This Op-Ed piece on “60 Decades of Singer Songwriters” was brought to you by our guest writer, Jason Greiner
In the 1960s and 70s, there was plenty of great music being made by talented musicians. And one aspect of that era was the concept of the singer-songwriter. Artists like Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen come to mind among many, many others. It was a time known for people who could both perform and write their own lyrics with eloquence, depth and precision in an almost poetic style.
Some may argue that the next couple of decades were lacking in this skill set. If you are of that mindset, I can certainly understand your point. However, one can argue that some artists still fit the bill.
I’d have to say you could place Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and U2 in that 80s group from my early childhood. As for the 90s, two up-and-coming alternative artists fit the mould in Jewel and Alanis Morrisette. After all, Jewel even had a book of poetry called “A Knight Without Armor” published in 1999 and Morrisette became widely acclaimed for her masterful use of “stream of consciousness” lyrics. And many would go as far as to say that Kurt Cobain, one of the pioneers of the grunge genre out of Seattle, had a gift for songwriting that was far beyond that of the average band’s lead singer.
Since the early 2000s, it would be hard to question that this particular art has fallen off a bit. We now live in a world that is more filled than ever before with cookie-cutter pop songs that often lack any real depth or meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of love for songs and musicians from the last 20-plus years. But most of it just doesn’t apply when you are talking about the singer-songwriter style.
That being the case, I would say there have been a few. While some might scoff, I would say the earlier songs written by Taylor Swift could stand up to the scrutiny of those seeking quality lyrical work. I emphasize that this would be her earlier stuff, not that from the last 8 years or so. I’d also say that some of the work by Avril Lavigne has a bit of a poetic quality even though she is mostly known as a pop-punk artist. But above all, the two who really seem to be reviving the notion of the singer-songwriter a bit would have to be Rob Thomas, soloist and lead singer of Matchbox Twenty, and Ed Sheeran.
Examples of Singer Songwriters
For a little clarification, let me share some examples of some of the quality and meaningful lyrics from a few of the artists I mentioned.
Jewel – Lyrics for “Hands”
If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
Won’t be idle with despair
I’ll gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear“Hands”
Song by Jewel
Alanis Morisette – Lyrics from “Thank U”
“How ’bout getting off of these antibiotics
How ’bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How ’bout them transparent dangling carrots
How ’bout that ever elusive kudo
Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you, thank you silence”“Thank U”
Song by Alanis Morissette
Rob Thomas – Lyrics from “3 AM”
She believes that life is made up of all that you’re used to
And the clock on the wall has been stuck at three for days, and days
She thinks that happiness is a mat that sits on her doorway
But outside it’s stopped raining“3AM”
Song by Matchbox Twenty
Ed Sheeran – Lyrics from “The A Team”
And they say
She’s in the Class A Team
Stuck in her daydream
Been this way since eighteen
But lately her face seems
Slowly sinking, wasting
Crumbling like pastries“The A Team”
Song by Ed Sheeran
Final Thoughts Regarding Singer Songwriters
I look forward to learning about more talented singer-songwriters and while the style has been on the decline, it’s nice to see it is still going, even if only to a small extent.
Jason Greiner is the author of several books and eBooks and has worked as a professional in the field of journalism and blogging. He also provides photography and graphic design services on a freelance basis. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Jason now lives in the city of Mebane, a small but fast-growing community in central North Carolina. As a lifelong music enthusiast, he enjoys discovering new artists and reviewing their work.