Influence and Inspiration: 3 Songs I Wish I Had Written

Influence and Inspiration: 3 Songs I Wish I Had Written

Apr 15

I’ve always been a word person.  Don’t get me wrong – I love a beautiful melody as much as the next person, but if a song doesn’t tell a story, well… it’s generally in one ear and out the other.

My idea of an excellent song is one that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats, wondering what’s going to happen next.  When I hear a number in which every phrase draws you closer to the answer, but doesn’t give it away until the very last moment (or sometimes not at all), I take my hat off to the writer.  That’s artistry.

So here are three songs I wish I had written.  For three very different reasons.

The “Important Issue” Song

Ever since he burst onto the folk music scene in the 1960s, Tom Paxton has been known as an entertaining and enormously intelligent songwriter. Many of his compositions have become folk classics, while others – what he calls “short shelf-life” songs – bring light-hearted humor to the issues of the day.

But when Tom Paxton wants to tell a serious story, nobody does it better.  With a driving beat, Johnny Got a Gun walks us through the day in the life of an innocent child, and shows – not tells – how the easy availability of firearms puts all of society at risk.

The “Hey, That’s About Me” Song

Pete Morton might not be a household name, but for my money, he’s one of the best performing songwriters out there.  I was lucky enough to share some shows with him when he swung throughIsrael on his travels, and was always struck by the emotional intensity of his lyrics.  As I once told him after a performance, “Pete, when you play, you’re not wearing your heart on your sleeve.  Your heart is leaping out of your chest.”

The Busker’s Song is my favorite Pete Morton song because it explores questions I’ve been asking myself for years.  Should I really be doing what I do – staying at home, raising my children and holding down a job, while making as much music as I can as time permits?  Or should I have given myself over to art, and taken the chance of becoming what Pete calls a “jetlagged rambler … in freedom’s chains”?

In this word-heavy song, full of warmth and wisdom, Pete tells me not to worry: both choices, like this world, are full of “so many wonders.”

The “Can’t Wait to Perform That One” Song

 I love performing comedy.  Ever since I first ventured out onto a local folk club stage doing what amounted to a really good imitation of the then little-known, hilarious folk diva, Christine Lavin, I’ve been hooked on using my voice, guitar and stage presence to make audiences laugh.

That’s why from the moment I heard Deirdre Flint’s fabulous Bridesmaid’s Dress Song

I knew this was one I had to commit to memory and stuff (like a too-tight satin corset) into my concert repertoire.  In fact, I recorded it, adding it to the line up on my 2012 CD, Voices from the Other Side.

Bridesmaid’s Dress is a shaggy-dog tale of epic proportions.  Go.  Look it up.  You’ll love it.

If you ever hear me perform this one, you may wonder how I managed to memorize all those words.

But I told you.  Words are what I do.