Writing For Prine Time . . . Sort Of

October 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

When I was a much younger lyricist, I would occasionally attempt to write a parody lyric to an existing tune or a humorous lyric. I won’t share any of those efforts here because they were feeble at best and at worst were simply atrocious.

Over the last year or so, my wife (and arranger) has subtly and not-so-subtly suggested I should try to write a funny song since so many of my lyrics tend to be serious. It just so happens that we are also fans of the incomparable John Prine.

Prine, in addition to poignant classics such as Angel From Montgomery, Hello In There, and Paradise, has been know to write songs with a touch of humor and whimsy, such as Dear Abby, and Illegal Smile. I won’t claim that my effort in any way compares with either of those songs, but I will say they planted the seed for my lyric, which is centered on a current famous television talk show host and now television series executive producer who is also a retired psychologist. Let me know what you think.

Dr. Phil

I’ll never be skinny, I’ll never be smart
I’ve never been handsome or much good at art
Some have said my life’s been wasted at times
I’m happy if sloth is the worst of my crimes

I’m just a man, do the best that I can
Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan
When I get so I don’t know what to do
Those are the times when I look to you

Dr. Phil, won’t you give me a sign
A piece of advice that I know’s only mine
I’m gonna lay it all right on the line
Dr. Phil, please, won’t you tell me I’m fine

I wet the bed until I was sixteen
Dr. Phil, tell me please, what does that mean
Am I a sicko, a weirdo, or freak
Or is it just a sign of my mystique

I’m just a guy doesn’t always know why
I can’t explain it, as hard as I try
When I am faced with a difficult choice
I turn on my TV, listen for your voice

Dr. Phil, won’t you give me a sign
A piece of advice that I know’s only mine
I’m gonna lay it all right on the line
Dr. Phil, please, won’t you tell me I’m fine

I’m just a soul who isn’t quite whole
I’m always coming up short of my goal
When I am overcome by doubt and fear
There is just one voice that I want to hear

Dr. Phil, won’t you give me a sign
A piece of advice that I know’s only mine
I’m gonna lay it all right on the line
Dr. Phil, please, won’t you tell me I’m fine

Dr. Phil, please, won’t you tell me I’m fine

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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Getting Political . . . Sort Of

October 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

If you have women friends and are engaged on social media, chances are you have seen the numerous posts with the comment or the hashtag of “Me Too.” For those unfamiliar with this trending topic, the comment/hashtag is intended to make people aware of and call attention to the incidence of sexual harassment and sexual abuse of women in this country and around the world.

Note that just as the Black Lives Matter movement is not intended to say white lives don’t matter, this current social effort is not meant to say that men never get sexually harassed or abused. They do, but men tend to have more of a voice and are more likely statistically to be the harasser/abuser than the harassed/abused.

Today’s entry was not inspired by the #metoo movement (I guess you can call it that), but I think it fits in with it and with much of what we see and hear around us today. All around us, there are people who tell us to unite and to give our leaders a chance. To not protest injustices, at least not in the manner in which people may be protesting.

It is as if the unspoken message is “don’t rock the boat” or that things could be worse. There are many people who like things as they are or who want to return to a “simpler time,” not that the time they envisioned actually ever existed. The lyric below taps into that sentiment in a slightly satirical way, though it is presented seriously.

The song itself is in 3/4 time and has a bit of a rolling, not quite sing-song feel to it. The verses have a bit of a step-down quality to them, as does the refrain, though it goes a bit higher than the verses, as if to imply a bit of desperation on the part of the singer, who does not want the outside world to impose on his insulated world. Let me know what you think.

Ignorance Is Bliss

Here in my neighborhood, nothing much happens
Things stay the same day-to-day
I live in my bubble; I stay out of trouble
The world never gets in the way

I don’t read the papers; I don’t watch the news
I never get angry or suffer the blues
I never take sides, so I don’t have to choose
And I never have much to say

When it comes down to it, I walk the middle line
Don’t follow trends and I don’t look for signs
When I am pressured to take a position
I recall one thing, it’s this — ignorance is bliss

We get along ’cause we all look the same
When there’s trouble, there’s somebody else we can blame
We look at politics like some game we never play

My neighbors are friendly and don’t ask for trouble
They  look and act just like me
They don’t talk ’bout politics or problems they can’t fix
Evil — they don’t hear or see

We talk about fences and good neighbors made
And whether that oak tree will give enough shade
We line up each year for the Christmas parade
And live harmoniously

When it comes down to it, I walk the middle line
Don’t follow trends and I don’t look for signs
When I am pressured to take a position
I recall one thing, it’s this — ignorance is bliss

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Digging Through The Files

October 13, 2017 § 1 Comment

I’m not sure what your desk looks like, but mine is a mess: scraps of paper everywhere, a stack of CDs, a stuffed penguin (ostensibly a Christmas decoration never put away, I leave him out because the penguin is also the symbol of Linux, which is what I run on my computer), and a stuffed Grumpy Cat.

