Revising Inspiration

February 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

Earlier this month, I shared a lyrical effort inspired by two of the all-time great songwriters, Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. I was really happy with what came out. However, when the time came to arrange and chord those lyrics, no matter what we did, my wife (and primary arranger) and I could not make it sound any different that Lightfoot’s first major hit song, Early Morning Rain.

As I may have mentioned before, I hate revision, though I do recognize the value of that skill. My general lack of patience, coupled with the fact that I get ideas for lyrics constantly (not all of them good ideas, I admit), usually results in my finishing a draft lyric, perhaps changing a word or two, calling it done, and moving on.

In the past, when a lyric could not be arranged so as not to sound like an existing song, I would have moved on. The offending effort would have been allowed to gather dust, or whatever it is that used pieces of paper do once the page is turned and forgotten.

In this case, though, I wanted to see whether I could revise the lyric enough to allow a variation in rhythm, without changing the meaning, or allow for a different melody. (As I think I’ve stated in the past, I usually get the inspiration for the first line of a lyric, with the melody then following. As a result, the melody for any given lyric is a bit fluid.) I don’t know whether I’ve succeeded, but I think the resulting lyric is a bit stronger.

The Road – Redux

With the morning sun, I’ll be travelling on
So much I must do, and it’s time that I was gone
I gave you my love but never promised I would stay
So, with the morning sun, I’ll be on my way

But we still have tonight, one more night beneath the stars
Don’t think about tomorrow because tonight is ours
Hold me in your arms once more before I go
Don’t know where I am bound, but the road is all I know

When the bus pulls out tomorrow, you will be a memory
Though you must stay behind, you will always be with me
I know it’s hurting you knowing I’ll walk out that door
But I just can’t stay, so please don’t ask me any more

But we still have tonight, one more night beneath the stars
Don’t think about tomorrow because tonight is ours
Hold me in your arms once more before I go
Don’t know where I am bound, but the road is all I know

Don’t know where I am bound, but the road is all I know

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

This Message Brought To You By . . .

February 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

My lyrics typically tend to focus on relationships (real or imagined), though I occasionally attempt to venture into something a bit more topical. This is one of those times (an early warning for those of you disinclined to read such things).

As I try to filter the words and deeds of the past five weeks through my personal political mindset, I am reminded of a less than proud moment in American history from some sixty-five years ago.

I am referring to Joseph McCarthy, the then-junior Senator from Wisconsin and his one-man crusade against real and imagined enemies. McCarthy used half-truths, outright lies, fear, and distortion, succeeding in creating serious division in this country and, in the process, ruining dozens, if not hundreds of lives.

Personally, I see some real parallels between then and now, though I know some of you won’t agree with me. Just as the Red Scare of the 1950s led to the inclusion of God in the Pledge of Allegiance, so has the current Islamophobic climate led to a cry to return America to its status as a Christian, God-fearing nation. Never mind that America technically is not and cannot, Constitutionally speaking, ever be such.

I am certainly not saying that America does not have enemies. It does. Always has and always will. However, just as it was in McCarthy’s time, not everyone seen or perceived as an enemy is one.

The similarities between McCarthy’s time and now led me to realize that you could basically interchange parts and names between then and now almost seamlessly. (Today’s technological advances might be the one real difference between then and now.) That realization led to today’s offering. Joseph McCarthy is the central figure in my lyrics, but just about any of today’s central figures would work as well.

Business As Usual

There’s Joe again, he’s in the back room
Drawing up another list
Of the Commies in the government
Or maybe girls he wished he’d kissed

He has a knack for pointing fingers
And deflecting all the blame
I got to hand it to old Joe
He sure knows how to play the game

It’s just business as usual, nothing personal
But I’ve got a name to make
If I throw you under the bus or call your story fake
You can trust me, I will do anything it takes
But it’s just business as usual, nothing personal
And I’ve got a name to make

Good old McCarthy waves a paper
In his self-righteous hand
Says he’s got 200 names
Of people ruining this land

And just like Sherman through the South
With his scorched earth policy
Here comes old Joe, waving the flag
Laying waste to our liberty

The names and the faces
Well, they may change with time
But the voices, ever louder
Commit the same old crime
Trying to silence those who oppose
And resist the heavy hand
Look to divide and polarize
When it’s united we will stand

It’s just business as usual, nothing personal
But I’ve got a name to make
If I throw you under the bus or call your story fake
You can trust me, I will do anything it takes
But it’s just business as usual, nothing personal
And I’ve got a name to make

Yes, it’s just business as usual, nothing personal
And I’ve got a name to make

©2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

A Valentine For My Valentine

February 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

For some reason, when I write lyrics, I tend not to write very romantic songs. Many of my songs deal with love, but they do so from the other side of the coin, speaking to relationships that failed. I’m not sure why that is, seeing as how I’ve been married for 23 years and counting.

In other words, I don’t do mushy well, as my wife can attest. However, I thought I should try to write something for her for Valentine’s Day, especially as we decided not to get each other anything and help fill the coffers of the greeting card or jewelry industries. (Also, since I wrote this, it technically isn’t “getting” her anything. See how I did that?)

