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Santiago Herrera

Welcome to my corner of the internet

My Favorite Lyrics

I'm not a person who pays that much attention to lyrics (both as a listener and as a composer), but there are some lyrics that my ear just can't escape.

Here's a list of songs whose lyrics I adore. I decided to choose one song per artist, but in most cases I could have chosen a few more from the same artist (e.g., Lou Reed, Trent Reznor, John Frusciante, etc.).

Just in case, I would like to clarify that I do not consider these to be, objectively speaking, the best lyrics by these artists (whatever that means), but I do know that these are my favorite lyrics. Finally, many of these artists have a very extensive catalog of songs, which, in some cases, I have not been able to listen to in their entirety. That's why I would love to read some of your favorite lyrics by these artists, or if you have others to recommend me! Just leave me a message in my guestbook.

"Afraid" by Nico

Artist: Nico
Album: Desertshore
Recorded: 1970
Released: 20 December, 1970

[Verse 1]
Cease to know or to tell
Or to see or to be your own
Cease to know or to tell
Or to see or to be your own

Have someone else's will as your own
Have someone else's will as your own
You are beautiful and you are alone
You are beautiful and you are alone

[Verse 2]
Often the adolescent plague
Reward your grace
Often the adolescent plague
Reward your grace

Confuse your hunger, capture the fake
Confuse your hunger, capture the fake
Banish the faceless, reward your grace
Banish the faceless, reward your grace

For me, Nico is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. You could literally pick any album of her catalog and be amazed by how good and/or unique it is.

When I first heard this song, it didn't stay with me, probably because I was listening to the album from start to finish, and not thinking of the songs as individual tracks but more as a whole.

It was a few years ago, when I was watching this skateboarding video by Jim Greco that I rediscovered the song and fell in love with it.

It's funny because I don't think that (in the skateboarding video) the song goes along very well with the visuals (unlike These Days in the film The Royal Tenenbaums), but just hearing the song out of the context of the album made me realize how much I liked it and how much it resonates with me.

"An Exercise" by John Frusciante

Artist: John Frusciante
Album: The Will To Death
Recorded: December 18 & 19, 2003 – January 8,9 and 10, 2004
Released: 22 June, 2004

Learning there's nothing to gain from advice
Hey doubt, come on around any time
Anyhow mistakes are what lead you through life
Down and out's only if you think up and in's right
I've gone along with the sins that are versions of you
But guidelines were all I had time to get through

[Verse 1]
It's like reading of love that's gone wrong
If time was laid out like that
Everything would occur at once
And all the laws were laid down twice
And the clouds were doubled in the sky
And being tall meant lacking height
And being wrong meant being right

[Verse 2]
You're perfect
You fit snuggly right in the lie
One host is going to teach how to die
Lay down
The darkness tonight is so bright
There's one for each time cars collide
I hear that telling moments divide
And the only important moments
Are the in between times
And being confused is an exercise
I'm missing your thoughts tonight
But we reach out to what's out of our sight

Like I mentioned above, there are a lot of lyrics by John Frusciante that I love, especially the lyrics from the albums The Empyrean and The Will To Death. This song in particular, for me, is just one amazing sentence after another. There were parts of the lyrics that, when I first heard them, I didn't understand in an intellectual way, but more in a subconscious way (“I've gone along with the sins that are versions of you”) which I absolutely love.

Following the long and costly recording of Shadows Collide With People, John intended to record music quickly and in a minimalist fashion. This session would be the first of the many that happened in 2004, and it ends up being this very raw production that, for people like me, who don't pay much attention to lyrics, you just could not let them pass.

"Anhedonia" by Charly García

Artist: Charly García
Album: Cómo conseguir chicas
Recorded: October – November 1988
Released: 16 February 1989

El tiempo vuelve a pasar
Pero no hay primavera en Anhedonia
El tiempo vuelve a llorar
Pero no hay primavera en Anhedonia

Y aunque las luces son suaves
Y el cine está aquí
No hay nada que hacer
De noche no pasa nada
Nada más que el tren

Un ángel vuela en París
Y un chico nace casi en Anhedonia
Está tan lejos de aquí
Porque ella sólo vive en Anhedonia

Ella hizo un pacto de sangre
A pesar de mí
No tengo que hacer maletas
No siento nada
Nada más en mí

No tengo que volver
Sangre en la calle, calle
No hay que vivir así
Porque antes que tu madre
Mucho antes que el dolor
El amor cambia tu sangre

Y aunque la noche es tan suave
Y el tiempo feliz
No tengo que hacer maletas
No siento nada

This is a beautiful composition by the Argentine artist Charly García.