In and amongst those items, there are also a couple of notebooks in which I have written lyrics over the last year or so. Actually, one of the notebooks was meant for a class my son was auditing, but I ended up writing one set of lyrics in it, the set I will be sharing today.

As I’ve stated before, my writing tends to be more straightforward, relying on word choice and rhyme scheme as opposed to simile and metaphor. Real life, in a sense, as opposed to poetic representation.

On the other hand, I’ve always wished I could write like Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan (who hasn’t?), and I occasionally allow my thoughts and words to meander in their direction. How successfully, I can’t say.

I actually began writing this while waiting for my son’s class to begin. I finished the lyric over the next couple of days and then revised the order of the verses. It is as close to writing a poem as I get these days. It might be a trifle overindulgent, but I think I like it. Let me know what you think.

Vampire Love

In the darkness of the soul
That hides the coldness of the heart
There lies the ashes of a fire that,
Now dead, burned bright at the start
Joining us together
Like an alloy fused to steel
White hot in the beginning
The temporal nature not revealed

In the quiet of the bedroom
In the stillness of the night
I lie awake remembering when
Love’s flames were still alight
Joined as one, two hearts
Together, intertwined
High above this earthly plane
We dared to reach for the Divine

Now, the witching hour
Our desire feeds the gods above
Consumed in passion’s fire
Victims of this vampire love

Now we both are falling
But no longer into love
No longer safely bound
Like a hand inside a glove
What God once joined together
Has now been torn apart
Now the baying hounds of Hell
Wait to feast upon our hearts

What was once a form of love
Has now morphed into hate
Trying to repent
But realizing it’s too late
Each of us is thinking
That we have the upper hand
Meanwhile, what we shared
Now disappears beneath the sand

Now, the witching hour
Our desire feeds the gods above
Consumed in passion’s fire
Victims of this vampire love

Eros now is laughing
At the discord here below
Aphrodite waits
As the tears begin to flow
Into rivers of regret
Destined to grow into a flood
Threatening to wash away the bonds
That we both signed in blood

Charon waits to ferry us
Across the River Styx
There to bury this love
That we can no longer fix
As the threads unravel
And we dine on our regret
We’re left with the scars unseen
That won’t let us forget

Now, the witching hour
Our desire feeds the gods above
Consumed in passion’s fire
Victims of this vampire love

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

A Milestone Of Sorts

October 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Today’s entry marks the 150th post on this blog. For someone who has trouble at times sticking with anything (gym memberships, guitar lessons when I first bought my guitar 25 years ago, and so on), this seems like a big (well, maybe a medium) deal for me.

I went back to where it all started in June of 2014 and noted that, with the exception of September, 2014, I have managed at least one post in every month of this blog’s existence. Some months have had only a single post or two while other months, such as this one, have been chock full.

In addition to noting the consistency with which I have been able to maintain and add material, I think I can safely say that my lyrics have generally gotten better. Part of that is, I’m sure, due to focusing a bit more on it. Part of it is also, I’m sure, chalked up to additional life experience. In other words, the passage of time.

To mark that passage of time (both in terms of the blog and in terms of life itself), today’s entry offers up a lyric that takes perhaps a melancholy look at time and opportunities passed by.

Another

Another leaf falls — another day ends
Another sun sets and I lose track of another friend
The road’s much longer behind me
The end I almost can see
But there’s so many dreams and places
I still hope to be

Another line crossed — another bridge burned
Another day gone past the point of no return
So much in my rear-view mirror
But there’s no turning around
On this one-way road from
Super nova to the ground

Another chance gone
Another thought moving on
Another regret at being just another pawn

Another hello — another goodbye
Another excuse not to have to wonder why
Things never worked out the way I planned
Something I never could fix
Trying to build up a life
But I ran out of bricks

I shouldn’t think of what might have been
Easy to fall in that trap
Sometimes another chance
Doesn’t fall into your lap

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Feeling Rhythmic

October 10, 2017 § Leave a comment

I would venture to say that most of the songs written today, as well as most of the songs ever written, have dealt with love and relationships in one form or another. I know most of mine have and do.

Of late, much of what I’ve written has made a deliberate effort to keep the melody and the rhythm fairly simple, an attempt at folk-style songwriting, if you will. Today’s entry is different.

I don’t write jazz, per se, as my music writing chops are not that well-developed. Occasionally, though, I like to try to mix things up a bit.

Today’s entry offers up another relationship song but with a bit of a syncopated, jazz lounge feel in the verses. I also can hear (in my head) space for an archtop guitar to take a solo, riffing off of the verses. The song has a bridge but no chorus, instead using a repeating line at the end of each verse. Hope you like it.

