Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

by Keith Richards & James Fox

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:45 pm

Pg. 277 "What is it that makes you want to write songs? In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people's hearts. You want to plant yourself there, or at least get a resonance, where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you're playing. It becomes almost an obsession to touch other people. To write a song that is remembered and taken to heart is a connection, a touching of bases. A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart. Sometimes I think songwriting is about tightening the heartstrings as much as possible without bringing on a heart attack."

Pg. 508-9 “I always thought that’s what songs are really about; you’re not supposed to be singing songs about hiding things. And when my voice got better and stronger, I was able to communicate that raw feeling, and so I wrote more tender songs, love songs, if you like. I couldn’t have written like that fifteen years ago. Composing a song like that, in front of a mike, is like holding on to a friend in a way. You lead me, brother, I’ll follow behind and we’ll sort the bits out later. It’s like you’ve been taken for a blind ride. I might have a riff, an idea, a chord sequence, but I’ve no idea what to sing over it. I’m not agonizing for days with poems and s**t. And what I find fascinating about it is that when you’re up there on the microphone and say, OK, let’s go, something comes out that you wouldn’t have dreamt of. Then within a millisecond you’ve got to come up with something else that adds to what you’ve just said. It’s kind of jousting with yourself. And suddenly you’ve got something going and there’s a framework to work with. You’re going to screw up a lot of times doing it that way. You’ve just got to put it on the mike and see how far it can go before you run out of steam.”


Comment on Keith’s words. Does anyone write songs? If you do, do you feel this way? Even if you don’t, does this make sense? What about writing books? Painting? Is it similar?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:23 pm

It makes sense, I have no writing ability myself but I can understand what he is saying. I do find it interesting that he makes it up just messing around with words until something comes there in the studio rather than writing it beforehand.
He does write the most tender love songs very beautiful all emotion and you can see how his voice has changed over the years and he sings in that lower register which suits the type of songs he sings. Just lovely. He can just about reach those high notes but not always easily I think :lol:

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby fireflydances » Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:33 pm

I don't write songs; I do write. And yeah, he's got it nailed. You write to communicate, to create in another an emotion, thought -- a fullness perhaps--When you are writing you are carrying a thing forward, from you to them, and it comes out of the center of yourself and passes on to them with words (and music here). And I would think that songs are perhaps the best word vehicle out there for reaching into the soul of a person. Just wow, what he said, just wow.

And the act of creation for the poet or prose writer is very similar to Keith's description. Many times you can't go looking for the words and inspiration seems to descend on you. Here's a part of a longer piece I wrote on the subject " As a writer I love being in the thrall of words, a willing victim pleading "yes more please". But we all know that sometimes words may be present, lined up and waiting, straightening their consonants and polishing their vowels, but you the writer, you're not ready. You look at your words embarassed. "I know I called you here, can we all be a little more patient?" It seems the nubby little center of the thing -- what the words are to do, how they are supposed to line up -- is missing. Your protagonist may look at you balefully (you promised you could do this) -- (I can, you mutter back). It's not enough to have the words, the characters, the setting. It's the spark you must unleash, the next great act of creation: DO THIS NOW.

Where does this come from the reader asks? It's in the gap between things, caught in the air, under a shoe, perhaps wrapped around a curl of hair. I like to believe the IDEA knows itself but neglects to inform the writer just to enjoy the sight of her desire, chewing her lip in front of the white light computer screen, sitting in traffic (furrowed brows) walking in the woods breathing in the green air aware of the tingle of words along the tips of her fingers. There are two secrets: patience and vacancy. The IDEA waits for the writer to give up her prosaic scribblings and agree to be silent. The writer's mind must become a vacant stage, an abandoned field in the woods, because the empty space will become a vessel to hold the IDEA, like cupped hands.

Emptying the mind is both extremely hard and ridiculously easy. You can be acutely busy rooting out every stray brush of thought, the weeds of want, but emptiness will always elude the busy. The trick requires a great deal of neglect: not caring to think, not caring not to think. All thought replaced by all sensation replaced by that fine blankness of being simply and purely present: sky without clouds, horizon without image. On the now gloriously empty stage, in the crack between thoughts -- the IDEA stands up."

Hope that's useful.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby nebraska » Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:14 pm

I am sure my response will not be as eloquent as firefly's. That was quite amazing! :cool:

I cannot imagine writing songs. How can you actually create a melody that has never been done before? There must be only so many ways notes can be strung together. It is like writing a book, how can you never ever repeat anything that has been written before? How can you be certain your subconscious isn't calling up something you have heard or read before? The whole plagiarism thing is mind boggling.

Probably the closest thing I can identify with at this point in my life is the rubber stamp art I do. I participate in a weekly swap and sometimes I find that my idea for a card must simmer in the back of my mind for several days, and the creative process still may involve a lot of tossed pieces of paper before I finally have something worth sending to my partner. I think true art has to involve the muse and your spirit and adequate time to blossom, if it can be done mechanically it is something else entirely.

