The Lyrics and Lanquage of Music





Lyrics in the music of a life

“Time may heal, time may steal, time to decide and every thought of you casts its own shadow and everything I wanted is subject to review as time the conqueror closes in on a life.” Words paraphrased from the first and title song of Jackson Browne’s newest creation, Time the Conqueror[1]. Many times in my life the language of lyrics have been the music that kept me going in hard times, that helped me celebrate joys and accomplishment, that helped me lift my head when others harsh words beat me down and sucked the life out of any possibility of spontaneous action or creativity. Lyrics well written and found in a timely fashion are an unbroken thread that permeates my long and winding road in getting to this point. A time which finds me lost and searching when I should be enjoying the fruits of past labors, a time when I know exactly where I wish to go and how to get there. I find that word-processing my thoughts while listening to a brand new selection of music and lyrics from one of my favorite singer/songwriters helps heal fresh wounds and leads me back to that road I was on. Once again focus returns and creativity flows. It has always been this way for me, life and people knock you down, you listen learn and move a little to the groove and move on.

            The Language of Lyrics, lyrics to go with the music of life, a writers blues survival. Rock and roll rebellion, the angst of punk, rap, hip-hop, the grunge of rainy day alternative rock, the blues based feel of southern rock, dance, and disco, pop, folk, country, reggae, rhythm and blues, soul, the cool of jazz, international flavors and the music of cultures all carry their own language and lyrics for those who listen closely.

Inspired by returning to University, tested, enthused, pushed to creativity and thought in a natural high derived from writing odds and ends, bits and pieces of a life lived, observed. A large part of what has kept me going over the years and the tears is the music of my life pulling me along with the thread of a lyric put to soothing melody or vibrant rock beat. It has kept me sane after separation and divorce from a post traumatic, obsessive compulsive, politically correct, emotionally special needs wife, supported by me in so many ways. She abandoned and left me in the downward spiral of a parental alienation syndrome from my three girls and in an avalanche of emotional pain that I never saw coming. Naïve, I believed that truth mattered when a first, false, unnecessary and unjust restraining order was filed only to be told by two lawyers that truth has nothing to do with the law. A reprimanded judge, (Heffernan-MA) who never should have been allowed again on the bench to decide RO’s “had no choice but to extend the RO” and destroy any chance for communication and connection with my family.  My life changed forever though I had never broken the sacred trust between Man and Wife, Father and Child. Truth lost except in the words of my journals righting it out, touching truth and reality in the only ways left. Writing, listening, learning and moving on from an emotionally dead man walking to an inspired man talking, the thread played a large and critical role in my survival.

The thread began with a sleepover listening to the 45 revolution per minute records of an older friend of the family. It was a time when Elvis Presley was King, a rebellious young man from Mississippi ahead of his time, raw, energetic, an original leader of the baby boom generations search for meanings of their own. The rock n roll era began when I was young but far from rebellious, I was hooked when a muse arrived in the guise of a portable record player and two long playing records, Chubby Checker Twist and Introducing the Beatles-VJ Records. “Do You Want to Know a Secret” grasped the thread of lyrics for me and never let it go. Love Rain or Me (The Who), Let it Be (The Beatles), to Great Big Sea (Band from Newfoundland), a palpable connection in 45 flip sides, artist, producer, label, LP-long playing records, album cover art, jacket liner notes expanded my universe and pulled me beyond a household of 9 children and a High School away from my home town which I had no say in attending. It carried me to a job at 16, girls, and a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport with slush box on the floor, bucket seats trimmed in chrome and best of all a radio with rear speaker featuring reverb. The lyrics of the thread playing in the background were touching and intertwined with first loves. I bought my first three albums with that first paycheck, The Animals-Hits, Dave Clark Five-Best of, and The Rolling Stones. The sound and lyrics of The Animals: House of the Rising Sun with Gary Burton singing blew me away in the power of a bands performance touching words.

