SONGWRITING TIPS AND ADVICE ON THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOUND IN ALL HIT SONGS

Tag Archives: Burt Bacharach

Photo: David Shankbone

Photo: David Shankbone

Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Billy Joel is to be honoured with the prestigious Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He will receive the prize in Washington, D.C. in November.

Joel follows in the footsteps of six previous recipients: Carole King, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney and songwriting partners Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David.

The Gershwin Prize honours individuals for lifetime achievement in popular music. It is named after legendary songwriting brothers George and Ira Gershwin.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billlington said: “Billy Joel is a storyteller of the highest order. There is an intimacy to his songwriting that bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music.”

Billy Joel said: “The great composer, George Gershwin, has been a personal inspiration to me throughout my career. And the Library’s decision to include me among those songwriters who have been past recipients is a milestone for me.”

Six-time Grammy Award winner Billy Joel was presented with a Grammy Legend Award in 1990. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

During his 50-year career, he has had 33 Top 40 hits and has sold more than 150 million records worldwide. His Grammy awards include Song of the Year and Album of the Year in 1978 for ‘Just the Way You Are’.

Since releasing his first hit song, ‘Piano Man’, in 1973, Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States.

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


Etta James's 'At Last' is Spotify's most popular 'first dance' song

Etta James’s ‘At Last’ is Spotify’s most popular ‘first dance’ song

Many songwriters dream of being able to come up with an evergreen song that will still mean something special to listeners in years to come (and, ideally, keep earning royalties for years to come!).

One example of this is the kind of song that newly married couples choose for their ‘first dance’ at their wedding celebrations—a song that will always bring back those ‘special day’ feelings for them.

Now, leading music streaming service Spotify has unveiled a list of the world’s 10 most popular ‘first dance’ wedding songs, based on the listening choices made by many of its 40 million active users across 56 countries.

Spotify studied over 30,000 wedding-themed playlists and also analyzed 12,000 single-track playlists named ‘First Dance’ in order to identify listeners’ most popular wedding choices.

According to Spotify, the world’s most popular ‘first dance’ song is Etta James’s 1960 classic ‘At Last’ which was originally written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren in 1941 for the film musical Orchestra Wives (performed in the movie by Glenn Miller and his orchestra).

Here is Spotify’s ‘First Dance’ Top 10:

1. Etta James – ‘At Last’
2. Jason Mraz – ‘I Won’t Give Up’
3. Ray LaMontagne – ‘You Are the Best Thing’
4. John Legend – ‘All of Me’
5. Jack Johnson – ‘Better Together’
6. Christina Perri – ‘A Thousand Years’
7. Michael Buble – ‘Everything’
8. Bright Eyes – ‘First Day Of My Life’
9. Brad Paisley – ‘Then’
10. Adele – ‘Make You Feel My Love’

If you can write a song that becomes someone’s ‘special song’ with a lyrical message and melody that will always remind them of a particular day (such as their wedding), then it is indeed a great achievement.

When Grammy Award-winner Drake released his 2013 single ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ (subsequently covered by the Arctic Monkeys), he hoped the song would go on to become a “timeless” wedding song that would still be played at nuptials in years to come.

“I thought it would be great if we had a record that was still played at weddings in ten years … something that just has timeless writing and a timeless melody,” he told MTV News at the time.

Burt Bacharach shares this view. “I like to write songs that will last,” he once remarked. “Once a record is out of the charts it’s dead, as a record. But if it’s a good song it’ll stay around.”

And there are solid scientific findings to support this ‘long-lasting’ approach to songwriting.

In 2008, researchers at the University of Leeds in England found that music has a powerful influence on the storage and retrieval of long-term memories. A piece of music can become so closely associated with an event from a person’s life that hearing the music again evokes powerful memories of the original experience.

In a recent UK survey, half of the men and women interviewed said they are taken back to memories of a past relationship whenever they hear a certain song. And 20% said they have a particular song that always reminds them of their first kiss.

That’s why music is sometimes called ‘the language of emotion’. It has an amazing power to influence people’s emotions and behaviour. As Oliver Sacks, the noted British neuroscientist and author, puts it: “Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Here’s Etta James’s classic recording of ‘At Last’ to bring back a few memories …

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


Macklemore and Ryan LewisWe all have the same 24 hours in a day as songwriters like Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (pictured), so how come they are able to turn out so many hit songs on a regular basis while other writers can’t?

