Posts Tagged ‘bob dylan’

Quote of the day: Bob Dylan on Frank Sinatra

October 18, 2022


By the time Frank Sinatra stepped into the studio to record “Strangers in the Night” on April 11, 1966, he had already been singing professionally for thirty-one years and recording since 1939. He had seen trends come and go in popular music and had, in fact, set trends himself and spawned scores of imitators for decades.

Still, it was amazing that the soundtrack of the summer of 1966, according to the July 2 edition of the Billboard Hot 100, was topped by that little pop song. Amazingly, in the middle of the British Invasion, “Strangers in the Night” by Hoboken’s own beat out the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” and the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Today, the charts are so stratified and niche marketed, you would never see something like this happen. Nowadays, everyone stays in their own lane, guaranteeing themselves top honors in their own category even if that category is something like Top Klezmer Vocal Performance on a Heavy Metal Soundtrack Including Americana Samples.

But Frank had to slug it out with everybody, even though “Strangers” was a song he hated, one that he regularly dismissed as “a piece of shit”…[He] may have hated the song, but the fact of the matter is, he chose it. And therein lies a tale. By the time we had heard “Strangers in the Night,” it had gone through at least two sets of lyrics and a few people had already laid claim to its authorship. It’s a confusing tale that spans a couple of continents…

And as far as I know, no one has ever contested the writing of Frank’s hit from the following year, “Somethin’ Stupid,” though it is worth mentioning that it was written by Van Dyke Parks’s older brother Carson.

–Bob Dylan, The Philosophy of Modern Song

Quote of the day: SONGWRITING

October 15, 2016

When people talk about Leonard [Cohen], they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius. Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music. Even the simplest song, like “The Law,” which is structured on two fundamental chords, has counterpoint lines that are essential, and anybody who even thinks about doing this song and loves the lyrics would have to build around the counterpoint lines.

His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres. In the song “Sisters of Mercy,” for instance, the verses are four elemental lines which change and move at predictable intervals . . . but the tune is anything but predictable. The song just comes in and states a fact. And after that anything can happen and it does, and Leonard allows it to happen. His tone is far from condescending or mocking. He is a tough-minded lover who doesn’t recognize the brush-off. Leonard’s always above it all. “Sisters of Mercy” is verse after verse of four distinctive lines, in perfect meter, with no chorus, quivering with drama. The first line begins in a minor key. The second line goes from minor to major and steps up, and changes melody and variation. The third line steps up even higher than that to a different degree, and then the fourth line comes back to the beginning. This is a deceptively unusual musical theme, with or without lyrics. But it’s so subtle a listener doesn’t realize he’s been taken on a musical journey and dropped off somewhere, with or without lyrics.

That song “Hallelujah” has resonance for me. There again, it’s a beautifully constructed melody that steps up, evolves, and slips back, all in quick time. But this song has a connective chorus, which when it comes in has a power all of its own. The “secret chord” and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect of the song has plenty of resonance for me.

I like all of Leonard’s songs, early or late. “Going Home,” “Show Me the Place,” “The Darkness.’ These are all great songs, deep and truthful as ever and multidimensional, surprisingly melodic, and they make you think and feel. I like some of his later songs even better than his early ones. Yet there’s a simplicity to his early ones that I like, too.

I see no disenchantment in Leonard’s lyrics at all. There’s always a direct sentiment, as if he’s holding a conversation and telling you something, him doing all the talking, but the listener keeps listening. He’s very much a descendant of Irving Berlin, maybe the only songwriter in modern history that Leonard can be directly related to. Berlin’s songs did the same thing. Berlin was also connected to some kind of celestial sphere. And, like Leonard, he probably had no classical-music training, either. Both of them just hear melodies that most of us can only strive for. Berlin’s lyrics also fell into place and consisted of half lines, full lines at surprising intervals, using simple elongated words. Both Leonard and Berlin are incredibly crafty. Leonard particularly uses chord progressions that seem classical in shape. He is a much more savvy musician than you’d think.

–Bob Dylan, interviewed by David Remnick in the New Yorker (“Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker”)

leonard-cohen-by-graeme-mitchell                               Leonard Cohen, photographed by Graeme Mitchell for the New Yorker

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