Archive for the ‘The Songbook’ Category

Song #2 in The Songbook is What I Like About You, a song from 1980 by the band The Romantics:

This has all the hallmarks of a hit.  It’s catchy, it’s easy to sing along with, and it’s easy to play – three chords are all you have to know (the song is written in F, but for those of use who don’t like to use barre chords, you can just repeat E-A-D-A over and over and over).  The lyrics aren’t terribly deep – it’s a guy talking about what he likes about a girl.  The brilliance of the song comes in its energy, which is really quite contagious.

I hadn’t thought about this song in a while until my work instituted a What I Like About You wall – people were encourage to write something positive about someone and stick it up on the wall.  They even got me to track down the song so they could play it over the PA when announcing it.  So, it came back into my consciousness, and for the last week, I’ve been using it as a songwriting activity.  Specifically, we’ve been rewriting the lyrics to What I Like About Spring (the weather is finally getting warmer here in Northwest Indiana, and the flowers are starting to pop out all over).  Here’s a sample of what the clients have come up with –

What I like about spring, the grass is green
The flowers are blooming, the birds are all chirping

What I like about spring, the birds and the bees
Butterflies everywhere, in the flowers and the trees

What I like about spring, you get to be outside
Looking at the flowers, the lilies and the dandelions

What I like about spring, you get to go to the pool
Easter’s here, and you get spring break from school

And I’ve been using the same chorus with everyone:

Keeps getting warmer everyday, summer’s not too far away
So I’ll sing, that’s what I like about spring

I’ve been recording the verses on GarageBand into one giant song, and this coming week, I’m hoping to get the clients to add in some instrumentation – drum beats, keyboard effects, etc.  The creative process has been good so far – the clients have enjoyed getting involved in the creation with others they aren’t in session with.  It’s creating a kind of community without even being around each other.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!


I’m going to try something new on this blog.  You may have noticed that YouTube Friday has been all I’ve posting for a while, and that has been pretty spotty recently too.  Well, I’m going to retire YTF for now, and I’m going to start this series called “The Songbook”.  I’m going to try to do one of these each week, hopefully on Monday.  The idea is that I’m going to dig out a song from my songbook (currently at 260 songs and growing all the time), talk about the lyrics, and try to find some practical applications for music therapy.  The first selection is Paul Simon’s 1986 song “You Can Call Me Al.”

A man walks down the street, he says why am I soft in the middle now
Why am I soft in the middle, the rest of my life is so hard
I need a photo opportunity, I need a shot at redemption
Don’t want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard…

A man walks down the street, he says why am I short of attention
Got a short little span of attention, and whoa, my nights are so long
Where’s my wife and family?  What if I die here?
Who’ll be my role model now that my role model is gone, gone…

The song starts out with a kind of joke.  “A man walks down the street…” is based on “A man walks into a bar…”  But despite the silliness of the video and the relative absurdity of the chorus, it’s not really funny.  The guy is complaining in both of the first two verses about how tough his life is, and is really kind of self-absorbed with himself.  In the first verse, you get a sense of ambition, wanting to do something to improve his situation, while the second verse demonstrates a little more depression as things aren’t turning out how he wants them to.  But then we get to the third verse:

A man walks down the street, it’s a street in a strange word
Maybe it’s the third world, maybe it’s his first time around
Doesn’t speak the language, he holds no currency
He is a foreign man, he is surrounded by the sound, sound
Of cattle in the marketplace, scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around, sees angels in the architecture
Spinning to infinity, he says Amen and Hallelujah

In the third verse, the man looks outside of himself and is able to see how people who are much worse off than he can survive.  Maybe it’s faith, maybe it’s community, maybe it’s something else.  But the man comes to a realization that life isn’t so bad.

(I should mention at this point that all of these interpretations are my own, and may be completely off from what Paul Simon intended.  However, that’s the beauty of music – it can mean something different to everyone.)

You Can Call Me Al is a great song for my songbook because it’s very simple musically – just three chords throughout (I-V-V-IV, IV-V-V-I).  This makes it easy to arrange for Orff instruments.  You can also add some African drumming as this came from the Graceland album, where Simon was very influenced by African music.  Lyrically, there are some good points of discussion as people look at the good things they have, even when times seem rough.  And, if nothing else, you can always do the dance.

Thanks for reading!