One reason, it seems, is that some writers may have the talent to write hit songs, but they lack the determination, focus and self-discipline to make it happen.

John Legend, for example, believes success as a songwriter is as much about working hard as it is talent. “There’s this mistaken belief that everything is about talent,” he told Q magazine, “but talent has to be cultivated and developed. If it’s not nurtured, pushed and challenged it’s not going to happen.”

Diane Warren, one of the most successful female songwriters of all time, says she spent 20 years writing six days a week, 10-12 hours a day, before she felt she could finally take the occasional weekend off!

Experienced songwriters know how important it is to challenge yourself to write something every day—even when you don’t feel like it—otherwise potential hit songs will never get written.

Establishing a consistent writing habit—making it part of your daily routine—will boost your creativity and productivity, and lead to better songs.

As Burt Bacharach once remarked: “Music breeds its own inspiration. You can only do it by doing it. You may not feel like it, but you push yourself.”

Nick Cave agrees: “I go into my office every day and work—whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.”

PJ Harvey takes a similar view: “If you want to be good at anything, you have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. I work every day at trying to improve my writing, and I really enjoy it.”

Of course, no two creative people are the same in the way they find their inspiration. That’s why it is so important to identify the most creative time of day for you. Some people like to write something as soon as they wake up in the morning, when their mind is fresh and full of ideas. Some work better late at night.

The fascinating infographic below—created by Info We Trustshows the daily routines of some of history’s most creative individuals—including composers, painters, writers, scientists and philosophers. It is based on Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, in which he investigated the rigid daily rituals that legendary creative figures practised in order to carve out enough time, every day, to work their craft.

How does your daily writing routine compare with the creative masters below?

CREATIVE ROUTINES - INFOGRAPHIC

 Click the infographic for larger image

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, and Barnes & Noble's Nook store How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


The legendary songwriting team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff are set to receive the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s prestigious Johnny Mercer Award at the 45th Annual Induction and Awards ceremony in New York City on June 12.

The Mercer Award is the highest honour bestowed by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. It is reserved for a songwriter or songwriting team whose body of work is of such high quality and impact that it upholds the standard set by Johnny Mercer himself.

Philadelphia-based Gamble and Huff will join past Mercer Award recipients Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Paul Anka, Kris Kristofferson, Smokey Robinson, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, and Cy Coleman.

“It will be our pleasure to welcome Gamble and Huff into the circle of superwriters who have received the Johnny Mercer Award,” said Jimmy Webb, the Songwriters Hall of Fame chairman and a fellow recipient of the Mercer award. “They have met the standard with a series of indelible melodies and lyrics, and an enviable string of number one records and gold and platinum discs.”

Over the past 50 years, Gamble and Huff have written over 3,500 songs together, including 50 pop and R&B chart hit singles. They have won five Grammy Awards and 86 BMI Pop and R&B Awards.

In 1971, the duo set up their own record label, Philadelphia International Records, and went on to create ‘The Sound of Philadelphia’ with classic hits such as The Supremes’ ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’, ‘Only The Strong Survive’ by Jerry Butler, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, Billy Paul’s ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’, and ‘Love Train’ by The O’Jays.

Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995.

This video charts the history of Gamble & Huff and The Sound of Philadelphia:

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a paperback, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


Canadian singer, rapper and songwriter Drake believes it is important to try to come up with songs with a lyrical message and melody that will still mean something special to listeners in years to come.

If you can write a song that becomes someone’s ‘special song’ because it always reminds them of a particular day (such as their wedding day) or a special moment in their lives (such as the return of a loved one after a long absence), then it is indeed a great achievement.

And there are solid scientific findings to support this ‘long-tail’ approach to songwriting.

In 2008, researchers at the University of Leeds found that music has a powerful influence on the storage and retrieval of long-term memories in particular. A piece of music can become so closely associated with an event from a person’s life that hearing the music again evokes powerful memories of the original experience.

That’s why music is sometimes called ‘the language of emotion’. It has an amazing power to influence people’s emotions and behaviour. As Oliver Sacks, the noted British neuroscientist and author, puts it: “Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Grammy Award-winning Drake and his producer Noah “40” Shebib are hoping that Drake’s song ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ will become a “timeless” wedding song that will help to bring back those ‘special day’ feelings and still be played at nuptials in years to come.

“I thought it would be great if we had a record that was played at weddings in ten years or that people that are away from their families in the army could listen to,” he told MTV News. “Something that just has timeless writing and a timeless melody.”

