Born Out Of Collaboration

September 7, 2017 § Leave a comment

In my most recent post, I mentioned having breakfast with a fellow songwriter and discussing Jimmy Webb. We kicked around a few ideas and talked about trying to do something together.

The two of us worked on an idea and sent proposed rewrites back and forth. After several days of exchanging emails, suggested lyrics, and suggested edits, he wanted to try taking the song in a new direction.

Since I felt I had nothing more to contribute to that particular lyrical journey, I decided to return to the initial idea. I scrapped the lines we had been working on and rewrote some of what I had proposed. This effort fits into the same lives of quiet desperation theme I was exploring in my last post.

The title, I suppose, is modeled after Jackson Browne’s The Pretender. The lyrics, though they may slightly echo the underlying theme of Browne’s song, are completely different. Please let me know what you think.

EDITED 9-8-2017 to reflect minor lyric changes in first verse made to accommodate a change in the music and rhythm.

The Collector

He sifts through the wreckage of thrown away lives looking for some kind of clue
Through shredded papers and empty containers, trying to learn something new
Through the remains of the week that’s gone by, seeking some wisdom to share
But the tea leaves all tell him say The Collector is going nowhere

He hears the clock alarm at four a.m., exploding there in the dark
Ten minutes later, defeated, he rises, last night’s beer leaving its mark
His truck is cold, and he feels the chill; three tries, the engine won’t start
In the dark, The Collector looks for the fire in his heart

His days are spent amongst lives thrown away
Unwanted memories his stock in trade
Reads in the eggshells and coffee grounds
And sees all the choices we’ve made

After work, it’s a beer down at the bar; the smell like an old set of clothes
Nobody wants to get too close; he tells himself that’s how it goes
His hands have been through each of their lives, a ringmaster who’s never seen
There’s a thirst he can’t quench, but nobody knows what he means

Daily, he sees the bad and the good and knows there’s a fine line between
The Collector’s a modern-day Jesus washing us clean

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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Lives of Quiet Desperation

September 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

I recently had breakfast with a fellow songwriter, and among other things, we discussed collaborating and songwriting legend Jimmy Webb. As our conversation progressed, we discussed Webb’s masterpiece “Wichita Lineman,” a song that Webb says was uncompleted with he gave it to Glen Campbell for consideration. After Campbell recorded his now iconic version of the song, it remained “unfinished.”

Our conversation about how Webb could write such a song about what is basically an everyday job got us to thinking about trying to do something along the same lines. That song is still a work in progress, but that effort got me thinking about trying to write some lyrics that point in a related direction, to people who don’t stand out and lives that haven’t turned out as hoped.

So far, I have a couple of songs that fit that theme, with a third in progress. While a lot of my songs are personal and are written from a first-person perspective, all of these are written from the point of view of someone else looking in.

I don’t know yet if I will share all three songs when the third is finished, though I suspect I will if I think they’re all halfway decent. In the meantime, here is the first such effort.

Dark Moon Rising

Johnny sits in the dark
And thinks about the things he’s missed
Everything he’s never done
And every girl he’s never kissed
Johnny’s thinking ’bout packing up
Packing it in, and heading south
His courage slips with every sip
From the glass he holds there in his fist

Dark moon rising, storm on the horizon
Emotions like a lightning strike
Flash and then they’re gone, but there’s no moving on
Nothing better coming down the pike

Johnny looks at the ring
On the table from the glass in his hand
Wonders where the mistake was made
Why things didn’t go the way he planned
Did he want it too much, not enough
Or was it simply bad luck?
He doesn’t move with the fortunate few
But with the unlucky damned

Johnny thought he had the answers
Until fate finally took him to task
Pride can be an awful thing
If you don’t know which questions to ask

Johnny sits it the dark
And thinks about the choices made
In his drink-filtered memory
He thinks about the debts he hasn’t paid
Wonders what it’s like to feel on top
To feel ahead, to know success
A poor old sod, he seeks another god
To whom he should have prayed

Dark moon rising, storm on the horizon
Emotions like a lightning strike
Flash and then they’re gone, but there’s no moving on
Nothing better coming down the pike

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Not Going Gentle Into That Good Night

August 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

First off, my apologies to Dylan Thomas. On the other hand, since today’s entry deals with getting older and resisting getting old, it seems appropriate.

As an older songwriter who now qualifies for AARP and discounted coffee at Denny’s, I sometimes struggle with feeling relevant in my writing and in my life. There are times when I would like to slow things down a bit or maybe just pick up and go, but the fact that I am more prolific lyrically than an almost any other time in my life tells me that maybe I still have things to say.