In writing this, I knew I also did not want the lyrics to come across as syrupy or saccharine. Having recently been listening to music with more clever turns of phrase, I decided I wanted to try something a bit more poetic. Let me know if I came close.

These lyrics do take some poetic license, but hopefully that is to be expected. For the sake of vocalization, my wife’s name is pronounced in the lyrics as teh-ray-sah rather than its normal pronunciation of tuh-ree-sah.

NOTE: Edited to correct some typos and other weirdness in the lyrics.

Sister Teresa

The patience of a saint, the temper of a sailor
My heart is in prison, and she is my jailer
She can go ahead and throw away the key
‘Cause I never want to be set free

A smile to warm my heart, a look to stop a train
Even when she’s gone, she is still inside my brain
Haven’t ever done enough to make her stay
But she’s the holy heart to which I pray

Sister Teresa, watch over me
Keep me safe from the coming storm
I look to you to help me make it through
Save me from the demons of the night and keep me warm

Sits like the Madonna, angelic in repose
Just what she is thinking there’s nobody knows
I gladly sacrifice myself upon her cross
If she left, how would I stand the loss

I lay my heart there at her altar
And hope she’ll take my sacrifice
Small recompense for what she’s given
Her love is gold at any price

Sister Teresa, watch over me
Keep me safe from the coming storm
I look to you to help me make it through
Save me from the demons of the night and keep me warm

Sister Teresa, won’t you save me from the storm

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Inspiration From The Greatness of Others

February 10, 2017 § 1 Comment

We are social creatures by nature, even though many of us often prefer and seek out solitude. Because of that, we are at some level influenced by the words and actions of those around us.

It seems to me it is no different for those of us who write, whether we be poets, novelists, or songwriters. We read or listen to the works of others, and whether consciously or unconsciously, we pick up things and ideas from those other works. The challenge is not to absorb so much that your own work becomes a carbon copy of theirs.

In the case of today’s entry, I was inspired by two great songwriters, Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan. Lightfoot’s first big song, “Early Morning Rain” (a 1965 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary) was the primary influence, though Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” was also floating in and out of my mind.

The working melody is a variation on Lightfoot’s melody for “Early Morning Rain” (a song which has itself changed slightly in melody depending on the arrangement). The theme is closer to that of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” though in my lyric she is not really the reason for his leaving. The title, though, could probably use some work.

The Road

When the sun comes up tomorrow, I guess I’ll be traveling on
There’s so much I should be doing, and it’s time that I was gone
I’ve enjoyed the nights we’ve had, but I never promised I would stay
And when the sun comes up tomorrow, that’s when I’ll be on my way

But we still have tonight, one more night beneath the stars
No matter what may come this night will still be ours
Let me hold you in my arms one more time before I go
Not quite sure where I am bound, but the road is all I know

When the bus pulls out tomorrow you’ll be but a memory
Though I’m leaving you behind, you will always be with me
I know that it’s hurting you knowing I’ll walk out that door
But you know that I can’t stay so please don’t ask me anymore

But we still have tonight, one more night beneath the stars
No matter what may come this night will still be ours
Let me hold you in my arms one more time before I go
Not quite sure where I am bound, but the road is all I know

Not quite sure where I am bound, but the road is all I know

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Seeking the Muse in the Mundane

February 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

I stopped counting a long time ago, but if I had to guess, I would say I have written lyrics for some 1, 400 songs. And the lyrics and the ideas keep coming.

I say that not to brag, because most of those 1,400 songs are bad, but to illustrate the fact I am almost always looking for inspiration, almost always looking to write. Sometimes, ideas will even come to me as I am trying to go to sleep.

For me, the key is not just to find inspiration all around you, but to look for inspiration all around you. I find my inspiration in events, words, actions, faces, even a snowflake. Yes, a snowflake.

I was doing dishes the other day and looking out the kitchen window when I happened to see a giant snowflake falling. For some reason, the snowflake reminded me of ash, as if there were a fire burning nearby, and the wind happened to catch some of the ash and blow it my way.

As soon as that image came into my head, I had my first line, and I was off and running (or at least writing – I never was much of a runner). With these lyrics, I am also trying to work on brevity and allowing the gaps and the silences to add and fill. Enjoy!

Turn The Clock

The snow is falling like ashes from a burning memory
And in the distance I hear the echoes of you calling me
The skies are threatening to rain down all their sorrows and I can see
That things have changed, and I can’t turn the clock to how it used to be

The air is freezing; I can see the sadness in the frost
And on the sidewalks each icy footstep tells me what was lost
The nights remind me that you’re gone, and I’m still paying the cost
‘Cause things have changed, and I can’t turn the clock to how it used to be

Time only dulls, it doesn’t heal
And though the pain is now an ache, it’s just as real

(Instrumental)

The days seem longer now I’m on my own, but I’m not really free
Things have changed, and I can’t turn the clock to how it used to be
Things have changed, and I can’t turn the clock to how it used to be
Things have changed, and I can’t turn the clock to how it used to be

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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