The legendary Burt Bacharach also shares this view. “I like to write songs that will last,” he once remarked. “Once a record is out of the charts it’s dead – as a record. But if it’s a good song it’ll stay around. ”

How do you think Drake’s new single ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ (featuring Majid Jordan) compares with other great wedding songs?

‘At Last’ – Etta James

‘Marry You’ – Bruno Mars

Can’t Help Falling In Love’ – Elvis Presley

 

How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada)..



To be successful, a song must be able to reach out and touch the listener and make him or her feel something. This means the song ideally needs to be about something that everyone is familiar with. It also means the lyrics should be honest, believable and heartfelt so that people can easily relate to them.

Taylor Swift says heartbreak is her favourite emotion when she is writing songs. She believes songs about people who are heartbroken tend to make the best and most interesting songs because most people can relate to how it feels.

“I think when you’re heartbroken you need music more than when you’re not,” she says. “There’s something so beautiful about people who are heartbroken. They think about things much more.”

She adds: “When you’re in love and you’re happy you don’t need to think; it’s just there. Love is one of those things that’s so simple, you only need to think about it when it’s bad. When you write a song about what you’re thinking… there’s such a gratification and it helps you move on.”

Taylor Swift is renowned for writing hit songs about her own relationships. For example, she has admitted that ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ was about the break-up of her relationship with One Direction’s Harry Styles. And tracks such as ‘Dear John’ and ‘All Too Well’ were reportedly written about her former flames John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal.

She says that when she eventually runs out of stories about her own life, she’ll start writing heartbreak lyrics from other people’s point of view.

Adele is another leading singer-songwriter who shares Taylor Swift’s view about the power of heartbreak songs. “Heartbreak can definitely give you a deeper sensibility for writing songs,” says Adele. “I drew on a lot of heartbreak when I was writing my first album, I didn’t mean to but I just did.”

Richard Marx – whose hits include ‘Right Here Waiting’, ‘Now and Forever’, ‘Too Late To Say Goodbye’ and ‘Hold On to the Nights – also believes sad songs can make the best songs. “I just don’t find that there’s much poetry in a successful relationship,” he says. “The poetry comes from unrequited love and heartbreak and longing … I just find that even as a listener I don’t want to hear happy love songs, let alone write them.”

And the legendary Burt Bacharach also admits that he is drawn to heartbreak songs. “I’ve never been a terribly sad or depressed person,” he once remarked. “But when I write, I just happen to go toward that sort of thing … Maybe that’s because ‘she loves you’ or ‘I’m so happy’ don’t make for such good songs.”

# # # #SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and across Europe. It is also available as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle store in the United States, the UK and Europe, as well as Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.A 5-star rated book at Amazon, How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


Hal David, one of the greatest lyricists of all time, always believed it was essential for writers to stay as objective as possible about their lyrics. He stressed the importance of being able to step outside of yourself and hear the song from the listener’s point of view.

“One thing a lyricist must learn is not to fall in love with his own lines,” David once remarked. “Once you learn that, you can walk away from the lyric and look at it with a reasonable degree of objectivity.”

A common mistake among many new lyricists is their failure to take a step back and recognize when they are using over-elaborate imagery and ‘poetic’ lyrics that just don’t work with the song. Far from being impressed with how clever and creative the lyricist is, music publishers and A&R executives are more likely to see unnecessarily flowery language as a sign of inexperience.

Trying too hard to be ‘different’ and artistic can often result in lyrics that simply sound pretentious and self-indulgent. If your lyrics don’t come across as genuine, listeners may find it hard to connect with your song.

And some lyricists may not realize that they are in danger of boring listeners by simply pouring out fact after fact as they tell the song’s story. You have to paint a picture in the listener’s imagination so that you can reach him or her on an emotional level and stimulate a response.

To make it easier for listeners to remember your lyrics, it’s important to keep them simple and conversational. Hal David was a master at conveying what he wanted to say in the most concise way possible, despite the complexity of some of Burt Bacharach’s melodies.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Bacharach and David wrote some of the most enduring pop songs of all time. Their classic hits included ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’, ‘This Guy’s in Love with You’, ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’, ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’, ‘Walk On By’, ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’, ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, ‘The Look of Love’, and ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, amongst many others.

“In writing, I search for believability, simplicity and emotional impact,” Hal David once explained. “Simplicity is often the hardest thing to achieve.”

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a paperback, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK) or HERE (Australia).