I sometimes wonder whether more successful songwriters and musicians struggle with these feeling as they get older. Do they ask themselves if the creative fires still burn, or are they content to simply go out and play the hits night after night.

Having never had a hit or written a hit song myself, it isn’t a question I can answer. I’d like to think, though, that I would resist the temptation that Rod Stewart has apparently had to remake one of his hits with a new backing group. The notion of a 72-year old re-recording (let alone singing) “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” is, quite frankly, something that may well give me nightmares at some point.

On the other hand, I suppose Sir Rod is also channeling his inner Dylan Thomas. Deciding to re-record one of his biggest (and most criticized) hits is decidedly not going gentle “into that good night” and probably qualifies as raging “against the dying of the light.” It is in that spirit that today’s entry, a straightforward rocker, was written.

I Ain’t Dead Yet

When you look at me, tell me what do you see
Some broken down old man?
I may not move quite as fast as I used to
But I’m going just as fast as I can

These days, I stop to smell the roses
I stop to read the signs
I may not be the sharpest tool in the box
But I can read between the lines

I never claimed to be a know-it-all
Once in a while, I forget
But buddy, I’m here to tell you I ain’t dead yet

I know you’re thinking that I’ve had my day
And I should step aside
Well, who went and left you in charge of everything
Has somebody gone and died?

I know you think that I have lost a step
And maybe that is true
But I’ve still got a lot more fight in me
And you’ll find it out before I’m through

I know that you think you have the edge
But I’m prepared to take that bet
“Cause buddy, I’m here to tell you I ain’t dead yet

(guitar and/or harmonica solo)

I ain’t leaving; I’m still breathing
Feel I still got something to prove
I’m not giving in to age
Time can’t catch me if I stay on the move

Just because I’m older, doesn’t mean I’m done
I’ve still got a lot to say
Maybe you think that I should step aside
But I won’t let time get in the way

I may have a few more aches and pains
And I might move a little slow
But when it comes time for action
You’d best believe I’ll be ready to go

If you dare to take me for granted
That’s a choice you’re gonna regret
So buddy, get out of my way; I ain’t dead yet

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Work in Progress or Finished Product?

August 6, 2017 § 1 Comment

A few days ago, I posted an entry offering up lyrics inspired by events from my childhood. For the most part, I was pleased with what I had come up with. However, there were a few lines that didn’t quite fit and did not seem to resonate with the rest of the song.

I went back and made an initial revision, which improves things somewhat. However, I still wasn’t completely satisfied with the end result. So, I took yet another stab at polishing up the lyrics.  (Even as I began writing this entry, I made yet one more change.) I don’t know yet if this will end up being the final product, but I do think it is improved over the original version. I hope you agree.

Music Saved My Soul

The music was my shelter
From angry voices coming down the hall
Angelic, those records
Every time they played, I’d heed their call

Black circles spinning ’round
At 45 or 33 and a third
Kept me from losing hope
I found my church in the notes I heard

In my darkness, the music found me
I let those sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My gospel readings came from every track
Of every album I had in my stack
And while it could never make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

From Sinatra to The Beatles
And every song in between
I found salvation in every note
The music washed me clean

A cheap hi-fi was my altar
I knelt before that heavenly sound
My bedroom was my church
That turntable was sacred ground

Those discs were hypnotizing
Healing me as they went ’round and around
I was lifted up by angels
Every time I heard their sound

In my darkness, the music found me
I let those sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My gospel readings came from every track
Of every album I had in my stack
And while it could never make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

Maybe music couldn’t make me whole
But I know it damn sure saved my soul

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

If A Blog Posts In The Forest

August 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’ll admit it. I’m stumped. I guess I don’t know how to get my music out there. At the very least, I don’t seem to be able to get anyone (aside from the occasional friend) to comment on the lyrics I post here on this blog.

I’ve never claimed to be the best songwriter currently writing (or even the best songwriter currently writing that no one has heard of). On the other hand, I do think what I write is better than the lyrics of many of the songs one can hear on commercial radio.

Perhaps lyrics don’t matter, although that is much like saying words don’t matter.Which is to say that language and communication don’t matter. I hope that isn’t true because if it is, then I have lived too long.

That frustration provided the initial inspirational spark for these lyrics, although they quickly took off in a different direction, although some of the frustration I felt when I first started to write these lyrics still comes through.