“One day we started recording at 8 p.m. and finished at 3 p.m. the next day. When we finished, I approached [producer] Joe [Blaney], who was exhausted, and told him that I had one more song, and I wanted to record it superfast. The face with which he looked at me, I can never forget. He said to me, 'The song better be good, because if not, I'll kill you, understand?' I put on some electronic drums and when the song was over, which was Anhedonia, Joe came up to me and said, 'Yeah, you were right, it was worth it.'” -Charly García

If you haven't already, I highly suggest you to listen to both this demo version and this beautiful live version of the song, with just Charly on piano and vocals.

"Ashes of American Flags" by Jeff Tweedy

Artist: Wilco
Album: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Recorded: Late 2000 – Early 2001
Released: 18 September 2001

[Verse 1]
The cash machine is blue and green
For a hundred in twenties and a small service fee
I could spend three dollars and sixty-three cents
On Diet Coca-Cola and unlit cigarettes
How hot and sorrowful, this machine begs for luck

All my lies are always wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new

[Verse 2]
I want a good life with a nose for things
Fresh wind and bright sky to enjoy my suffering
A hole without a key if I break my tongue
Speaking of tomorrow, how will it ever come?

All my lies are always wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new

I'm down on my hands and knees every time the doorbell rings
I shake like a toothache when I hear myself sing

All my lies are only wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new
I would like to salute
The ashes of American flags
And all the fallen leaves
Filling up shopping bags

"Escúchame entre el ruido" by Moris

Artist: Moris
Album: Treinta minutos de vida
Recorded: 1967 – 1969
Released: 1970

El hombre tiene miedo de ver la verdad
De ver que él era algo que no podía definir
De ver que al fin su sexo pudo ser o no ser
Que no era absoluto, que podía ser la flor

El hombre tiene miedo de su sexo también
Y niega a la mujer que lleva dentro de él
¿Qué flor le daré a aquel que vive sin amor?
La flor de mil y un sexos, la flor de un creador

Cuando él era muy pequeño, él sabia vivir
Todo era pureza, mamá y papá
Sí, después creció, subió y lloró
¿dónde estará la flor, dónde está el que se fue?

Un día La Farsanta, nuestra Gran Sociedad
Le dijo mil mentiras, lo metió en un corral
Le dijo que su sexo él tenía que ocultar
La flor se marchitó, no pudo ver el sol

También le dijo como él tenia que pensar
Sentir, vivir, amar y ser un ser normal
Después le regalo, el caos, la maldad
Y la publicidad por fin lo convenció

Te engañaron, ya lo sabes, sino lo sabes también
Con la pluma y la palabra; y con silencio también
Aunque bien, bien lo sabia, la Bendita Sociedad
Que eras algo más que un sexo y tu cédula de identidad

Lo miro a mi abuelo, el era muy viril
Igual que yo, era hombre o mujer
Díganme ustedes, dueños de la moral
La voz de ese viejito ¿es de hombre o de mujer?

Escúchame, hermano, entre este ruido actual
Hermano, te lo pido, ayúdame a seguir
No esperes que te entiendan ¿por qué lo habrían de hacer?
Son sólo maquinitas, que no pueden fallar

Las máquinas fabrican frases para vivir
Y todos repetimos, sin nunca descubrir
La libertad de un hombre no era de metal
La máquina triunfó, y el hombre se acabó

Ustedes dicen macho, varón y que se yo
Me meten en un molde, como si fuera un flan
Y para recibirme de hombre, ¿no es verdad?
Me tengo que pelear, no tengo que llorar

Hablar de las mujeres como cosas que hay que usar
Tener la pose macha y la voz del arrabal
Pero yo bien los conozco, no me pueden engañar
Tienen mucho, mucho miedo (que los llamen) que los llamen anormal

Cuando un niño te sonríe, y él te quiere acariciar
Cuando lloras y estás solo, y no hay nadie a quien llamar
Cuando mueres un instante porque estás con ella al fin
Cuando abrazas a un amigo que lo quieras como a un Dios

Están ciegos, son idiotas
¿O qué es lo que pasa aquí?
¿O qué es lo que pasa aquí?
¿O qué es lo que pasa aquí?

