Song #232 of 9999
Title: What Once Was Grand
Artist: Frankie Big Face
Album: Nur Ein 4
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Poetry and lyrics are not the same thing. I think they each have their advantages and disadvantages. You can get away with the most insipid lyric if it is backed by a brilliant melody. (This couplet from The Beatles' Something always comes to mind: "I don't want to leave her now/You know I believe and how.") With poetry, you can use words that would rarely work if sung and you don't have to worry about hooks or repetitive devices like refrains or choruses. There's a lot more freedom there.
So any time I'm faced with using a poetic structure as the basis for lyrics, I find it challenging but also pretty satisfying when it works out. My goal is always to make the poem work without the music but still have it work as a pop song. For What Once Was Grand, my challenge was to write the lyrics in the form of a sonnet and I chose the Italian or Petrachan form, which has the rhyming scheme a-b-b-a a-b-b-a c-d-e c-d-e. The first eight lines are supposed to be one sentence and many poets employ semicolons for the sake of readability. Ultimately, I knew I was writing a song and allowed myself to let it run on a bit, knowing the musical setting would break it up. The ninth line is supposed to be turning point, a volta if you will, moving the poem from proposition to resolution. I don't know if mine is obvious in the poem, but the dramatic shift is evident in the music. I cheat a little bit in performance by repeating the first word—it's all supposed to be iambic pentameter—but again, this is a pop song and there needs to be some leeway. For the sake of rhyme and meter, I also lied about the 8th Mazurka being Opus 29; it's actually Opus 7! (our protagonist's memory, like mine, is suspect)
Lyrics below in their entirety.
Goodbye to you my dark and dusty friend.
You've shown yourself to be among the few
Who know that time will seldom give a cue
To those who don't know how to call an end
To all the songs, the poems, the words that rend
Our hearts to jelly, minds to clay, askew
With stirring pangs that make their prized debut
When all else fails and life seems like pretend.
The moment I began to feel was when
I heard you whisper strains of Chopin's 8th
Mazurka--Opus 29, I think.
Now with your soundboard cracked, your ivory spent,
Your hammers snapped, I toss away my faith
And cry; what once was grand is now extinct!