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The music of great songwriters

Updated on November 16, 2013
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“You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one…”


Our favorite Beatle, of the Lennon-McCartney writing duo fame, won over millions with songwriting skill and panache. Many will always stand in admiration of his way with music and the written word, despite his passing.

We hold in esteem musicians,like Lennon, whose lyrics have a way of reaching the core of hearts.

They play a definite role in society, having the ability to extend a hand to a vast majority. Being one who makes such an impact certainly means meeting a few prerequisites.

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The role of songwriters

Those who write good songs have a great impact on society by virtue of the sheer volume of their outreach. What they say has immeasurable effect on the minds of countless who hear them.

Marketing of ideas

Though their main premise would be entertainment, songwriters are essentially called upon to create songs to be used for marketing video games, movies, plays, operas, ballets and for their own specific purposes as well.

To write a good song, they need to understand the context in which it will be used.

Spreading social messages

Artists like Woody Guthrie, his son Ario, Joan Baez and the great Bob Dylan all wrote songs that highlight important social messages regarding civil rights, human rights and the environment. Baez herself was instrumental in founding the United States section of Amnesty International, An organization focused on the establishment of Human Rights.

The messages in their songs are taken to heart to this day.

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What it takes to be a successful songwriter

Songwriting does not, by any means, require just creativity. The ones who are the most successful possess a host of qualities that have positioned them well on the entertainment map.

A Polished Skill Set

Great ones in the business, like the Lennon-McCartney duo, possessed the touch that enabled their songs to come alive.

That touch refers to a host of skills that give meaning and energy to their music. Being merely a good musician is not enough; songwriters have preferably got to be good lyricists and possess great empathetic and relational skills that enable them to connect with others.

Presence and popularity

A good songwriter makes himself felt. His songs stay in the mind a long time after they are written. If they are also performers, that presence should also make itself felt on stage, allowing audiences to feel that they are there.

We still remember Imagine to this day, although John Lennon has long since passed.

Marketability

A good songwriter understands how and why a song is to be used. He knows then how to write it such that it sells, either a product, movie, or just itself.

Being a good salesperson is essential for the songwriting business.

Uniqueness

A songwriter has outstanding qualities that let everyone know it is his or her writing and no one else’s. Paul Simon, for example, always writes songs that tell a story, giving them an ethereal feel. Boxer and Richard Cory both told stories, the first being about a boxer who struggles to overcome loneliness and poverty in New York City and the second the opposite - about a rich man who eventually kills himself because he is depressed. Though not the most positive tales, they were certainly poignant and stood out as Simon’s music.

Boldness

Everyone is tired of the ‘same old, same old,” so a songwriter’s duty is to bring something new and fresh to the table. Queen certainly did so with songs like Bohemian Rhapsody, bringing a fresh sound and perspective on rock to listeners. The Beatles too, wrote songs that encompassed a wide range of genres and were always willing to embrace change through the decades. Their later pieces bore traces of Indian music, with George Harrison wanting to learn the Sitar.


La Vie En Rose Louis Armstrong

Your favorite songwriters

Who is your favorite songwriter or songwriting duo?

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Great songwriters and songwriting duos

Who qualifies as a great songwriter or songwriting duo is always subjective, but here are a few who,many would agree are, or have been among great songwriters. The fact that we know some of the lyrics to their songs by heart is testament to their popularity, although there are many more who should make this list.

Louis Armstrong

I try hard in an article about music to avoid giving old “Satchmo” mention because I always end up doing so. And I give up trying! As it is, I am listening to Spotify while I write this and he is totally dominating the jazz radio playlist.

For a great songwriter he certainly was. Jazz would not be what it is without him. Born in 1900, he gained prominence in the 1920a as an inventive trumpetist and cornet player,mentored by Peter Davis and Joe “King” Oliver.His gravelly voice would not let him run away from popularity either. Together with jazz queen Ella Fitzgerald, he was a foundational inventor of scat singing (singing and vocalizing in syllables rather than words). An activist, he also took a very public stand against desegregation.

Yesterday The Beatles

Lennon-McCartney

Again, I cannot compile a list of great songwriters without mentioning this duo. They,in large part,helped to lay the foundation for the Beatles, Beatlemania and hence, the music and culture of the 1960s.

From the Abbey Road studios in Liverpool, they helped to give the music of the Fabulous Four its lyrical, melodic quality. Yesterday has spawned 2200 versions and was voted the best song of the 20th Century by BBC radio. Progressive, their style altered with the decades, fusing rock together with the elements of Indian music. They even composed pre-metal pieces like Helter Skelter.

Woman in Love

The Bee Gees

The boys of Falsetto were not contributors to merely their own pieces, but gave an edge to the music of Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick. Barry Gibb, in particular, collaborated with Streisand on her 1980 album Guilty. Woman in Love became one of the most successful songs of Streisand’s music career.

Candle In the Wind Elton John

Elton John

Sir Elton Hercules John.Yes, Hercules, I kid you not, and aptly so. One of the best selling music singer-songwriters of all time, he has touched the hearts of over 300 million people, for that is the number of albums he has managed to sell in his career, which has spanned five decades. With more than fifty Top 40 hits and 6 Grammys to boot, he is well qualified as one of the world’s most prolific songwriters. My favorite, Candle in the Wind, written in honor of Princess Diana, sold 33 million copies, becoming “the best selling single of all time” owing to its melodic, metaphorical and lyrical quality.


Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Carole King

The music of the 1970s would not be the same without this prolific lady. Her career began in the 1960s when she and her then husband Gerry Goffin wrote numerous hits for artists which have become standards.

That being said, her greatest songwriting achievement has got to be WIll You Still Love Me Tomorrow. Her success became apparent in the 1970s, when she began singing and accompanying herself on the piano. Her album Tapestry topped Billboard for 15 weeks in 1971.

Honesty Billy Joel

Billy Joel

Another prolific songwriter of the seventies, Joel has made waves through the decades with such hits as Piano Man. In particular, Honesty has a lyrical quality that rings true with me.

Joel has come into his with albums like Storm Front and has experimented successfully with genres like Acapella in songs like For the Longest Time. He has achieved 33 Top 40 hits in the 1970s, 80s and 90s and, as a testimony to his songwriting skills, has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Hotel California The Eagles

Don Henley and Glen Frey

Where would 1970s music be without the Eagles? Don Henley and Glen Frey, with Don Felder, formed one of the greatest songwriting partnerships of the decade.

Hotel California is one of the best known AOR or album oriented rock tracks, AOR being an FM Radio format focusing on the music of rock artists. Truly, anyone who has tried to ‘rock it’ has begun with Hotel California, and the 13 minuite guitar intro still rings in my head.

"Little" Stevie Wonder with Fingertips

Stevie Wonder

Stevland Hardaway Morris was a child prodigy who later became one of the best loved musical figures of the 20th century, prolific with the harmonica, piano and vocally.He signed with Motowns Tamla label at age 11, with his first hit being Figerttips. He later became well known in the seventies for You Are The Sunshine of My Life. I Just Called To Say I Love You became one of the greatest hits of the eighties and is still a popular wedding piece today.

Heal the World Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Asking a roomful of people who does not know Michael Jackson to raise their hands would be easier than asking who does know, because it facilitates faster counting. A child prodigy like Stevie Wonder, he first made waves with his brothers as part of the Jackson Five, finally coming into his own as a songwriter in the 1980s with albums like Thriller.

His popularity soared, with songs that literally touched hearts. The singer-dancer-songwriter has himself said that Heal The World is the song he is most proud of to have created and has created the Heal The World Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to improving the lives of children.

Scarborough Fair Simon and Garfunkel

Paul Simon

The singer-songwriter’s early success first came with his partnership with Art Garfunkel. The prolific, talented artist has true musical and lyrical panache, seen in the way he tells stories through song. Richard Cory and The Boxer tell sad, poignant stories of men facing difficult problems of esteem and poverty.

Simon’s love songs have their own uniqueness. Anyone who has listened to Scarborough Fair would attest to that, and the melodic harmonies performed by the Simon and Garfunkel duo ring in the head till this day.

Eric Clapton Change The World

Eric Clapton

Nicknamed “Slowhand”, the blues would not be what it is today without the English artist. He is the only three time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist and as a member of the Yardbirds and Cream.

One of the most influential blues guitarists of the century, he has improvised blues with elements of reggae and psychedelic pop. The recipient of 17 Grammys was knighted in 2004 at the Buckingham Palace for his services to music.

The world would not be shaped without song, and certainly, great songwriters.


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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thank, DDE!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Am listening to a little Armstrong now. Music these days is really cut and paste!! I wish they'd be more inventive.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The music of great songwriters truly well listed, the best singers in their time. I enjoy listening music and these are singers certainly have and had great talent.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I still love listening to Carole King and Armstrong, they were great musicians and writers. Love this post and it is brings back wonderful memories. I only wish that present day song writers could capture some of their talent.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      He is prolific and talented indeed!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      True, the ones we remember always do, Christy!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you, Rebecca!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janet!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, My Mind Speaks!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you, My Cook Book!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Craftytothecore! He must have been fascinating to know!

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      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Hi Michelle

      Great hub! Great songwriters! I picked Billy Joel as my favorite. He is such a prolific writer. I love,"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."

      Voted up +++ and sharing

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You are quite right that songwriters have a style of their own. I admire Paul Simon and am glad you mentioned him in your hub :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Voted awesome! What would we do without all the wonderful music these songwriters have given us. I like the collection you chose!

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 4 years ago from Georgia country

      This is a wonderful hub about great songwriters. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • My Mind Speaks profile image

      Victoria 4 years ago from Long Island N.Y

      Absolutely LOVE this hub! Amazing job, pleasure to read thank you!

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 4 years ago from India

      Beautiful hub, arranged as well amazingly. Voted UP

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub Michelle and your obvious hard work has certainly paid off here. Thank you fors haring and I wish you a great weekend.

      Eddy.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

      What a great Hub! A classmate in school taught himself to play a lot of instruments. We were in jazz band together. I was so surprised and excited for him when I saw him on the news. He went on to have his own band and he teaches children to play different instruments now. Recently, he played the piano during appetizer hour at a friend's wedding. It was amazing to see him after all these years.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks very much, Carol...glad to see you over at Bubblews too!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Great hub on songwriters. Of course we know the most important ingredient is marketing as with everything we do. I am working on that now. This was so complete and well written..and again great to see you on Bubblews. Happy writing my friend.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Celebrating the music of great songwriters.