(It’s A Thin Line) Between Love and Hate

You get on he nerves, she gets on your back
Each day, a dance of retreat and attack
A pas de deux of hurry up and wait
It’s a thin line between love and hate

Feels like what you do is never enough
You threaten to leave, but she calls your bluff
You move toward the door, but you hesitate
It’s a thin line between love and hate

Two sides of the same coin
Just like day follows night
You stumble through her darkness
So you can stand there in her light

She can burn so hot and then run so cold
Sometimes, she is mild, but her love is so bold
Jekyll or Hyde, you’re never sure which state
It’s a thin line between love and hate

(INSTRUMENTAL)

Two sides of the same coin
Just like day follows night
You stumble through her darkness
So you can stand there in her light

She holds you right in the palm of her hand
Though she does things that you don’t understand
With a look you never can equate
It’s a thin line between love and hate

It’s a thin line between love and hate

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Looking Out To Look Within

October 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’ve discussed on several occasions the fact that I am lucky enough to be able to draw inspiration in multiple ways. It can come from something I hear, something I read, or something I see. In the case of today’s effort, the inspiration came from something I did not see.

I happened to be sitting in an armchair in my living room and looking out our front window. The trees have started changing color, the temperatures have begun to cool, the wind has picked up, and Mother Nature has begun her journey from autumn to winter.

Looking out my window, I wasn’t really seeing any of that. Instead, I was struck by the mental image of someone moving from middle age to Senior Citizen status who didn’t attempt or achieve all (or many) of the things he set out to do and instead settled every step of the way.

Once that image was in my head, I knew I would have to write about it. The song is in 3/4 time (in my head, anyway). Hope you like it. DISCLAIMER: This song has nothing whatsoever to do with Kim Jong-un.

Little Man

He sits in his little room, living his little life
Dreaming of breaking away
Longing for something to break up the pattern
Of yet one more little day

Knowing he’s inconsequential
A speck on a dot on the map
His life is too small to matter
Who’d know if he was to snap?

He’s a little man, living small
If you could say that he’s living at all
He’s an afterthought, an also-ran
A little lost, this little man

He sits at his little desk working his little job
Thinks of where he’s rather be
Wishing for once that he had the strength
To fly away or put out to sea

Thinking that his life was over
Before it ever began
Wondering if he can outgrow
This little life as a little man

Little life full of little dreams
In his little world, coming apart at the seams
He can feel his little grip slowly slipping away

He lays in his little bed dreaming his little dreams
Knows tomorrow will be the same
Wishes he had a clue as to who made the rules
To this one-sided little game

Feeling that nothing will ever change
But knowing that he can’t survive
Looking for something to tell him
So he’d know that he’s still alive

He’s a little man, living small
If you could say that he’s living at all
He’s an afterthought, an also-ran
A little lost, this little man

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

From Insomnia Comes . . .

October 7, 2017 § Leave a comment

The other night, I work up a little before 2:30 in the morning. (The reason might come under the heading of too much information.) Despite having gone to bed just four hours earlier, I could not go back to sleep. So I did what any self-respecting songwriter (or masochist) would do. I got up.

I sat up for a little while check email, reading news, doing various things to take my mind off the fact that I was wide awake while everyone else in the house was fast asleep. Then I began to put pen to paper. (ASIDE: I don’t know why I write in pen rather than pencil or on computer. I suppose the words seem more real and the changes seem more permanent in pen than in pencil while allowing me to also see what was there before – in case I change my mind back.)

This song is a little different from a lot of what I write, I think. For instance, while not overloaded with imagery, the lyrics do contain some specific little word pictures. I like some of the turns of phrase, as well. (I won’t spoil it here; you’ll just need to read on.) I hope you do, too. Please let me know what you think.

In Every Room

2 a.m. – couldn’t sleep – cold on your side of the bed
I’ve lost count of the days, but it’s been oh, so long
Told me that you needed space and time to clear your head
I do my best, but without you, I’m just not that strong
(instrumental)

Your old sweater – still where you left it
The hole you planned to mend there on display
Shed like a second skin – like us, not a perfect fit
You said you had to go – I guess it had to stay

In every room, I find a piece you’ve left behind
Every breath I take only serves to remind
The air we shared, now mine alone
But it seems colder now –

Half of a pair, not much at all
You were the calm to soothe my raging sea
It feels as if I must capsize
Without you here to steady me

I sit by the front door – I watch and wait
But it doesn’t open, and I feel a fool
If you were to cast a line, I would rise to take the bait
A pain that keeps on giving – love can be so cruel

In every room, I find a piece you’ve left behind
Every breath I take only serves to remind
The air we shared, now mine alone
But it seems colder now –
But it seems colder now –
But it seems colder now _
Yes, it seems colder now

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.