Today, as I am sitting here, attempting to recoup my energy from a very hectic weekend, I had one of my new songs running through my mind and was thinking about the words. I felt that I got a little revelation about how we as song writers, regardless of what we are writing about, or who, are culture changers. Our words transform the world around us, albeit perhaps slowly, but it happens.
Think about these lines:
We will not be beaten
All we need is love
We are the champions, no room for losers cause we are the champions of the world
Imagine all the people, living life in peace?
And I think to myself, What a wonderful world
Lines like these are the lines we remember because they resonate with our core cultural identity. Yes of course these songs represent so much more than the one line, but what I see happening within the connection between songs and cultural shifts, is that there are always one or two lines that speak loudly and clearly what the song writer is trying to say.
Think about times of cultural unrest: song lines like the ones above have been a part of tipping the general mentality. How about ‘Flower Power’?. Now Lennon I am sure was not the only, or even the major influence in this time of cultural upheaval but his songs resonated with the people so much that they are now synonymous with that period of change.
So, my question is this: how do we as songwriters, in 2012 and beyond (so want to put a Toy Story reference here), be an active participant in changing our culture? Now I know that many would defend their culture readily so please do not think I am suggesting that your or my culture are inherently bad. That is not my intention.
My question is one that hopes to challenge and inspire you, motivate you to consider the words you present to the world. Even though I am also a composer, it’s the words that change the heart of the listener.
There’s a verse in the Bible that I really like and even if your views on spiritual things are different to mine, I am sure you can see the value in this:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you God.
And these too:
Whatever is lovely, whatever’s is pure, whatever is of good, think on these things.
Words are the bedrock of our thinking.
If you grow up being told, with words, that you’re ugly and useless, it’s going to take quite a bit of effort to recalibrate your mindset.
If you meditate on, live and give out words that build, create, restore and resonate with others, you change the environment that you live in and ultimately impact the next generation that are influenced by you and your words.
So why do we as an intelligent, first world country, encourage song writers to come up with songs about sex, drugs, loose love, lawlessness, debauchery, gang involvement, malicious intent, and even murder and other acts of violence?
I do realise that songs like these can reflect the culture we may live in and mean no disrespect to those who are trying to make sense of the reality of our world. I also recognise that for many, music brings people together and strengthens community bonds, but please hear my heart.
We have a choice in how our words are going to bring people together.
Are our words going to resonate with a few, creating a clique within the community, silently forging a wall of discontent between cliques and ultimately becoming a part of shaping communities that feed on violence?
I know that music is not the only propellent but let’s be real. It contributes.
What makes these kinds if songs, in any way, viably enriching our community and ensuring a healthy cultural mindset? How do songs like these undergird the emerging identity of our youth?
I implore you to consider this: our words are going to be powerful, challenging, setting us up to either endorse what is good, what is right, what is just, or to stand up for…well…you know where I’m going with this.
My personal conviction is that we as song writers and even those of us who are bloggers, journalists, commentators, poets, fiction and even non fiction writers, have an obligation to our broader community and potentially the rest of the world, to create and endorse that which is worthy, wholesome, challenging, inspiring, educational, motivational, encouraging and hopefully, mindset shifting.
Stay with me here. I’m not pendulum swinging. I am not encouraging us to write candy floss and ear tickling stuff.
On the contrary, I challenge you to write in a way that pricks the conscience of the listener/reader. I cringe when I hear songs written that clearly fit a predictable, money spinning mould and that have no depth to them. I am sickened and disheartened at the immense talent that goes to waste performing songs like the rather infamous Ring My Bell and Locomotion (for us over 30) and the embarrassingly transparent ‘Call Me Maybe'(for you youngin’s). Sorry ladies, but you were and are so much more than that.
I know this post is long but my heart longs to see a culture that encourages, creates, develops and motivates and cannot sit back in my studio churning out songs and be oblivious to the culture I live in and want to change.
We have an opportunity to be a part of something deeper, something generational.
Are you with me?