I can't begin to describe how much I love this song. Every time I read the lyrics, I get super emotional. It's not a sad song, by any means, but I can't help but feel this kind of nostalgic feeling and be amazed by how good these lyrics are and what a poetic genius Moris is. It's like looking at something unique for the first time—something that is very simple yet incredibly beautiful.

The song was originally written in 1966 by Moris, and released in 1970 on his debut album, Treinta minutos de vida.

“A song is something alive, and that reaches its maximum fulfillment in the act of interpreting it. Picking up a song and writing only the lyrics—without the voice and without the music - is to show only a part of something and involves the risk of being misjudged. Fortunately, I have been able to give the songs the maximum rhythm and strength that words, lines and shapes allow. [...] And now it's the book's turn to sing its songs”. - Prologue of the book Ahora mismo by Moris.

"God" by John Lennon

Artist: John Lennon
Album: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Recorded: 26 September – 23 October 1970
Released: 11 December 1970

[Verse 1]
God is a concept by which we measure our pain
I'll say it again
God is a concept by which we measure our pain, yeah
Pain, yeah

[Verse 2]
I don't believe in magic
I don't believe in I-Ching
I don't believe in Bible
I don't believe in tarot
I don't believe in Hitler
I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in Kennedy
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in mantra
I don't believe in Gita
I don't believe in yoga
I don't believe in kings
I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles

I just believe in me
Yoko and me
And that's reality

[Verse 3]
The dream is over
What can I say?
The dream is over
I was the dream weaver, but now I'm reborn
I was the Walrus, but now I'm John
And so dear friends, you just have to carry on
The dream is over

While others might prefer the more abstract lyrics by John Lennon (like Across the Universe, I'm The Walrus, etc.) or the more poetic/pacifist ones (like Imagine, inspired by Yoko Ono's poems of his 1964 book, Grapefruit), I love the minimalist approach to lyrics that Lennon uses on this album. Another good example of this is the song Love or Look At Me, which I absolutely adore.

This song was composed in Los Angeles while John was undergoing Primal Scream therapy.

“He rented a house in Bel Air, which is a very ritzy area here, and we talked about things. He said, ‘What about God?’ and I would go on and on about [how] people who have deep pain generally tend to believe in God with a fervency. And he said: ‘Oh, you mean God is a concept by which we measure our pain.’ Just bang. I would go all around it and he was there, just like that. And that was John. John could take very profound philosophical concepts and make it simple.” - Dr. Arthur Janov

"Happy" by Marina L. Diamandis

Artist: Marina and the Diamonds
Album: FROOT
Recorded: April – June 2014
Released: 13 March 2015

[Verse 1]
Couldn't relax
Couldn't sit back
And let the sunlight
In my lap
I sang a hymn
To bring me peace
And then it came
A melody

[Verse 2]
It felt so sweet
It felt so strong
It made me feel like
I belonged
And all the sadness
Inside me
Melted away
Like I was free

[Chorus 1]
I found what I'd been looking for in myself
Found a life worth living for someone else
Never thought that I could be, I could be
Happy, happy

[Verse 3]
Don't go out
Much at all
I've never been
The type to call
I realise
To be happy
Maybe I need
A little company

[Verse 4]
So now you know
You know it all
That I've been
Des-desperately alone
I haven't found
The one for me
But I believe
In divinity

[Chorus 1]
I found what I'd been looking for in myself
Found a life worth living for someone else
Never thought that I could be, I could be
Happy, happy

[Chorus 2]
I believe in possibility
I believe someone’s watching over me
And finally, I have found a way to be
Happy, happy

From the concrete to the coast
I was looking for a holy ghost
Like the land joining the sea
Happiness it followed me

[Chorus 2]
I believe in possibility
I believe someone's watching over me
And finally, I have found a way to be
Happy, happy, happy

This is a song that, whenever I hear it, I just have to stop doing whatever I'm doing and just listen to it. It automatically takes me to another place. Its lyrics are really simple but work really well, without the need to resort to complex phrases. Such a beautiful composition.

Marina's use of her harsh breaks between chest and head voice (along with her lovely South England/Greek accent) suits the song amazingly well. Her lower register is so dark and smoky-sounding compared to her airier upper register. In case you're interested, here's an absolutely amazing article that goes deeper into this topic.

The song was released as a part of her Froot of the Month campaign on December 12, 2014, and later (on March 13, 2015), as the opening track of her album FROOT. This song was partially written in Germany, but later, in November 2012, she finished the verses and then the chorus three months later (as it was said by Marina in this lovely Q&A, or FAQin' Hell).

