Thursday, March 14, 2013

Songwriting: Happy to be under the influence

Little fits of snow a-fallin'
and I'm tired and cold and ready for spring
Bigger changes are a-comin'
and it's time to let them come on and sing . . .


I'm ready for spring. I'm tired of shivering all the damn time. To speed things up, I gave myself a Southwestern moment for midday meal and made gluten-free (brown rice tortilla) chicken and three-cheese quesadillas. Something I haven't made since I went mostly low-carb, so about a year ago now. Very satisfying.

And as I ate I sat there reading a long article about songwriter Kris Kristofferson. Lots of younger folks only know him as an actor, but it Nashville he's revered as the songwriter who had an impact on how to write country songs the way Dylan did on other kinds of music. Yes, that important. Didn't know that, did you? Kristofferson changed everything, starting with what you could write ABOUT in a country, making things a lot more honest and realistic than they had been at the time.

I put Kristofferson's songs up there with any of the best of the twentieth century. Some of them you already know, although you might not know it because some of them were hits by other singers first. Kris was good friends with Johnny Cash, who had more than one hit from a song written by Kristofferson. So did Janis Joplin.

I will champion Kristofferson as a songwriter forever. I have learned a great deal about writing songs from him. See, he always wanted to be a writer first, which is why he went out and lived a lot of different kinds of life, in order to feed his writing. Back before MFA programs, that's how you became a writer: The Jack London School of Doing a Lot of Jobs and Gathering Experience. It allows you to write with conviction, honesty, and experience. It's still a better way to learn to become a writer than going to school. School has its value, don't get me wrong, including going to school for writing, but it can also be pretty inbred.

So today I think I'll listen to Kristofferson songs, and things like that. And then I think I'll sit down and write something. Maybe a new song. If there's an influence there, it's one I would be proud to acknowledge.

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