I’ve been wanting to write on this topic, and although I have touched on it a few times before, I have never dedicated an entire post to it.
I watched a video on Zombie Soup today that got me thinking that I should impart what little knowledge of the subject that I have…coupled with a bit of a rant that has been stuck up there in my cranial confines for years.
If you haven’t already followed the hyperlink above, the short film deals with the Brill Building; the real ‘hit factory’ of the 60’s and 70’s. It also describes the jewish influence in that process of turning out an amazing amount of popular songs of the era.
Now, a lot of people, I think, hold a skewed perception about songwriters. As with any topic that isn’t fully investigated…myth tends to gather like ground fog, pertaining to the “talent” it takes to pen a successfully popular song. You don’t really understand or care what it takes to compose these dittys, you just know you couldn’t do it. You sing along with the hook and forget it, until the next one comes down the pike. I guess the point of this all is that…you actually can do it. Just as well as the song-smiths do. It isn’t difficult in the least. As with any enterprise to which the word ‘talent’ is ascribed however, very little if any is required. And I think that of that talent that is used, 10% is just an interest in music, and the other 90% is vanity or longing for the wealth such an endeavor often brings. Cue the jew.
Tunes-smithing is actually a well-worn formula. Wash/rinse/repeat.
The video that I linked about the music that came out of this synagogue-of-songs, calls these jingles ‘great’. That is not the term I would use. Although, when listened to now by someone that grew up in that era…I think we confuse the nostalgic memories that these songs evoke, with true musical genius. And so will you…in 30 or so years, you will be humming a Rihanna melody and thinking to yourself, “how could we have listened to this crap?”. Trust me on this. It will happen just as I know every word to “happy birthday sweet sixteen”.
And the reason that you will relegate these songs to the scrap heap of silliness of youth is because they are not time-worthy…they are not borne of any talent of composition…they are just jingles that anyone with even a passing interest in doing so can pen.
Want to know the trick? K. Take a phrase…any phrase, between a few words and a full sentence. The more prefabbed “wisdom” it bespeaks, the better. Like…I dunno…a maxim…”A stitch in time saves nine”. Now keep repeating that phrase over and over to yourself. Notice a rhythm. It does have a rhythm in its amount of syllables. And in that rhythm is a rise and fall of emphasis…notes. Can you hear it? “…a STITCH in time saves niiiiine”. Simple.
As in the scene from My Fair Lady…”it’s so NICE of you to let…me…come”. So when Henry Higgins is attempting to teach Eliza the proper rhythm of phrasing, he is also teaching her song-smithing. It is a craft…a simple one.
Now all you have to do is to take that phrase(the hook), expand on its limited wisdom a bit, then write a middle 8, as they call it. A name for 8 bars that serve as a relief from the chorus(follow same instructions as before and put it in the same key)…then as I said up there…wash/rinse/repeat. Repeat the rhythmic phrase you began with in its own little melody of accent…and bingo-jingo…go sell it to a goyim singer. You can make millions. If and only if, you have the right connections. We know what those connections are.
I learned all this from a song-smith. Yes, he was jewish. He taught me a lot about music. Well, rather the industry that prostitutes music. This isn’t what I like to think of as music. Not Mozart. Not Cole Porter. Not Hoagy Carmichael, Lennon, Joni or Dave Mathews.
But even these legendary composers(and hundreds more like them) of real, lasting melody and lyrics understood and used some song-smithing. Mozart realized that his ability to churn out a popular “song” in his vaudevilles allowed him the space to create truly gorgeous music. Writing formula songs, John Lennon (with the help of the master of popular sing-songy junk, Paul McCartney), climbed to the top of the musical world and we then heard that of which John was really capable. Of course you could add your favorite composers/performers to this list. But I think it is a pretty good rule of thumb for those of you that are not musically inclined, that if a composition has lasted any great length of time, it probably wasn’t produced using the trickery I describe.
So when I see such a piece lauding the popular song…especially jewish tune-smiths, as great……..well, I gotta laugh.
I have to laugh, because as the title of this piece states, if there is one thing is certain in the world of popular yiddish music, the ‘song’ remains the same.