"Heroin" by Lou Reed

Artist: The Velvet Underground
Album: The Velvet Underground & Nico
Recorded: April, May & November 1966
Released: 12 March 1967

[Verse 1]
I don't know just where I'm goin'
But I'm gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein
And I tell you things aren't quite the same
When I'm rushin' on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' son
And I guess that I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know

[Verse 2]
I have made big decision
I'm gonna try to nullify my life
'Cause when the blood begins to flow
When it shoots up the dropper's neck
When I'm closin' in on death

You can't help me, not you guys
Or all you sweet girls with all your sweet talk
You can all go take a walk
And I guess I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know

[Verse 3]
I wish that I was born a thousand years ago
I wish that I'd sailed the darkened seas
On a great big clipper ship
Goin' from this land here to that
On a sailor's suit and cap

Away from the big city
Where a man cannot be free
Of all the evils of this town
And of himself and those around
Oh, and I guess that I just don't know
Oh, and I guess that I just don't know

[Verse 4]
Heroin, be the death of me
Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life, haha
Because a mainline into my vein
Leads to a center in my head
And then I'm better off than dead

Because when the smack begins to flow
I really don't care anymore
About all the Jim-Jims in this town
And all the politicians makin' crazy sounds
And everybody puttin' everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds

'Cause when the smack begins to flow
And I really don't care anymore
Ah, when that heroin is in my blood
Heh, and that blood is in my head
Then thank God that I'm good as dead
And thank your God that I'm not aware
And thank God that I just don't care
And I guess I just don't know
Oh, and I guess I just don't know

When I was around 15 years old, I felt like I was going through a lot of changes and personal stuff, and hearing The Velvet Underground & Nico for the first time was definitely a very good experience that had a very positive impact on me. Lou Reed once said that he meant this song (and some others from the V.U. catalog) to sort of exorcise the darkness, or the self-destructive element in him, and hoped that other people would take them the same way. And that was exactly how I take it. A lot of people think that by listening to songs like this, or other more punk/heavy-metal songs, those songs would have a bad impact on you, or that would fill you with rage. The thing is that it always generates the opposite. When I hear this song, I end up feeling more calm, and less alone, as if I was talking to a friend.

Heroin was released on Velvet Underground's debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico. Although the album was published in 1967, the song was written in 1964 by Reed, who, at the time, was working as a composer for a record company called Pickwick Records. In Reed's own words: I was working for a record company as a songwriter, where they'd lock me in a room and they'd say write ten surfing songs, ya know, and I wrote Heroin and I said "Hey I got something for ya." They said, "Never gonna happen, never gonna happen."

Probably the earliest existing recording of Heroin can be found here, played at the Lou Reed Momorial in 2013. That recording belongs to an unreleased demo tape by Lou Reed recorded on May 11, 1965 at Pickwick Studios. More info on that tape here.

"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Jeff Mangum

Artist: Neutral Milk Hotel
Album: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Recorded: 10 February 1998
Released: July – September 1997

[Verse 1]
What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all 'round the sun
What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen
In a blink of an eye and be gone from me
Soft and sweet
Let me hold it close and keep it here with me

[Verse 2]
And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly
From the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see
Love to be
In the arms of all I'm keeping here with me

[Verse 3]
What a curious life
We have found here tonight
There is music that sounds from the street
There are lights in the clouds
Anna's ghost all around
Hear her voice as it's rolling and ringing through me
Soft and sweet
How the notes all bend and reach above the trees

Now how I remember you
How I would push my fingers through
Your mouth to make those muscles move
That made your voice so smooth and sweet
But now we keep where we don't know
All secrets sleep in winter clothes
With the one you loved so long ago
Now he don't even know his name

[Verse 4]
What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all 'round the sun
And when we meet on a cloud
I'll be laughing out loud
I'll be laughing with everyone I see
Can't believe
How strange it is to be anything at all

"Insight" by Ian Curtis

Artist: Joy Division
Album: Unknown Pleasures
Recorded: April 1979
Released: 15 June 1979

[Verse 1]
Guess your dreams always end
They don't rise up, just descend
But I don't care anymore
I've lost the will to want more
I'm not afraid not at all
I watch them all as they fall
But I remember
When we were young

[Verse 2]
Those with habits of waste
Their sense of style and good taste
Of making sure you were right
Hey, don't you know you were right?
I'm not afraid anymore
I keep my eyes on the door
But I remember

