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The Great Debate – Music Or Lyrics?

Posted Mar 4 2014, 11:41 am

They made up their minds
And they started packing
They left before the sun came up that day
An exit to eternal summer slacking
But where were they going without ever
Knowing the way?

–The Way, by Fastball

In writing Rock It, I thought a lot about how music can help define you as a person. Lacey found herself—and her true love—in the music of Dante Falcone, and was willing to wrap her life around that music as a teenager and even into her adult years.

While Lacey took things farther than most of us would go, there are just certain songs that stick with you year after year, and if you hear those songs again—even thirty years later—they take you back to the time and place you were whenever you first heard that music.

I’m talking the kind of “take you back” that happens when you hear the music from the theme song to the original Star Trek series—or music that takes you back just to 2010 (waves to Katy Perry//Firework). I can remember the song that made me cry when I was a lonely 4-H camper… and yes, I’m still completely embarrassed by that memory (but still waves to Bette Midler//The Rose). I can remember the song that marks the love-of-my-life moment (waves to The King & I//Something Wonderful). I can remember the song that reminds me of seeing two people fall in love who didn’t expect to get a second chance (waves to The Way//Fastball)

But for me, while the music is catchy and helps me remember the words, it is the lyrics of a song that make the tears flow. I assumed it was this way for everyone—but I was wrong.

As I was writing Rock It, I chatted with a friend of mine who is a musician. He writes and records, he’s played in cover bands and distributed his own music, the whole thing. And his inability to even REMEMBER lyrics absolutely staggers me. When he writes music with vocal tracks, the words are the LAST PIECE he adds. He couldn’t care less. For him, the music is about the melodies and harmonies, and the interplay of instruments—not what the words are actually saying. To him, you need lyrics added to a piece of music about as much as you need them added to a painting.

I completely disagree. And in writing Rock It, I actually started writing snippets of songs (word to the wise, I’m a terrible lyrics writer) that I thought Dante would sing. I even have a recurring lyric that I reference in the book, that I won’t include here. (As a hint, a portion of that lyric is the Tour name in the book). I thought so much about the words of Dante’s music, and what they might mean to a teenaged me, that the music was almost an afterthought.

I wonder if I’m in the minority or the majority here? Are words more important than the music in helping ground you in a song? OR is the music what plucks at your heartstrings, stirs your soul, settles into your bones.

For Dante, it’s definitely the music. For Lacey, it started out being the lyrics, but when she fell in love with Dante, it became the music.

But for me, I’m holding out. The poetry of the lyrics are what gets me every time.

And as to that couple who got their second chance at love, well, I suspect one day I’ll find them again, walking on the beach somewhere, talking about how sweet it is.


Their children woke up
And they couldn’t find them
They left before the sun came up that day
They just drove off and left it all behind ’em
But where were they going without ever
Knowing the way?

–The Way, by Fastball

This blog was originally posted as part of the Rock It blog tour. Special thanks to The Reading Date for hosting me!

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