Bruce Springsteen strengthened my lyric thread with his life and our times written out, put to music and brought to a climax in concert with the E Street Band. Jackson Browne was contributing writer on a story about Springsteen in Rolling Stone Magazine. I was overjoyed when discovering this connection between two of my top lyric writers and musicians. I have taken selective quotes from the article and cannot outdo Jackson Browne’s portrayal of feelings (shared entirely by me) about the ‘Boss.’  Bruce Springsteen is the “Embodiment of rock and roll…combining strains of Appalachian music, rockabilly, blues, and Rhythm and blues, his work epitomizes rock’s deepest values: desire, the need for freedom and the search to find yourself. All through his songs there is a generosity and a willingness to portray even the simplest aspects of our lives in a dramatic and committed way.”

Jackson Browne on Bruce in concert, “…He had this descriptive power—it was just an amazing display of lyrical prowess live…”“It was drama, his approach to music, something that he would expand on many times over, but it was there from the beginning.” No concert is the same. “It was obvious that they were drawing on a vocabulary. It was exhilarating, and at the bottom of it all there was all this joy and fun and a sense of brotherhood, of being outsiders who had tremendous power and a story to tell…indistinct utterances have been magnified to communicate volumes……Bruce has always had enormous range in terms of subject and emotion…He is always working on a very large scale, a scale that is nothing short of heroic. He is one of the few songwriters who work on a scale that is capable of handling the subject of our national grief and the need to find a response to September 11th.[2] His sense of music as a healing power, of band—as—church, has always been there, woven into the fabric of his songs, He’s got his feet planted on either side of that great divide between black & white gospel, between blues and country, between rebellion and redemption.” The Rising on Columbia Records was Bruce’s answer to the events of 911, a short review from RS follows, “After everything fell down on September11th, 2001, Bruce Springsteen made the rock & roll we needed most–fifteen songs about getting up again—with the greatest backing combo in the world, the E Street Band. This Reborn in the USA swings between extreme despair (“You’re Missing”) and Irish wake (“Mary’s Place”). But in the grainy force of Springsteen’s voice and the muscular exaltation of the music, the power of ordinary men and women to build a new, atop so much loss, rings loud and true.”[3] Healing power drawn from lyrical truth found in focused listening just happens when the music touches you for his is an honesty which comes thru loud and clear. He is someone you can trust and believe in. As a retired Fire/Emergency Medical Response Captain, Springsteen’s lyrics in The Rising were palpable as he describes the thoughts and feelings of a firefighter responding to the twin towers in N.Y. 345 Firefighters lost their lives that day wearing the Maltese cross of their calling and as the men climb the towers their thoughts turn to their loved ones. Parenthesis added by me as the lyrics strengthen the thread.

The Rising

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me

Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind

I make my way through this darkness

I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me (duty)

Lost track of how far I’ve gone

How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed

On my back’s a sixty pound stone (SCBA air tank)

On my shoulder a half mile of line (folded pack of hose)

Come on up for the rising

Come on up lay your hands in mine

Come on up for the rising

Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning (firehouse)

Bells ringing filled the air (alarm bells)

Wearin’the cross of my calling (FF Maltese Cross)

On wheel of fire I come rollin’ down here (Fire Apparatus)

Chorus repeats

There’s spirits above and behind me (the already dead)

Faces gone black, eyes burnin’bright (fear in others faces)


May their precious blood bind me

Lord, as I stand before your fiery light

I see you Mary in the garden

In the garden of a thousand sighs

There’s holy pictures of our children

Dancin’ in a sky filled with light

May I feel your arms around me

May I feel your blood mix with mine

A dream of life comes to me

Like a catfish dancin’on the end of my line


Sky of blackness and sorrow

Sky of love, sky of tears

Sky of glory and sadness

Sky of mercy, sky of fear

Sky of memory and shadow

Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight

Sky of longing and emptiness

Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life

Chorus repeats[4]


Not long before the 2004 election, Bruce for the first time took a political stance and endorsed John Kerry for president. An addendum of his words in Rolling Stone, September 2, 2004 is attached. He expresses my desires for a president who, “places a priority on fairness, curiosity, openness, humility, concern for all America’s citizens, courage and faith.” This is another juncture where my feelings and the lyrics of Bruce and Jackson Browne intersect. Both write about the historic winds that surround us with focused concern. On the Iraq War of choice Bruce wrote the lyrics to Devils and Dust-2005[5] and Last To Die-2007[6] in which he paraphrases John Kerry’s words to a congressional committee during Viet Nam. My wife and I stood up front with the firefighters for Kerry at the last big rally in Manchester days before the election. The rest is History.

Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake

The last to die for a mistake

Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break

Who’ll be the last to die, for a mistake

-From the same album and the song Magic

Trust none of what you hear and less of what you see

This is what will be, this is what will be…

…and the freedom that you sought’s

Driftin’ like a ghost amongst the trees

This is what will be, this is what will be


Jackson Browne’s song The Drums of War[7] intertwines with the thread of my feelings facing another four years under Bush and at War:

…time comes when everything you ever thought you knew

Comes crashing down and flames up in front of you

Roll out the drums of war

Roll back the freedoms that we struggled for

What were those freedoms for?

Let’s not talk about it any more

Roll out the drums of war

Whatever you believe the necessary course to be

Depends on who you trust to identify the enemy

Who beats the drums for war?

Even before the peace is lost

Who are the profits for?

And who are they who bear the cost

When a country takes the low road to war

Who gives the orders, orders to torture?

Who get to no bid contract the future?

Who lies, then bombs, then calls it an error?

Who makes a fortune from fighting terror?

Who is the enemy of truth and justice?

Where are the courts, now when we need them?

Why is impeachment not on the table?

We better stop them while we are able

Roll out the drums of war


            The last line is a call for a revolution of ideas and it has started with the campaigns of 2004 and 2006 leading up to this critical election and the choices to be made by the voters of this country. I feel a need to speak up for the truths I see, a need to build bridges of connection and communication, understanding and reason. The truths of Bruce and Jackson’s lyrics strengthen and intersect with both History and how I feel. They don’t know me from a hole in the wall but over the years they have touched me deeply and I am grateful. It is better to write than wallow in grief, to speak up and stop the thief, to feel the fire in your belly and shed light on the liars.  Our country changed with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and John Kennedy. All were leaders I believed in and feel as if we have lost great potential for this country in the years since their passing. Jackson Browne touches on this and the connection of today’s History to the 60’s in the song, Off Of Wonderland[8]:

…there was change in the air

It was love everywhere

Living off of Wonderland

Ankle deep in contraband

Working on a life unplanned

Didn’t we believe in love?

Didn’t we believe in giving it away?

That didn’t really leave us with the love

To find our way

After RFK and Martin Luther King


Do you feel it today?

Love is still on the way

Coming over Wonderland

The world is in your open hand

Once again it’s at your command


Didn’t we believe in love?

Didn’t we believe that love would carry on?

Wouldn’t we receive enough

If we could just believe in one another

As much as we believed in John

Do you want to know a secret? (I believe that) before time the conqueror turns us to devils and dust a rising will occur over the great seas and that love will reign over us. That the ideals and ideas of the founding fathers of this country will be the last to die as the drums of a war of revolutionary idea wins. A global world will be built with magic, off of a wonderland thread of dreams picked up from the language of lyrics in music that connects us all. We will construct a house of the rising sun of reason, live in peace and let it be.

Language is the thread! Peace is the answer!

[1] 2008 Jackson Browne-Time The Conqueror-Inside Recordings. L.L.C.

[2] Rolling Stone-Issue 946—April 15,2004 by Jackson Browne

[3] Rolling Stone-Issue 912/913—Dec 26, 2002 by Fricke, David

[4] 2002 Bruce Springsteen-The Rising/Columbia Records N.Y.,N.Y.

[5] 2005 Bruce Springsteen-Devils and Dust-Columbia Records

[6] 2007 Bruce Springsteen-Magic-Columbia Records

[7] 2008 Jackson Browne-Time The Conqueror-Inside Recordings. L.L.C.

[8] 2008 Jackson Browne-Time The Conqueror-Inside Recordings. L.L.C.