reed is at the top of the list, for starters.

      Just because you could make another list doesn’t mean this list is “rubbish.”

      Morrissey and Bowie are good suggestions.

  29. thomasbrady said,

    January 30, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    http://www.maggiesfarm.eu/shadowlyrics.html

  30. Andrew said,

    February 3, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Not many stars age as elegantly as Emmy Lou:

    http://tinyurl.com/m89gjvd

  31. February 15, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Emmylou and Louise Brooks and Nichelle Nichols: Three ageless women, and not a drop of botox between them.

  32. Anonymous said,

    May 25, 2015 at 12:53 am

    Read these lyrics and tell me that this is not poetry : https://youtu.be/hARz7Ymilqo

  33. thomasbrady said,

    May 25, 2015 at 1:28 am

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=n-cD4oLk_D0

  34. noochinator said,

    August 4, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano” ain’t bad as poetry — nor are “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” and “Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle” — all cued up below:

  35. noochinator said,

    September 13, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Lyrics to a song titled “Musical Chairs” by Jeremy Nicholas:

    Beverly’s next to Joanie, and Jessye’s on her right,
    then Montserrat can squeeze in
    though it might be rather tight.
    Earl Wild and Van Cliburn
    have said they’ll both be here,
    and Michael Tilson Thomas
    which will make it rather queer.
    Sinopoli and Previn will turn up without a doubt;
    leave a space each side so they
    can wave their arms about.
    Luciano’s coming; let’s hope when he arrives
    that he sits where he’s told
    and that the scaffolding survives.

    Yehudi’s next to Itzhak, and Isaac’s at the top
    but as Nigel isn’t kosher
    he’s a name we’ve had to drop.
    We’ve Mstislav and Yo-Yo
    (that’s Slav and Yo for short)
    and there’s Julian Lloyd Webber too,
    but as a last resort.
    Gennadi Rozhdestvensky will join in all the games,
    so will Esa-Pekka Salonen,
    but how do you spell their names?
    James Levine’s not coming,
    he’s turned us down quite flat—
    which isn’t so surprising
    with a sense of pitch like that.

    Zubin has accepted and Seiji’s such a dear!
    Can you blame a girl for subtlely
    advancing her career?
    There’s Vladimir and Daniel, whatever shall we do?
    For there’s Claudio Abbado and Riccardo Muti, too!
    We’d better ask that woman who always talks such rot;
    says she studied under Toscanini
    (nobody knows just what!).
    Now Mieczyslaw Horszowski, I put him at the head;
    I sent an invitation, but apparently he’s dead.

    There are one or two producers
    I thought I ought to try—
    there’s that so-and-so from Sony
    and that creep from EMI.
    Sir Michael and Sir Maxwell and
    Sir Malcolm say they might —
    I’ve seated Kathleen by herself,
    I’d like to avoid a fight.
    Placido says he will be here if he can fit it in;
    he’s not sure if he’s in Paris, Honolulu or Berlin.
    There’ll be paper hats and crackers, and what else
    goodness knows!
    Maybe cabaret from Kiri, singing hits from all her shows.
    I think that’s everybody—
    there’s you and me, my dear…

    “But wait! We forgot David Helfgott.”

    He’ll have to come next year!

    • thomasbrady said,

      September 13, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      What about Yeol Eum Son?

  36. forestblush said,

    October 10, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Very lovely blog 🙂

  37. Taylor swift said,

    October 16, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Can you please make a new song and it will not have to be about the same thing over and over again okay thank you so much for the first half of the day before I go to sleep and I’m still waiting to be the first person to talk to you in a while

  38. thomasbrady said,

    October 16, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    BY THE LIGHT OF THE SUN

  39. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 6, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    CHERRY TRUMPETS

    [remembering the trumpets of Herb Alpert “Up Cherry Street”]

    transposing the cherry trumpets in the sunlight
    or twirling a pink parasol shade
    we came to life

    in lessons of astronomy
    when we could gaze and gaze
    in our backyard and there’s Orion

    and how it does amaze
    Orion remains though others have gone away.
    and the cherry trumpets replayed on the phonograph

    and the cantinas blue as blue
    their twilights tied with silver ribbons;
    the evening dew.

    time is music or music is time
    we thought we knew.
    it’s only later as the music fades

    we feel that it’s not true.
    and yet we linger when the music starts
    and feel it’s altered in our hearts

    as though we were fresh winds again
    paused at a golden beginning;
    sweet on the tongue as a candy that lasts forever

    knowing all, all the songs.

    mary angela douglas 6 april 2016

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 6, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      P.S. on Cherry Trumpets poem: Up Cherry Street and Cantina Blue were my favorite instrumentals of Herb Alpert and the Tiajuana Brass when I was around middle school age. I was just starting to learn Spanish and it seemed a golden backdrop to me for that though I realize it wasn’t mariachi music per se but very kin to it. I always though Alpert was highly underrated. His arrangements to me were fantastically rich and evocative of varied emotions. Not California psuedo Mexican pop appealing to all ages as it was so often portrayed even at the top on the back of the records. Haunting music. I know this thread is about songs with lyrics but I contend this music is lyrical without the words and deserves mention here as something poetic, metapoetry maybe. Autumnal music I always thought of it in my overblown way.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 6, 2016 at 5:57 pm

      Correction on Cherry Trumpets: should be sparkled away, not gone away. I’m sparkling away now, at least I like to think so, and somebody out there or is it in the plural is probably thinking, thank God. I don’t mind what you thank God for even if it’s for me going away as long as you talk to Him now and then. You will feel a whole lot better about whatever it is you’re feeling bad about if you do. And if you feel good you can talk to Him about that. I don’t think He hears things of that natur, that much sitting at the golden switchboard of grievances day after day.

  40. thomasbrady said,

    May 31, 2016 at 9:58 am

  41. noochinator said,

    June 1, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Tomas, are you into Ween at all? Two high school friends who started a band and became one of the most electic pop music acts ever — here’s one of their more intense songs that was set to animation by one of their fans:

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      Someone gave me a Ween CD about 10 years ago. I listened to it about a dozen times. I liked it. This sounds how I remember.

  42. noochinator said,

    June 1, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Tom, how about a post on the most heartrending songs, those ditties that cause the tears to flow from the eyes of most homo (and hetero) sapiens? Such a post could be a public service for those looking to spend some quality weeping-time with their favorite dominatrices. I suggest these as a starter:

    “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be” by Carly Simon
    “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross
    “Winkin’ and Blinkin’ and Nod” by the Simon Sisters

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      Scarriet did put out a 100 Songs That Make You Cry. Did you miss it? I like those songs. “Touch Me In the Morning” was written by a guy who lived right across the hall from me when I was growing up on 105th st in Manhattan, Michael Masser.

  43. le Gamin en Moi said,

    December 8, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Damien Saez, is a more modern song writer whose lyrics are essentially poetry. He is very well known and respected in France– He being a Parisian.

    If you know french, listening to his songs, which are great in themselves, or reading his lyrics should be very pleasing!

    🙂

    • thomasbrady said,

      December 8, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you, I’ll check out his music.

      A quick look at his lyrics: Angry Marxism. Sounds too adolescent and too negative to be great poetry….that’s just a first impression…

      One of his lines…”we’re not descended from apes but from sheep…” Of course that’s always going to have appeal: berating the ignorant…


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