Sunday, November 23, 2008

Song Lyrics: They Died Young, Ashes on the Sand, down home feelin's, and We've Got Tomorrow

I thought I'd share a little of my songwriting with everyone today. Now, it certainly is a little difficult to share songs in a format where the music is not incorporated. However, one of my compositions, "They Died Young," was recorded by a Los Angeles band called The Tooners on their "concept" CD, "Rocktasia." Their recording was originally released in 1994 and re-issued in 2006 (I assume I no longer own the publishing or writers' rights, however, I'm not sure who does or even if there is any value in those rights. Nonetheless, the song and the band's collection are available for purchase on the CDBaby site as well as on iTunes.) I've provided a link on the right hand column to a CD Baby site which details information on the CD and allows one to preview the songs, including "They Died Young." I originally wrote this song in 1984 and recorded the first demo of it that year. As is my custom, I've since slightly refined the lyrics. I'm providing the edited lyrics below.

They Died Young

The king went to battle and the nation's sons
Sitting high in the saddle with consequences shunned
Couldn't hear the rabble nor the carnage of their guns
They died young

The draft board called my name but I didn't hear
They shackled me with blame though I was in the clear
It's generals who gain fame while mothers shed more tears
They died young

Parents raise their sons for years
And teach them wrong from right
Giving hopes to quiet fears
Through love sons grow and strive
Suddenly a harbinger
A wire in the night
Now is known their greatest fear
Their son has lost his life
He died young
We died young
They died young

The nation saw the dying and it mourned and grieved
By bathing in its buying and genocidal greed
At gravestones hear crying for the waste of human seed
Who died young
He died young
We died young
They died young

Over the decades of my musical addiction and avocation, I wrote more than one hundred songs. Now, I'd never suggest that everything I wrote was good, or even listenable. However, a number of my songs attracted a following among those who heard them. I'd like to share a few of those, too.

"Ashes on the Sand" was originally titled "Ashes in the Sand." I wrote it in 1974, while on vacation and camping in Big Sur National Park. I used jazz voicings of minor and major seventh chords some friends had taught me. I recorded my first demo of this song in 1975, singing it copping an early David Bowie style. The song was recorded with acoustic guitar and maracas. The revised lyrics I'm providing are for the newly imagined, revised version of the song.

Ashes on the Sand

I walked a dream to the shore
Where we saw ashes on the sand
Then a mermaid handed me
Ashes she wept on her hand
Ashes on the sand
She wept ashes on her hand

Gulls flew above that windy shore
The wind whipped ashes on the sand
My hand caressed a golden face
Gleaming off ashes on the sand
Ashes on the sand
The wind whipped ashes on the sand

When leaves' hues begin to turn
What was is ashes on the sand
To find adventure around the bend
I'll wash the ashes from my hands
Ashes on the sand
What was is ashes on the sand
Ashes washed up on the sand

I originally wrote the lyrics to the next song while still in high school in 1969. Obviously, I've reworked the lyrics somewhat for this presentation. However, they retain many phrases verbatim from the original. In 1975, I composed music for the lyrics. The music was written in open tuning on acoustic guitar, and was very uptempo and energetic.

down home feelin's

sittin' down b'side a toadstool
wondrin' where mushrooms play
watchin' m' dog chase a cat
in back 'round a bale o' hay
skimmin' a stone 'cross the creek
in the shade of an ol' oak tree
stoppin' t' sip cool water
while m' dog bites at his fleas

takin' a long hay ride t'night
me an' m' baby side b' side
sittin' alone on the ol' front porch
strollin' along through the countryside
holdin' hands b' fireflies' light
stealin' kisses on a swimmin' hole's shore
playin' softball with m' friends
leavin' till t'marra a promised chore

things i've been a long time missin'
since i left m' home
goin' back ag'in someday
afore i'm left all alone
a nightengale's call awaits at home
wonder if i'll hear her singin'
goin' back t' where i b'long
where i'm called b' m' down home feelin's

I had all my music related possessions placed in a storage unit between 1998 and 2002. My musical and recording equipment, my instruments and all my demo tapes were stolen in 2001. However, somewhere out there, old friends with whom I have lost contact must still have some of these demo tapes.

The last song lyric I'll share here today is from a song titled, "We've Got Tomorrow." The chord progression was from a song I wrote back in 1972. However, in 1985 I was fooling around with a new acoustic guitar I had purchased (a brand new Fender Newporter). For whatever reason, I put a capo on the fifth fret and played those old chords with a changed tempo, removing the old hook and giving it a new one. A few weeks later, I wrote the words I'll close with below.

I recorded a demo of the song in 1986 with my cousin, Jeffrey Sullivan, adding a violin part to the recording. I added a synthesized piano and synthesized string quartet to the arrangement. It has a slow, moody beat with a soft, haunting atmosphere to the sound. The song came about because my Mom once chided me to write a song about my dog. Perhaps she was jealous I never wrote one about her. Well, I took her challenge as a joke, actually. The dog's name was Little Bit. Here's the lyric that resulted.

We've Got Tomorrow

A little smile is all it takes
A bit of talk and we will thrive
A little touch can help us share
This bit of time while we're alive
I've got tomorrow
You've got tomorrow
We've all got tomorrow too

A little light illuminates
A bit of offered kindness shared
What we have is all we need
Cuz all we need lies deep inside
I've got tomorrow
You've got tomorrow
We've all got tomorrow too

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