In a Blue Minor Key

Man alone looking at waterHere in blogland I may not have mentioned that I’m working with one of my brothers on a musical. Since my musical ability is, ahm…not expansive, my brother is writing the music. At my brother’s request, I wrote the play (called “Spinning Addie”) in which to insert the songs, based on his idea, and I’ve also written the lyrics to all but one of the songs. It’s been fun, but the coolest thing is that it looks like he will manage to get this staged. He’s got people who have agreed to play all the roles, along with others who are doing whatever it takes to put on a show, I don’t know, make popcorn, and—most amazing to me—two theaters have put this show on their calendar for next year. They’re small theaters in small towns, but still, since I ain’t nobody, I’m glad about it.

Writing these song lyrics, which I mostly did while I was living back in Washington, DC, was quite a different experience from the poetry I’ve done. When I imitate real poets, I generally follow the twentieth-century trend in English poetry, in which you do whatever the hell you want, and it’s a poem because you said so. (I know, real poets don’t say that, but I’m not one.)

For the lyrics, which came first, knowing that he had to put music to them, I required myself most of the time to use some kind of regular meter, and I often carefully counted syllables and noted where the stress fell. For song interest, I also made a point of using various rhyme schemes. It was quite challenging but a pleasant diversion to work within those strictures.

This lyrical experience carried me into writing words for two more songs, not intended for our show, but hoping eventually my brother will put my other songs to music as well. I’m a great admirer of music from the Big Band era, torch music, and so on, anything Ella Fitzgerald would sing. There are songs from that era that want to be hopeful, that want to believe happiness is possible, but they’ve lived too long in the world and slip off into jaded cynicism. I like that.

That’s what I’m trying to do with the lyrics below. I’ll say something about format on this song. It has two verses and chorus, repeated three times, and for interest I used a slight variation on the chorus in the middle. The first two verses are a personal point of view from the “narrator”, about his own experience. The middle two verses are supposed to be more abstract, moving away from the narrator to other people. The final two verses I wanted to make more abstract still, with a more general statement about life. I also worked pretty hard to try to use an interesting rhyme once in a while, not just a bunch of moon-June.

The Wrong Man, Once Again

A hint of smile, a lifted brow,
all past failures disavowed.
You like movies? So do I.
And you like your humor dry?

I have to say you’re cute and funny.
You think rhubarb pie is yummy,
once you sailed the Baltic Sea—
look how perfect we must be.

It’s an old and tragic story,
sad, forlorn, a little boring.
We meet, I fall in love, and then
I’m the wrong man, once again.

Someone walks into the room,
heartbeats stop and then resume.
Hope begins once more to dream,
flowers bloom and dark eyes gleam.

Boy meets girl and what a day!
Suddenly it’s not cliches.
Of course there is no guarantee,
But look how perfect we must be.

It’s an ancient, endless story,
sad, forlorn, a little boring.
We meet, I fall in love, and then,
my God, the wrong man, once again.

Fervor, passion, adulation,
from an innocent flirtation.
Laughing, smiling, telling jokes,
to learn that love is just a hoax.

Holding hands is rather nice,
but asking fate to roll the dice.
Love is like a bullet flying,
who it hits is slowly dying.

It’s an old and tragic story,
sad, forlorn, a little boring.
We meet, I fall in love, and then
I’m the wrong man, once again.


Filed under Writing While Living

2 responses to “In a Blue Minor Key

  1. I can hear Al Stewart singing this or maybe Leon Redbone. Nah, let’s sent it off to Tom Waits.

  2. David

    Tom Waits. Now that’s an interesting idea. I was thinking someone like Michael Bublé, but Tom Waits, that’s a catchy notion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s