Yesterday, I posted a valentines poem, “Broken Arrow,” that I wrote with a late friend, Steve Graham. That poem is actually lyrics to a song. Here’s a bit more about song lyrics and my work with Steve.
As you know, I write poetry. I’m also a songwriter. On some of my older websites, I posted both lyrics and recordings of my songs. Although I post my electronic compositions here, I haven’t posted any of my songwriting. That will be changing in the future. Today, I’d like to share a few lyrics from a current project.
I’m working on two songwriting projects. I wrote a new batch of my own songs earlier this year. I’m also resurrecting a few dozen songs that I wrote with an old friend who died of brain cancer, Steve Graham. The Erickson & Graham Song Collection was written between 1991 and 2003.
Poetry and lyrics are similar but different art forms. I usually write poetry in quiet reflection, whereas I more often write song lyrics while playing a musical instrument. Poetry gives me more freedom to communicate exactly what I want to say, yet it’s also strangely less specific. There are less restrictions in writing poetry. Lyrics require more exacting meter and rhyming structures. Lyrics are also often more storylike. I enjoy the process of both forms.
Here are some examples from the Erickson & Graham songbook.
Young man in the city
Have you found your dignity?
So tough, so cool
Think you know what you’re coming to
Spraying your philosphy on a wall
But will it save your soul
When the flood gates fall?
– from When the Flood Gates Fall, 1991
Those lyrics are from a singer-songwriter track, but Steve and I also wrote many traditional country songs. Here’s an example of a chorus:
But as the days get shorter
Somehow they seem so long
And you’re sounding sad and lonely when I call
I swear it’s my last rodeo
Because I’m missing you so strong
And I’ll be home before the last leaf falls
– from Before the Last Leaf Falls, 1993
Finally, here’s the first verse of one of my favorites that Steve and I wrote together.
Through a picture window in a seaside bar
Watching distant ships go by
With these wishes swimming ’round in my head
About the love of my life
I was sipping whiskey feeling miles away
When an old man saw my pain
He leaned over and said,
“Hold on, you can make it through the rain”
– from Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon, 1993
I’ve reworked most of the Erickson & Graham songs. I have about half a dozen songs left to complete. Some of the songs will remain exactly as Steve and I wrote them. Others include minor changes. Some have been given new chord progressions and melody because the old ones were long since forgotten.
Hopefully, I will begin recording songs from the Erickson & Graham catalog in the spring. – dse