I have been been blessed to sing wonderful songs written by other people for many decades — as the MP3 player on the right hand sidebar of this page can attest.
And every now and then I have helped to write or co-write a song.
But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I bought my first ‘ukulele, that I started writing songs on a regular basis.
I love reading about how other songwriters have created their hits.
Composer Harry Warren and lyricist Johnny Mercer wrote “Jeepers, Creepers,” “On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” and “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby.”
Warren gave Mercer the nickname ‘Cloud Boy’.
As Warren explained, “A lot of times when I would play a melody for John… particularly if it was after a good lunch… he’d stretch out on a couch and just lie there with his eyes closed and his hands folded across his stomach. He was way up there some place in the clouds. Of course, what came out later was just great.”
When asked by his father about his creative process, Mercer once said, “I simply get to thinking over the song — pondering over it in my mind — and all of a sudden I get in tune with the Infinite.”
Many songwriters have expressed a similar sentiment — that they feel as though they are acting as a conduit or channel for something greater than themselves.
The lyricist Ira Gershwin said that the composer Harold Arlen would never “approach the simplest musical requirement or idea without first calling upon ‘the fellow up there’ — jabbing his finger at the ceiling.”
I cannot say that I have experienced this phenomenon yet.
I have, however, noticed that lyrical themes sometimes emerge which surprise me and lead a song in a different direction than I had originally intended.
And I have had the inspiring experience of writing a song which gradually became true.
It is called “Can We Slow It Down?” — and I wrote it a couple of years ago when I was working full time at my day job in Harvard Square.
I realized recently when I was practicing it at home that my life has in fact slowed down since I began singing this song.
If you are curious, you can listen to “Can We Slow It Down?” by clicking on the audio player at the top of this page.
I will be singing it plus two other originals as part of a mini-set at a lovely open mic in Lexington — hosted by Nourish Restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue — on Tuesday, November 5, 2013, starting around 7:30 pm.
Perhaps you can join us.