[Verse 3]
Tears of sadness for you
More upheaval for you
Reflects a moment in time
A special moment in time
Yeah, we wasted our time
We didn't really have time
But we remember
When we were young
[Verse 4]
And all God's angels beware
And all you judges beware
Sons of chance, take good care
For all the people not there
I'm not afraid anymore
I'm not afraid anymore
I'm not afraid anymore
Oh, I'm not afraid anymore

"Nutshell" by Layne Staley

Artist: Alice In Chains
Album: Jar of Flies
Recorded: September 7–14 1993
Released: 25 January 1994

[Verse 1]
We chase misprinted lies
We face the path of time
And yet I fight, and yet I fight this battle all alone
No one to cry to, no place to call home

Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh

[Verse 2]
My gift of self is raped
My privacy is raked
And yet I find, and yet I find repeating in my head
If I can't be my own, I'd feel better dead

Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh

"Rhymes Of Goodbye" by Scott Engel

Artist: Scott Walker
Album: Scott 4
Recorded: 1969
Released: November 1969

[Verse 1]
I've come far from chains from metal and stone
From makeshift designs and seeking a star
To grab for the truth, to keep myself warm
I turn and it's gone, you smile and it's born

[Pre-Chorus 1]
The rhymes of a woman's
A river that never ends
The rhymes of dimension
Surrounds us with fire and friends

And roaring through darkness
The night children fly
I still hear them singing
The rhymes of goodbye

[Verse 2]
There's nothing within, but within says a voice
That's still my empire and I've got a choice
Its healers of death, it's still got a fire
And I'll keep it burning with hands of desire
The bells of our senses can cost us our pride
Can toll out the boundaries that level our lives
Can slash like the sunlight through shadows and cracks
Our nakedness calling, our nakedness back

[Pre-Chorus 2]
The rhyme of our passions
Find beauty in loving love
The rhyme of our madness
Burn cities and push and shoves

And roaring through darkness
The night children fly
I still hear them singing
The rhymes of goodbye

Here's a lovely description by Lewis Williams of this song:
“[...] a song without complications, its lyrics are poetic but far from inaccessible. In his lyrics, a statement of personal freedom, hope and passion can be found, delivered not arrogantly, but humbly. But what ultimately makes it so moving is that it is a love song, as well as a statement of the singer's belief in himself.”

"The Great Below" by Trent Reznor

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: The Fragile
Recorded: January 1997 – February 1999
Released: 21 September 1999

Staring at the sea
Will she come?
Is there hope for me
After all is said and done
Anything at any price
All of this for you
All the spoils of a wasted life
All of this for you

All the world has closed her eyes
Tired faith all worn and thin
For all we could have done
And all that could have been

Ocean pulls me close
And whispers in my ear
The destiny I've chose
All becoming clear
The currents have their say
The time is drawing near
Washes me away
Makes me disappear

And I descend from grace
In arms of undertow
I will take my place
In the great below

I can still feel you
Even so far away
I can still feel you
Even so far away
I can still feel you
Even so far away
I can still feel you
Even so far away
Even so far away
Even so far away
Even so far away

When I was around 12 years old, I would listen a lot to Pretty Hate Machine, and just be hypnotized by some of its lyrics, especially in songs like Terrible Lie or Something I Can Never Have. And when I first heard The Fragile, lyrics weren't something that caught my attention; instead, the sound design and production of that record blew me away.

Similar to what happened to me with Afraid by Nico, The Great Below wasn't a song that I paid that much attention to. Again, I was listening to The Fragile as a whole and not thinking of individual tracks. That is, until my older brother pointed out to me how good The Great Below was (thank you, Gubos ♡). When I started reading the lyrics and hearing the song again, I fell for it. Then little by little, I would appreciate some other lyrics from that record (specifically, the final part of Somewhat Damaged, Even Deeper and The Fragile).