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:25 pm

nebraska wrote:I am sure my response will not be as eloquent as firefly's. That was quite amazing! :cool:

I cannot imagine writing songs. How can you actually create a melody that has never been done before? There must be only so many ways notes can be strung together. It is like writing a book, how can you never ever repeat anything that has been written before? How can you be certain your subconscious isn't calling up something you have heard or read before? The whole plagiarism thing is mind boggling.


Thats a very interesting point and sometimes that happens that a song will unintentially have a melody or whatever that has been written before, in fact the Stones did this in 1997 they wrote a song which subconsciously one of them had heard the meldoy of and wrote it not knowing. It was only when Keith's daughter started singing the original song that they realised they'd sampled the original and the writer K. D Lang got a writing credit on thier song first time though they had ever done it though.

The Stones song was Anyone Seen My Baby and the KD Lang song was Constant Craving. Its very subtle though.

Also I have noticed Keith use a phrase in two songs that he has written, one for the Stones and one for his own record.

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:07 pm

Very nicely written, firefly! :applause2:

I am on the other end of the creative spectrum, the receiving end. I love muisc and nothing touches me so deeply as a beautiful or powerful song that goes straight into me and pulls me along. The same thing with the written word. There have been times when I was reading a book that I just had to close it and savor the passage I just read because it touched me so deeply or was just incredibly beautiful. Thank you to all the creative people that share their gifts!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:28 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Very nicely written, firefly! :applause2:

I am on the other end of the creative spectrum, the receiving end. I love muisc and nothing touches me so deeply as a beautiful or powerful song that goes straight into me and pulls me along. The same thing with the written word. There have been times when I was reading a book that I just had to close it and savor the passage I just read because it touched me so deeply or was just incredibly beautiful. Thank you to all the creative people that share their gifts!

I find music always does that to me not sure I've ever felt the same way about writing. Maybe I've read the wrong books :lol:

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Buster » Fri Dec 02, 2011 8:34 pm

There are two secrets: patience and vacancy
I agree, firefly, but just from reading what you've written, I see you've revealed another essential piece - passion. I think the finest work always comes from caring. It is obvious to me that you care deeply about communicating, and that, i believe, is why you write so movingly.
To me the best songs don't necessarily have the best lyrics, or even the most compelling melody, but they always have connection.

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:40 am

I agree there Buster passion and its interesting to see in the book that Keith is most passionate when talking about the music. Its also there in interviews I've seen or read.
On one of the DVD's I think its the Biggest Bang Tour after Keith's accident an interviewer says to Keith when you talk about music your face looks like the face of a child. I can't remember if he actually says his face lights up like a childs or that was what he meant but I think you get my drift. :lol:

Buster I assume your emphasis on the word Connection was intentional in connection with the song :ok:

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby fansmom » Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:49 pm

I think it's interesting that we've read this immediately after TPOF. Ann was able to write what I thought was an excellent novel after being given guidelines. She couldn't afford to sit around and wait for a muse to visit. She had a job to do, and did it very well. I think she and Keith are both talented writers, but they go about it entirely differently.

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:57 pm

Good point, fansmom. I think the pursuit and production of art is highly personal.
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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:31 pm

Keef wrote: “I always thought that’s what songs are really about; you’re not supposed to be singing songs about hiding things. And when my voice got better and stronger, I was able to communicate that raw feeling, and so I wrote more tender songs, love songs, if you like.

Well, I don’t think all songs need to come from the heart. Some come from the music, the beat. But the ones that do come from the heart, I would agree with his words here. AND I do relate it to writing. Writing should come from the heart, as Firefly talks of.

Firefly, what you have said has resonated with me. I am not a writer. I don’t have the talent. But I do know what it is like to express oneself, from one’s heart, in writing. And it is almost a need in me to do it at times…..even if it is just in journal form. So I know what it feels like, and I know what it feels like to want to share it with the world, although that might not always be appropriate. And I know what it is like to be the recipient of someone’s expression, as DITHOT mentioned. There are so many songs that have spoken to me.
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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Jackslady » Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:32 pm

There are some very interesting and eloquent responses here.

I draw - when I was at college I did a lot of life drawing classes. Working through a drawing is very similar to Keith's description I think, sketching out each section, then filling in, adding tone and emphasis, and then knocking back a little here and there with the eraser or fingertip or whatever. A drawing can be a complicated and slow moving thing, but then it all begins to come together and the satisfaction is immense.

As a window dresser I can also relate to this...if I'm doing a window over which I have creative control from the ground up, I start by selecting the stock. Then I put it into groups, either by type or colour, and consider the props available that might enhance it best. These could be shop stands/shelves or more characterful stuff such as wicker baskets, vases, boxes or whatever. Next I will create the "shape" of the display, arranging the shelves/boxes to make the framework, then I place the stock and display it. This process can take several hours (a large window would take 3 days), and all the time I will be moving and adjusting, and going outside to see how it looks! I absolutely love it and always find it exciting when I can see it is "working" and that the window will come together okay. I think almost all artistic endeavours are like this...it's building within a framework etc.
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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Liz » Mon Dec 05, 2011 5:36 pm

I would agree, Jackslady, as I am an artist also - a painter.

How fun to be a window dresser!
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Life Question #17 ~ Songwriting

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:07 pm

JL that sounds very much like how they put together songs, just like how you describe your displays I think :ok:


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