Friday, December 02, 2011

Say it with music

by Jenna/Jennie

Every Christmas, I hear this song, and every time I hear it, I tear up all over again.

I don't want to start a religious discussion, since those are not allowed here on the Working Stiffs, but the lyrics are extremely powerful. I suppose if you're not a Christian, it's just another song, but for anyone who believes that Jesus was the son of God, and especially anyone who's ever given birth to a child and held that child and kissed it... the question of what Mary must have felt when holding her baby boy is irresistibly compelling.

Songwriting is a discipline I've never been able to master. I can write. Sometimes, my sentences even approach brilliance. Or maybe I won't go quite that far, but once in a while, I manage to string words together into something that makes me happy, maybe even a little delirious. Most of the time I just write plain sentences, though. They say what I want them to say, in the best way I can say it, and they're perfectly serviceable. But every so often, on a rare blue moon, the stars align and the words come together in a way that comes off the page.

That's how I feel about a really good songwriter. The words are perfect; the kind that give me chills when I hear them.

There are authors out there who can do the same thing, of course. A friend of mine is a great admirer of Tim Hallinan. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim at Bouchercon back in September, and can attest to the fact that he's a lovely, lovely man. He told me I don't have an accent, I have a "lyrical intonation." How can you not love that?

Anyway, my friend Beth says this about Tim's writing: "I know all those words. Why can't I put them together like that?"

That's kind of how I feel about songwriters. I know the words; why can't I put them together the same way? Why can't I write something that makes people cry? That makes them smile and laugh and feel?

So what about you? Do you like music? Or lyrics? Do you have a favorite song that brings you to tears? Or a favorite songwriter? Or for that matter a favorite author whose words make you weep with joy?

Have a Merry Christmas season, ya'll. Or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year.

Oh, and if you happen to be getting a Kindle or Nook for Christmas, allow me to steer you in the direction of the Book Lovers Buffet. Almost 100 authors, almost 200 books, all different genres, all just $.99 each. A Cutthroat Business is on the mystery page.


Joyce said...

I love that song, too. Another one I like is Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. Very touching.

I know what you mean about the writing. My own sentences seem so very, very plain to me.

Joyce said...

Jenna, I found your lost comment for yesterday's post in the comment spam folder in the dashboard. There were four other ones in there too. I marked them "not spam." So if anyone had a comment recently that didn't post, they should all be where they belong now!

Ramona said...

I don't listen to holiday music, so I hope you'll excuse me for not commenting on that.

I can't write lyrics, or poetry, but I greatly admire people who do. Lately I've been listening to old CDs by Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot. They told terrific, full stories with their lyrics.

Jenna, I know what you mean about the occasional beautiful, perfect sentence. I came across two yesterday in someone else's work. Reading each was a joyful moment.

Jenna said...

Thanks, Joyce. I appreciate your hunting down my wayward comment! And I agree, Breath of Heaven is another lovely song.

Ramona, I love Kris Kristoffersen. He wrote some incredible music. Probably best known for "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night" but some of his lesser known songs are incredibly powerful. There's one called "Jody and the Kid" that makes me cry every time I get to the last verse. I can listen to it four times in a row, and by the time that last verse comes around, I still cry. Every. Damn. Time.

C.L. Phillips said...

Nothing beats the power of a song. Love story songs more than anything else. Three verses, three acts, bridge to chorus that you can't get out of your mind.

Add a fiddle and you're in Texas. :)