It’s Only Words, But They Make or Break the Song

gray metal statue of man raising hand near dock

If you saw the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, you’ll remember Mary, Freddie Mercury’s soulmate and lifelong friend. When Freddie died in 1991, he left his home and all its contents to her. Now, she’s selling it all.

Thirty-thousand items are going up for auction next month, managed by Sotheby’s. The collection includes everything from photos to Freddie’s baby grand piano to the original lyrics for Bohemian Rhapsody, scrawled on a hotel note pad. That piece of paper is expected to fetch at least $1-million.

 “A lot of my songs are fantasy. I can dream up all kinds of things. That’s the kind of world I live in. It’s very sort of flamboyant, and that’s the kind of way I write. I love it.”

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was a brilliant songwriter (and singer, of course), but this got me thinking about lyrics that have really spoken to me. I’ve done my share of head-bopping to BR, but there are songs that hit me harder in the feels. Those lyrics are fun to sing along to, but if we’re honest, they don’t relate on a deep, human level. I’ve certainly never killed a man, and I wouldn’t tell my Mama about it or expect her to fix it for me. Scaramouche!

The lyrics in Mike and the Mechanics’ The Living Years would be in my top five.

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years.

Although I don’t have those specific regrets about my own father, I can relate to the sentiment.

This one in Carry On Wayward Son from Kansas always gets me:

And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know.

And Derek loves this brilliant passage from Rush (Neil Peart) and the song, Freewill.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

I also have one that’s so dumb I can’t forget it! It’s from Van Halen, a band I love. “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.” So bad it’s good!

So, what song lyrics get to you? Which song hits you in the soul and rings true? (Dumb lyrics accepted, too!)

And if you’d like to preview Freddie Mercury’s collection of stuff, just click HERE.

11 thoughts on “It’s Only Words, But They Make or Break the Song”

  1. Love these lines from Stan Rogers’ “Mary Ellen Carter”. Obviously the song needs to be heard in it’s entirety, but these lines are about standing up for yourself and not letting others keep you from achievement:

    “And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
    With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
    Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
    And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.”

    I once had a conversation with a guy who was a musician and songwriter and he was surprised when I said that I felt that the lyrics were as or more important than the music, at least in my opinion. Obviously the two go together to create a song, but my ear goes for the lyrics. Great lyrics can be played in different styles.

    1. Julia, I’ve spent many hours listening to the brilliant lyrics of Stan Rogers. Great choice! And you’re right about great lyrics. Not being a musician, but being a writer, I was always a words-first kind of gal. Now that I’m learning the drums and how to play along with others, I have more of an appreciation for music. But lyrics still make or break it for me.

      1. He was great as is his brother Garnett. We had the pleasure of seeing him about 10 or so years ago at the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville. He had some great stories and great songs.

  2. The past couple weeks I’ve been listening to David Wilcox’s Something’s Shaking before bed. These lines jump out at me:

    “Had my fill of conversation/I don’t know why I’m made this way.”

    I think they reflect a lot of self-knowledge on the singer’s part. They remind me of Lou Reed’s lines:

    “It’s easy enough to tell what is wrong/But that’s not what I want to hear all night long.”

  3. Hi Lisa, I have two songs that inspire me (specifically these verses.

    Tom Cochrane’s ‘No Regrets’:

    After all the shit you know we’ve been through it
    Oh, there ain’t a shovel big enough in the world
    That can move it.

    Great Big Sea’s ‘Ordinary Day’:

    Janie sings on the corner, what keeps her from dying
    Let them say what they want, she won’t stop trying, oh, you know
    She might stumble if they push her ’round
    She might fall, but she’ll never lie down
    It’s not so bad…..

    And back in ‘the day’ when I was trying to find inspiration it was Triumph’s ‘Hold On’ that got me on stage every time.

    (oh, and they have to be played LOUD!!)

  4. 5 Days In May – Blue Rodeo

    ” I know my past, you were there”

    That line gets me right in the heart.
    My best friend of 45 years and I went through everything in life together. We were so close that when our families went away for weekends, she and I would share a bed so we could stay up all night talking. Our husbands were very understanding of our relationship…they slept in spare beds. We talked almost every single day, and knew every personal detail of each other’s life. She was there when I had my kids, I was there when she had hers. I could go on and on. We must have gone to a hundred Blue Rodeo shows together. Their music saw us through many ups and downs in life. My point of rambling here (sorry, Lisa) is that she died a few years ago. I had recorded our fave Blue songs, and played and quietly sang them to her while laying on the hospital bed with her. Her eyes were closed the entire day, but…when those lyrics from 5 Days played, she opened her eyes, looked at me, and took her last breath. We always believed we were something special to each other in a past life, therefore the words, “I know my past, you were there”.

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