I’m feeling nostalgic today. I was thinking back to my high school days during the 70s. Every generation of high school kids has their own unique music as a backdrop to their lives. The uniqueness of the 70s centered on the singer/songwriter. Think James Taylor, Paul Simon, Carole King, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Jim Croce. The list goes on.
When I was eight, my father bought me my first guitar shortly after The Beatles made their US debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. It became my friend. I spent many hours practicing and playing my favorite songs. By the time I was 13, I had written my first song. It wasn’t good, but it was the first of many steps in my love for writing.
Then the 70s came. So many brilliant songwriters influenced me in those early years. I teamed up with a buddy to form a Simon and Garfunkel type duo. We followed the singer/songwriters of the day and performed songs by many of them. But the thing I most wanted was to write my own material. Gradually, we added original songs to the many covers we did. Eventually, we made the show almost all original.
But times and music change. I traded my “beat-up six-string” for an electric beauty. Plug it in and I was ready to go. Those were turbulent times, and I left the soft quiet of the folk-rock world for heavy-hitting bands like Styx, Foreigner, and The Doobie Brothers, to name a few. The Eagles bridged the gap between with songs like Victim of Love and Hotel California. Bachman-Turner Overdrive had a few successful hits coming out of Canada. I never tired of playing You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet and Let It Ride.
Living near Penn State University, our first gigs were fraternity parties and local bars. I’d never play those jobs again, but I learned a lot during those years. A few years later I moved to Philadelphia hoping to make the “big time”. Bars and clubs were still our staples, but they were classier and paid more. So not all is lost.
Still, I desired to play original music. Unless you’ve already paid your dues and made your mark, there is almost no work to be found playing original music. Unfortunately, our first recording got very little airplay. So, let's move on.
Lately, I’ve been studying songwriting again, and it has taken me back to my roots. I’ve learned that writing is writing, whether it be songs or fiction. Both need a hook. Without something to draw in your listener or reader, they will never listen or read. Both need a cohesive theme with each verse or chapter tugging at your audience to continue the journey. Both need compelling and believable characters.
One major difference between songwriting and fiction writing is most songs are written in the first person. You would be hard-pressed to find a song written in anything but the first person. Fiction is often written in the third person.
When writing a song or a fiction piece, the first person is more intimate. That’s only my opinion, but I think it to be true. With songs, you also have the added benefit of music which adds to the emotion of the story. Fiction calls for extra work to bring your audience to tears, to laughter, to anger, or whatever emotion is appropriate at the time.
Then I met Jesus. He made the biggest impact on my life. I left songwriting and took on sermon writing. The principles are still the same. Sermons, like singing, can and should bring emotion, but unlike music, sermons should be grounded in fact.
Fiction - fiction. There is no sound. It's up to word choice to paint the scene and bring it to life. Word choice needs to create believable characters. It's all about words. It's all about phrasing. By far, fiction writing has been my biggest challenge. It's also been rewarding and satisfying.
Okay. So I could on and on, but that’s enough reliving in our eloquence, as singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg would say. Thank you for joining me on my trip back through time.
James Taylor - Fire and Rain
Simon and Garfunkel - The Boxer
Carol King - It's too Late
Gordon Lightfoot - Carefree Highway
Neil Young - Heart of Gold
Jim Croce - Operator
Styx - Blue collar Man
Foreigner - Cold as Ice
The Doobie Brothers - - China Grove
The Eagles - Hotel California
Bachman-turner Overdrive - You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
© 2021 William Kovacic
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 16, 2021:
Thanks for letting us meet the very interesting singer/songwriter we had not met before. You're still interesting, having met Jesus. So should we expect some gospel tunes from you? Great sharing your nostalgic reflections! Good read.
William Kovacic (author) from Pleasant Gap, PA on July 16, 2021:
Cat Stevens is one of my favorites. Very emotional, high-quality music. I should have included him on my list.
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 16, 2021:
Your musical heroes are nearly the same as mine. And you said it well, "the musical backdrop of our lives." How fascinating that you did the music circuit and wrote original music! I almost went on tour with a local band when I was dating a musician that looked and sounded like Cat Stevens. Ah, good times.