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Don't Think Twice, It's All Write

posted Oct 14, 2016, 10:24 AM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Nov 10, 2016, 10:31 AM ]
I can still remember sitting in the sun-porch that ever-so-slightly leaned off the back of the first house I remember. I was sitting there with my dad and listening to the music playing on his little portable radio. I had a keen ear for lyrics back then and as I listened to each song I would anticipate the rhyme and make a guess at that last word in the next line. I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8. I only know that because although I seem to have no gift for remembering specific ages when I did specific things, I do know that we moved from that house at the start of what was second grade for me and so that is how I decide where some of the tick-marks in my life’s timeline belong. Anyway, the point is I was young and young enough that it seemed an anomaly to my dad that I “knew” the lyrics to the song he was listening to even if it was just the first time I had heard it.
It seems there are two main categories of people I have come across since then. Of course, it goes without saying that the whole package of a song brings about a special sort of pleasure to any one listener despite which of the two categories he or she falls in, but there seems to be those who are dominantly attentive to the lyrics of a song and those who seem to tune into only the musical elements—at least initially. My husband and I both love music through and through. He can love a song for decades and never really hear the lyrics or pay attention to them. He gets lost in the music and just lets it carry him away without examination. I, on the other hand, hang onto a song’s every word. I am smitten by the musical elements as well, but music speaks to me quite literally and I hear myself echoing what my father often used to say to my mother, to my brothers, to his friends, and to me, “Did you hear what he said. Listen to what the song is saying.”

Music speaks to us on so many levels. In fact, music and the lyrics it often puts forth were my stepping stones to poetry as a young girl. I have loved and written poetry (some pretty good and some just plain awful) since I was as young as I can remember. I’m sure you guessed—I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8. And so, while to some people the fact that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize in literature may seem a bit wonky—to far more others and to me it makes perfect sense. That is the type of writing I celebrate. It is the kind that comes from the heart with type-o’s and scribbling, trial and error. I think it is a great day for writers who are afraid to write because the red pen seems to always be lurking and can take someone completely off topic in what can be a pretty rigid and unforgiving medium.

I have to admit I am not a Bob Dylan groupie. I love some of his songs, but I am certain I have not even heard the majority and do not have an album of his—and I have a lot of compact disc and vinyl albums (remember those?). However, from what I know of him, the essence of the man feels sort of laid back. Dylan, to me, feels like a comfortable pair of shoes that I keep around long after the soles have worn through. It is a calming, unpretentious presence that I think the writing world needs. Sure there is a place for proper grammar and the give and take of constructive criticism, but not at the expense of an authentic voice—not at the peril of how raw honesty and vulnerability can make us feel and relate like only flesh and blood human beings can.

Some writers don’t come forth because they are afraid that any Joe Shmoe[1] with a pen or a laptop could pick them apart with the basic understanding of the English language or a quick google search. Whereas, in comparison, there is not so much amateur-authoritarian critique about the brushstrokes of a painter, the thumbprints of a sculptor, the bubbles of a glassblower and the possible “mistake” on a final piece of so many other expressions of art. Writing is a different kind of art. It is highly accessible to the masses, which is both to its benefit as well as its detriment. It shows up on paper, in music, on the stage, on television. Words surround us in every way, every day and all our lives.

So, this was a good day for writers; and as for you listeners who get carried away with the music even before you meet a lyric—stop and listen a little more carefully the next time you hear a song. You may discover the beauty of words and the ability they have to change a heart, a mind, a culture and your world.



[1] Joe Shmoe—yes I’m talking to you.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a fictional name. For the TV series, see The Joe Schmo Show.

Joe Shmoe (also spelled Joe Schmoe and Joe Schmo and "Yo Hschmo"), meaning 'Joe Anybody', or no one in particular, is one of the most commonly used fictional names in American EnglishAdding a "Shm" to the beginning of a word is meant to diminish, negate, or dismiss an argument (for instance, "Rain, shmain, we've got a game to play"). This process was adapted in English from the use of the "schm" prefix in Yiddish to dismiss something; as in, "Fancy, schmancy." While "schmo" ("schmoo," "schmoe") was thought by some linguists to be a clipping of Yiddish "schmuck",[1] an etymology supported by the Oxford English Dictionary,[2] that derivation is not universally accepted.[3]