Recently, while talking with my son about music, a common topic of conversation for us, I stumbled upon a line which struck me as worthy of being a song refrain. I told him, adding with a snicker--he prefers Kit Kats, I'm reminded--that I could probably write the entire song in less than an hour.
Song lyrics are not poetry, not in intent or in form. They are at best cousins, kissing cousins perhaps. Sure, sometimes the kisses become passionate, hands begin to roam here & there--yes, mostly there--& in an moment elapsing in slow motion, song & poem, puddles of discarded clothing on the dewy ground, arch & rise, exploring the boundaries of forbidden love between genres.
I don't intend this distinction between songs & poems as an insult, merely as a statement of fact; however, experience has taught me that making this distinction tends to rile Dead-heads, Parrot-heads, Fanilows, Claymates & their ilk. It doesn't imply that one genre is better than the other, but apparently, McCartney-Lennonists, Zimmerfans, even Air Supply fans, whatever they're called--[provide your own joke here]--feel their favorite songs must be dubbed poetry as if doing so bestows special status upon them.
Believe me, poets' perks don't begin to approach those accorded rock stars. Admittedly, both have their groupies--feel free to inquire--but poets rarely see drunken fans at readings with lighters held high shouting, not "Freebird!" but "Free verse!" Nor has the expression "sex, drugs & poetry" ever caught on outside literary circles.
The most notable difference between the genres is intent. Songs are to be sung. Even great lyrics when read, not sung, lack their usual emotional intensity, in part due to the nearly unvaried repetition of end-stopping, in which each line expresses, if not a complete thought, then a linguistic unit of sense. While maybe a necessity for a song's sensibility, end-stops make the reading of lyrics flat, monotonous.
Poets, on the other hand, employ enjambment to help create rhythm for the spoken word. Of course, poets use other devices too, such as meter, that songwriters mostly ignore. Given the trend toward free verse, however, I won't pursue this further. Oh, I could, making reference to specific songs & poems, show how metaphor & imagery, for instance, remain more the domain of poetry than songs, but back to my new tune.
As a poet, I'm fairly free in terms of form & content, but I have very traditional views when it comes to composing a song, which limits me as a songwriter. However, on the upside, these rules make it easy for me to write songs on the fly. Here are my basic precepts: all songs have 3 verses, a chorus & a bridge. Also--no, that's all. Hit it!
We Gotta Stop This
we gotta stop this
we gotta stop this
we both know it's wrong
but we've been doing it for so long
good loving's hard to quit
once you get a taste of it (chorus)
george's gone rosie said
so i asked to talk to you instead
good morning how are you
im at the venus inn room 302
jane i'm waiting for you
gotta room with a view
when you look in the mirror
is the coast any clearer
before people start to blog
you gotta walk the dog
we gotta do it now
we gotta finish somehow (chorus)
with your digs in the clouds
two good kids who make you proud
pearl necklace diamond ring
how bored you are with everything (chorus & fade)
I haven't written the music, but if I return in my mind to my guitar days, I'd have probably used a combination of the following chords: Bb, Dm, Gm7, F, Cm7, Eb, Ab9 or whatever. If anyone wants to write the music for me, make it bouncy & you're free to use the lyrics. Should it become the hit I see it as becoming, of course, I expect royalties.