Monday, August 15, 2016

The Lyricist As Poet

DC Christmas Market

In past blogs, I have mentioned some well-known musicians like Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen,and Bob Dylan whose lyrics are strongly poetic.  

In a recent blog, I did fleetingly refer to a woman, Frand Landesman, who was a lyricist and a poet.  She began her career by putting words to jazz music in the fifties and sixties. She has been labeled “the godmother of hip.”  

Landesman’s lyrics are dark, cynical and strangely compelling.  She put her signature twist on T.S. Eliot’s line “April is the cruelest month” in her lyrics for “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most”, one of her best-known songs.  “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” is another hit song featuring her haunting lyrics.  N.Y. Times critic Stephen Hollen compared her to “a cranky,  jazz-steeped Dorothy Parker.”   It was reported that movies star Bette Davis liked Landesman’s poetry and memorized her poem “Life is a Bitch.”  Fran Landesman (1927-2011) spent the last ten years of her life in London and New York City performing her poetry (from five published volumes), singing her songs and talking about her life.

In contrast, let me turn the spotlight on Mary Chapman Carpenter, one of our contemporary lyricist-poets.  She writes many of her own lyrics, which are also a reflection of her life experiences.  They can be sad, but are often filled with hope, determination and as she matures, a peaceful acceptance of life.  Let me show and not tell, by sharing her lyrics with you.

                                                We press our faces to the glass
                                               And see our little lives go past
                                                Wave to shadows that we cast
                                                On the longest night of the year.

                                           Make a vow when the Solstice comes
                                                   To find the light in everyone
                                                Keep the faith and bang the drum
                                                 On the longest night of the year.