Since the beginning of time certain men and women have been able to put pen to paper and couple words to music and that collection of music became song. Through the ages songs were sung in praise and joy, in sorrow and pain, in lust and romance. The one thing they all had in common was the songwriter, the person with the song in their head, the inspiration and the emotion to pull it together in a melody and tempo of the soul.
In the second half of the 20th century music expanded into a new genre of electricity and percussion. Jazz and blues bred rock and roll, and a generation of youth gathered around record players and radios enamored with the words and music pouring from the speakers.
When you talk about songwriters who forged the roots of modern rock and roll the conversation quickly turns to Bob Dylan and John Lennon. From the pens of these prolific writers literally hundred of songs were written.
I remember Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and how it resonated within me. Never had I heard such poetry and thought come through in song. I’m confident my marriage to music was forged the day I first heard this song.
Aw, princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re all drinkin’, thinkin’ that they’ve got it made.
Exchanging all precious gifts,
But you’d better take your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe.
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used.
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse.
When you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal.
Bob Dylan in his prime was nothing short of songwriting genius and may go down in history as the most prolific/brilliant songwriter ever. Hit after hit flowed from the songwriting hand of Bob Dylan and our culture is richer because of it.
John Lennon was no songwriting slouch. Sure, he was a core member of the Fab Four but I am convinced to this day that The Beatles were The Beatles because of John Lennon. My favorite ten songs written by Lennon are: Imagine, I Am the Walrus, Instant Karma, Revolution, Come Together, Nowhere Man, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Norwegian Wood, Across the Universe, A Day in the Life. (No particular order) That’s a pretty good sampling of work.
The ability to write song after song as a prolific writer is not a necessity for being counted among the greats. Don McClean’s American Pie was a brilliantly written piece of work and other than modest success with his followup Vincent, he never produced anything else of quality.
By the same token, one of my favorite songwriters has written dozens of popular songs, but is considered more of a concert show than a songwriter. Jimmy Buffet has written and produced a lifetime of work and is one of the most prolific writers still in the business.
It would be extremely difficult to lay out the brightest and best songwriters in the brief context of this blog. Here are a few of my favorites. If I miss one of yours, feel free to add them to the comments.
The Brothers Gibb
Freddie Mercury and Brian May
What would the musical landscape be without the work of these people?