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View Diary: Books Go Boom!   Bob Dylan's Birthday: Are Rock Lyrics Poetry? (243 comments)

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  •  More generally: (11+ / 0-)

    I find that few rock songs manage to sustain their poetic promise from start to finish; I'm more likely to be struck by just a phrase or couplet that is especially evocative.

    The screen door slams
    Mary's dress waves
    Comes a time when you're driftin'
    Comes a time when you settle down
    Comes a light
    Feelin's lifting
    Lift that baby right up off the ground ...
    Now I act like I don't remember,
    and Mary acts like she don't care.
    I hardly slept, the night you wept
    Your secret's safe, and still well-kept
    Sailing hardships through broken harbors
    Out on the waves in the night
    Or are they heart-ships? The internet cannot decide ... and I'm too lazy to dig out my Neil songbook and remind myself. I don't even remember what I used to think.
    Eighty feet of the waterline
    nicely making way
    (I've always thought it was "on the waterline", but the intertubes almost unanimously disagree. My own sailing knowledge suggests that tubes are wrong, but I cower before the authority of the masses.)
    Delilah Jones went to meet her God
    And the old man never was the same again
    I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again
    But that's not unusual
    It's just that the moon was full
    And you happened to call
    (in a great moment of meta, this song, her most powerful lyric ever -- because, I presume, her most true -- explicitly observes, "My poetry was lousy, you said,")
    You get a shiver in the dark, it's raining in the park, but meantime ...
    And my conductress on the number nineteen
    She was a honey
    Pink toenails and hands all dirty with money
    Greasy greasy hair easy smile
    Made me feel nineteen for a while
    Juliet, when we made love you used to cry
    Diamond Jackie, she's so intact
    As she falls, so softly, beneath him
    War.
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing.
    I was a willow last night in a dream
    I bent down over a clear running stream
    I sang you the song that I heard up above
    And you kept me alive with your sweet flowing love
    Your beauty is familiar, your voice is like a key
    That opens up my heart, and torches up a fire inside of me.
    Your coat is made of magic, and around your table angels play
    And I will cry
    When ye go away

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Fri May 24, 2013 at 09:27:31 PM PDT

    •  Only six of them spring to mind - I'll come back (6+ / 0-)

      to figure out some of the others (with help from bing) in a while. But Wild West End is a great favorite of mine, and had already occurred to me this evening - it's such a fine marriage of lyrics and music into one mood, like Baker Street, which high uintas posted upthread.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri May 24, 2013 at 10:26:49 PM PDT

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    •  interesting that you mention Bruce (4+ / 0-)

      since his early stuff was obviously influenced by Dylan

      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:42:35 AM PDT

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    •  Which Neil are you talking about? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Monsieur Georges, Brecht

      Neil Diamond sucks (his songs all sound the same and the words suck). Neil Young, on the other hand, is a genius.

      "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

      by Dbug on Sat May 25, 2013 at 08:58:51 PM PDT

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    •  Phrase or couplet (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, Monsieur Georges
      I'm more likely to be struck by just a phrase or couplet that is especially evocative.
      Well, heck - isn't that what good poetry does?  

      Surely it is the special province of the poet to condense essential experience down to its simplest, most elegant expression - such as a couplet.  I would submit that that is the very thing that distinguishes between a clever lyric and actual poetry.  Especially when those phrases or couplets come to you unbidden, outside of the context in which you first encountered them.  

      Think about the sorts of people who pass that particular test (if you want to accept it as a test.)  How about a fella went by the name of Shakespeare?

       In fact, it was a Dylan lyric that first made me aware of this.  When I was  a teenager, a friend of mine quoted Tangled Up In Blue to describe the beginnings of a recently-failed relationship:  "I helped her out of a jam, I guess, but I used a little too much force."  Before that, I had only thought of that line as interesting.  Hearing him apply it to the real world - and take some solace from it - made me realize it was profound.

      When you punch enough holes through steerage, the first-class cabins sink with the rest of the ship.

      by Roddy McCorley on Sat May 25, 2013 at 09:56:01 PM PDT

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      •  There's an apt Dylan quote for 9 experiences out (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Monsieur Georges

        of 10. It seems to me.

        But to live outside the law you must be honest

        You do what you must do, and you do it well

        Either I'm too sensitive, or else I'm getting soft

        But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now

        The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure, to live it you have to explode

        He not busy being born is busy dying

        If I'd lived my life by what others were thinkin', the heart inside me would've died

        An I say, "Aw come on now, you must know about my debutante." An she says, "Your debutante just knows what you need, but I know what you want."

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Sat May 25, 2013 at 11:09:37 PM PDT

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      •  well, yes -- my point being that "good poetry" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Monsieur Georges

        implies that you've filtered out the chaff before releasing the poem. many rock lyrics contain some excellent poetry, embedded in a some stuff that is either very bad poetry, or (in the eyes of some folks) not poetry at all.

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Sun May 26, 2013 at 10:45:48 AM PDT

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