Writing songs with good lyrics can be a difficult endeavor. Finding words that express exactly what the songwriter feels, while also fitting into a specific melody and tempo, is not only difficult, but the sound of the words must also be pleasing to the ear as well as the eyes.
Songs with good lyrics can serve as the building block of a song, with the words coming first, evoking a particular feeling or mood, and inspiring the creation of a melody. This is the power of the written word. It is the writer’s gift that great song lyrics have the ability to move you to tears, whether they are tears of joy or tears of sadness.
Other songs are simply catchy – sing-a-long lyrics that stick in your head, even if they’re completely meaningless. For example, the lyrics to the Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ aren’t exactly the most inspiring lyrics ever, but they’re among the most popular in the world thanks to the song’s catchy chorus.
Surf’s Up (By The Beach Boys)
Undoubtedly one of the best songs with good lyrics – as well as one of the most bizarre. It is the product of the truly unique images of the lyrical genius Van Dyke Parks, and it is full of layers of surreal symbolism and imagery (with the help of some very illegal substances).
Masters Of War (Bob Dylan – Masters Of War)
This anti-war lyric by Bob Dylan, known as “the protest song to end all protest songs,” expressed the concerns of a generation when it was written. With Vietnam raging and conscription forcing young Americans to fight in a war they didn’t understand, the lyrics perfectly captured the rage, fear, and disgust of the people who were experiencing it.
“Hey Jude” By The Beatles
While John Lennon initially believed that this song was written for him, at the time of the beginning of his relationship with Yoko Ono, it was actually written by Paul McCartney for Lennon’s son Julian, who would go on to become one of the most famous musicians in the world. The song, which was originally titled ‘Hey Jules,’ was written to comfort a young Julian as his parents separated – and its lyrics have since provided comfort to countless others.
I’m Still Missing Someone (Johnny Cash Song)
It’s one of Johnny Cash’s most well-known songs, as well as one of his most frequently covered. It has a simple melody that is transformed by the song’s painfully heartfelt lyrics. There have undoubtedly been more love songs written than any other type of song, and the ones that have stayed with us are frequently about a love that has been lost.
Suicide Is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H) by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman
The theme from M*A*S*H, which is one of the most famous TV and movie themes in history, is also notable for having a lyricist who is completely unexpected. While searching for a song for one of the film’s characters to sing in a particular scene, director Robert Altman instructed Songwriter Mandel that the song had to be called “Suicide is Painless,” and that it also had to be the “stupidest song ever written,” among other requirements.
The songs with good lyrics read like the best poetry, and many would argue that artists such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan are poets as well as songwriters in addition to being musicians. It is worthwhile to consider the opposite end of the spectrum in order to demonstrate just how difficult and rare it is to craft exquisite lyrics like theirs listed above.