Songs that changed my life… (part 1)

October 9, 2007

After re-watching the REM video from yesterday’s blog, and due to recently starting to record a new c.d. with my wife as Saint Lewis, it really made me step-back and personally reflect on the songs that have really had a long-term impact on my songwriting: songs that not only moved me, but became ingrained in who I am, impacting – in some way – everything I’ve written since. These are the songs that musically, or lyrically, under-gird – form the foundation – of how I approach songwriting, whether it be a song intended for corporate worship, or a love song for my wife. I hope you enjoy my list…

Side Two of Abbey Road (particularly: “You never give me your Money/Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She came in through the Bathroom Window/Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/The End”) – the Beatles
Yes, I know – that’s not ‘a song’, but in many senses it is. Many of my earliest memories as a child have ‘Abbey Road’ as their sound-track, as we played that vinyl LP almost continuously growing up. And though my favorite songs on ‘Abbey Road’ (which is my all-time favorite album, by the way) are “I want You (She’s so Heavy)” and “Oh Darling”, the ‘movement’ that is made up of “You never give me your Money/Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She came in through the Bathroom Window/Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/The End” had a special magic that I cannot shake, key changing seamlessly, slipping from song-to-song, and emotion-to-emotion in a way that just carried me along like some brilliant mystic New York taxi driver, unaffected by the heavy traffic jams, sliding almost un-noticed from lane-to-lane, through to a special destination that only he knows of. I’ve heard it said by more than one music scholar that the Beatles used so many incidental chords (chords outside the song’s primary key) that it often endangered the song’s cohesiveness, but somehow they held the songs together with their strong sense of melody. As an example, the fore-mentioned “You never give me your Money” had 21 different chords, almost entirely “endangering the key” – not your conventional pop song, to say the least! That said, I use incidentals anytime I can find one that works with the melody without entirely undermining the song’s key, and I LOVE bridges that tempt to take a song almost someplace else entirely – even more-so, second choruses, that often show up so late in the song that they appear to be almost another song entirely, apart from the lyric content. I haven’t perfected these techniques by any means, but that one massive song-set at the end of Abbey Road planted that seed which I am still exploring over 3 decades after first hearing it.

A New Season” – the Church
Though it was the top 40 hits “Under the Milky Way” and “Reptile” that originally led me to buy Starfish by the Church, the entire c.d. from start to finish was absolutely astounding, leading me to – to this day – place it tied at 2nd place in my ‘personal favorite c.d.’s of all-time’ list. “A New Season” is the song that has had the greatest long-term musical impact on me, directly inspiring songs such as “He moves the Wind” from Set on Edge‘s debut c.d., Autumn Song. The way this beautiful song moves from it’s contemplative minor-key feel to it’s hopeful major-key finish, all without any sign of a conventional chorus, just taught me that you learn the rules of songwriting only well enough to recognize how to bend and break them successfully. To this day I can’t listen to this song without grinning from ear to ear.

That’s my start. I hope to add a few more parts to this post, including some ‘Christian’ music, and even some ‘worship’ songs before it’s all done with. But for now, have you heard these songs? What do you think? If you’re a songwriter, who and what are some of your major influences? I’d love to hear all about it, so please fill me in.

p.s. – you may also want to check out this EXCELLENT article on the Beatles’ songwriting techniques.



3 Responses to “Songs that changed my life… (part 1)”

  1. klampert said

    my influences…baloche…pettrucci, sara groves, iona, mad at the world, the choir, counting crowes uh…and more that im gonna have to think about

  2. […] that changed my life… (part 2) For those who missed it, please read part 1 first – at least the intro – before diving into this blog. Otherwise, here are 3 […]

  3. […] that changed my life… (part 3) Here we go with part 3 (look here for one and two), and I’m finally getting around to discussing some ‘Christian’ […]

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