White Flag

Are you listening? Can you hear me?
What else do I have to say?
Tried to touch you; tried to reach you
There’s always something in the way

You barricade yourself behind a wall that I can’t see
You look as if I have become the enemy
Not sure what I can do to change the way you look at me
It’s something beyond my control

I’ll wave a white flag in surrender
‘Cause I don’t know what else to do
I’ve done everything I can think of
The next move is up to you

(four chord step down instrumental)

I’ve been speaking, but you weren’t listening
Guess I shouldn’t be surprised
You looked through me like a stranger
Your apathy was not disguised

You act like I have changed when you’re the one who’s different now
I wish I could break through, but I just don’t know how
It feels as if I’m being forced to take a final bow
Or say goodbye to my soul

I’m like a bird with a broken wing
Can’t seem to get up off the ground
Wondering if I should just stop trying
Go quietly without a sound

I’ll wave a white flag in surrender
‘Cause I don’t know what else to do
I’ve done everything I can think of
The next move is up to you

I’ll wave a white flag in surrender
‘Cause I don’t know what else to do
I’ve done everything I can think of
The next move is up to you

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Digging Through The Pile

July 28, 2017 § 2 Comments

For years, I struggled to deal with some of the events, memories, and traumas of my childhood. I won’t go into a litany of what those were, but I will say that the two constants for me growing up were books and music.

Books allowed me to escape for hours at a time from the horror that I felt was my reality. I would open a book and dream of living in the world described in its pages. I sometimes did this even to the point of fantasizing of a similar life for myself, projecting it out years into the future.

Music served a similar purpose. If I was down or upset or even on the few occasions I felt happy, music was my touchstone, my safe harbor. From Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra to Blood, Sweat, and Tears and David Bowie to John Denver and Barry Manilow, music and especially the lyrics allowed me to get outside myself to a place where things were more constant, more peaceful, more joyful.

The lyrical side of music also because a place for self-expression, a chance to work through various thoughts, feelings, and events in my life. I wrote my first lyrics a little before my 19th birthday. Lyric writing became my form of journaling.

Over time, most of my lyrics have moved away from such self-absorbed content and have drawn inspiration from the things I see and hear around me. Lately, though, I have felt compelled to try to better examine and deal with some of my own experiences while also challenging myself to make those experiences and memories perhaps a bit more accessible for others, something my earliest lyrics likely did not do.

In a way, music was my church growing up, an idea I had never really explored in my lyrics. Until now. Please let me know what you think.

The Music Saved My Soul

The music, my shelter
From angry voices coming down the hall
I knew if I stumbled
That I wouldn’t have far to fall

Black circles spinning
At 45 or 33 and a third
Kept me from losing hope
I found my church in the notes I heard

In my darkness, the music found me
I let the sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My Gospel reading came from every track
Of every album I had in my stack
And while it couldn’t ever make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

From The Beatles to Sinatra
And all the songs in-between
I found salvation in their words
The music washed me clean

A cheap hi-fi, my altar
I knelt before that heavenly sound
My bedroom was my church
That turntable was sacred ground

Those discs were hypnotizing
Healing me as they went round and round
I was lifted up by angels
Every time I heard their sound

In my darkness, the music found me
I let the sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My Gospel reading came from every track
Of every album I had in my stack
And while it couldn’t ever make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

Maybe music couldn’t ever make me whole
But I know music damn sure saved my soul

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Riding The Blues Train

June 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

Every so often, I like to try my hand at writing a blues lyric. Based on an earlier effort that incorporated a good deal of religious imagery (edited to reflect some changes), I decided I wanted to write something that incorporated the religious notion of giving thanks. For some reason, I also hit upon the metaphor of love as a train.

Say Amen

I saw the proof, I learned the truth
And then, I caught you in a lie
Make no mistake, my heart won’t break
Because I’m telling you goodbye

You can pack your things and get off this train
‘Cause it won’t be stopping here again
I looked for sunshine, all you brought was rain
When you’re gone, I’ll give thanks
And say Amen

Just save your lies, your alibis
‘Cause they don’t mean a thing to me
No memories, no saying please
My eyes are open, and they see

This train’s about to leave the station
And it won’t be coming back again
I’ll say goodbye without hesitation
And when you’re gone, I’ll give thanks
And say Amen

I’ve given all I have
There’s nothing left for you to take
Falling for you was not my first
But it’s my biggest mistake

Closing the file, after a while
I know my heart will start to mend
But after you and all you put me through
It’ll be some time before I love again

You can pack your things and get off this train
‘Cause it won’t be stopping here again
I looked for sunshine, all you brought was rain
When you’re gone, I’ll give thanks
And say Amen

When you’re gone, I’ll give thanks
And say Amen

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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