Some people quilt. Some crochet. Some play cards. Some play music. Some build things. Some solve puzzles. Some take up gardening. My stepfather rebuilt grandfather clocks. Or if you’re my former neighbor, you wash your car and spiff it up. Me, I write lyrics.
I’m talking hobbies, of course. We don’t do it for the cash although occasionally someone is able to turn their hobby into a profit-making venture. No, we do it for the pleasure of it. We know it will never pay for itself but we do it just the same.
Now where I came by this desire to write lyrics I will never know. There is no songwriter in my family that I know of. Yet I’ve been writing lyrics and poetry all my life. At least as far back as to the time I was nine when I wrote my first poem, “Chewing Green Corn”. Even now I look back on that three-stanzaed sucker and wonder what made me do it.
It was a long time gone before I could create anything that I would call a decent lyric. One that was worth showing anybody and calling it mine. Mostly it was about love or the longing for love, the rhyming of moon and June. Liking Rod McKuen in those days did not make me better at the craft of creating a good lyric. In fact, I found myself picking up many of his bad habits.
Then, sometime in the seventies, I began to write lyrics about things other than love. My God, hearing “Feelings” for the five millionth time would cure anybody of that habit. Somewhere along the way I learned I could write humorous lyrics as well as the other stuff.
Once I get that opening line it’s just a matter of gardening. I start planting roses and pretty soon I have tulips. Then I’m in there doing some weeding and out goes the inessentials. Along the way occasionally I get lucky and come up with a line I really like. Like the one from “Shoes Done Me In”, “Separate closets and shoes get lost.”
Now you know why I am partial to certain musicians like Mark Knopfler, Ellis Paul, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, Dan Fogleberg, Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Cole Porter and Bernie Taupin. There’s nothing like a good lyric to get my attention. When I hear one, I am surprised and in awe of the talent that created it. I always feel like I’ve learned something new. It may be a phrase or a way of saying something that I had never heard before or a feeling that was imparted through those words.
As I say, it’s just a hobby. No reward but the sheer magic and pleasure of birthing something that never existed before. Guess I’ll keep doing it. Who knows. I might win the lottery and hire Ellis Paul to write some music for one of my little ditties. You never know.
Do you have some kind of hobby?