"The Moon" by The Microphones

Artist: The Microphones
Album: The Glow Pt. 2
Recorded: May 23, 2000 – March 23, 2001
Released: 11 September 2001

[Verse 1]
I drove up to the city at night
And found the place where you grew up
And then where you stayed
And then we walked around and stayed up late
Under city lights; and I spent the night
Next to you in the house where you grew up
Next to you, I miraculously woke up
In your parents' house I lied in bed with you

I went back to feel alone there
I went back to wipe it clean
I took the lights and radio towers out of my dreams

[Verse 2]
And we went all the way up to the small town where I'm from
With foggy air and the wind and the mountain tops
And we clung to rocks and we looked off
You held my hand, you almost got to start feeling me
I finally felt like I was breathing free
And under swaying trees, we fell asleep and had the same dream
The stars were bright, we dream the same every night
On my island home I spent some time with you

I went back to feel alone there
I went back there by myself
And gave up on everything that we'd felt

[Verse 3]
We found a precious place in the sand
Right out in the wind, and we lied under a blanket
And heard the furious sound
The roar of waves, the pounding surf
Two bodies on the earth
It was intense just getting to be there next to you
And you were trying to get me then
And I was happy to let you in

I went back and wished I hadn't
I went back and felt regret
I went to the beach and I stared west

[Verse 4]
Every night when the sun went down
In the town where we live, the empty streets were lit up
By reflective light from a distant sun
Bouncing off a glowing ball of rock
We just lied on the roof and watched
The moon, the moon, the blue light of the moon
We didn't talk and silently we both felt powerful
Like the moon, my chest was full
Because we both knew we're just floating in space
Over molten rock, and we felt safe and discovered that our skin is soft
There's nothing left except certain death
And that was comforting at night out under the moon

I went out last night to forget that
I went out and stared it down
But the moon just stared back at me
And in its light I saw my two feet on the ground

There's a YouTube comment by a person called Kurt Zackary that says that Phil Elverum (frontman of the Microphones), through Twitter DM, told Kurt the following:

"The song is about realizing that transcendent meaning and significance is found not in another person but within oneself relating to the vastness." - Phil Elverum.

"The Shell" by Lucy Dacus

Artist: Lucy Dacus
Album: Historian
Recorded: –
Released: 2 March 2018

[Verse 1]
I'm a ghost walking in a boring dream
You are there talking and I'm not listening
I am busy doing nothing and you're rudely interrupting

It's a myth and now I see it clearly
You don't have to be sad to make something worth hearing
Now I'm common and content, one more burden off my back

You don't wanna be a creator
Doesn't mean you've got nothing to say
Put down the pen, don't let it force your hand

[Verse 2]
I'm a ghost walking on an empty street
No name anymore, no need to call for me
I'm a long-lost hometown hero
Latent legendary past lives within me

If I had the offer to do it again
Make me invincible, invisible, or brain dead
If the body and the life were two things that we could divide
I'd deliver up my shell to be filled with somebody else

You don't wanna be a creator
Doesn't mean you've got nothing to say
Put down the pen, don't let it force your hand

You don't wanna be a leader
Doesn't mean you don't know the way
Hold your own hand, walk on without a plan

"These Days" by Jackson Browne

Artist: Jackson Browne
Album: For Everyman
Recorded: 1973
Released: October 1973

[Verse 1]
Well I've been out walking
I don't do that much talking these days
These days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
For you
And all the times I had the chance to

[Verse 2]
And I had a lover
But it's so hard to risk another these days
These days
Now if I seem to be afraid
To live the life that I have made in song
Well it's just that I've been losing
For so long

Well I'll keep on moving
Moving on
Things are bound to be improving
These days
One of thesedays
These days I'll sit on cornerstones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten my friend
Don't confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them

Jackson Browne was only sixteen years old when he wrote this song. This not only never ceases to amaze me, but it also makes me wonder how such a young boy could have written something so profound and meaningful. "Don't confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them".

Here's a demo version of the song from 1967, with an 18-year-old Jackson Brown playing and singing a more folk version of These Days.

The first person to actually record and release the song was Nico, around April–May, 1967, for her debut album Chelsea Girl, released in October of that same year. Brown himself plays the iconic guitar part of the song, and also he's the composer of two more songs on that record (the opening track: The Fairest of the Seasons and Somewhere There's a Feather).

A great variety of artists have covered this song, ranging from Elliott Smith to Cher; but one of my favorite versions of the song (aside from Nico's) is this live version performed by St. Vincent, which was originally shown to me by my little sister (thank you, Poke ♡). St. Vincent actually released a studio version of the song, but that live performance will always remain my favorite.

Also, here are some other artists that I think are some of the greatest lyricists of all time, but, for one reason or another, I didn't include them on my list; nonetheless, their lyrics leave me speechless.

  • Andre 3000
  • Bob Dylan
  • GZA
  • Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse)
  • Johnny Cash
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Nas
  • Neil Young
  • Nick Cave
  • Patti Smith
  • Stephin Merritt
  • Tom Waits
  • Van Morrison