It's been fun reminiscing about concerts this week. Now for a slightly different slant--the writing behind the music.
Growing up, I listened to country music almost every day. And although I had a somewhat discerning ear that allowed me to pick out hit songs, I didn't delve into who had written the music or pay that much attention to the words. I focused on the beat. Was it catchy? Was it somehow different from the rest of the songs on the radio?
Once I started listening to Pat Green and Sarah McLachlan, I noticed the difference between singers who are also songwriters versus those who simply sing music written by other people. There's no doubting that some musicians, like George Strait, have made it very far in the music business by choosing songs suited for their voices and have seldom, if ever, written their own music.
Maybe I am creating a difference in my mind, but it seems to me that the singer/songwriter musicians have a stronger connection to their music because they've written it. It's easier to convey authentic passion for your own story than it is to conjure it up for a story about someone you don't even know or a situation that you haven't even experienced. And that difference comes across in a powerful way in a live concert setting.
In Billy Joel's boxed set, the fourth CD contains recordings of Billy Joel explaining the stories behind his greatest hits. Hearing his rendition of the people he met and incorporated into "The Piano Man," makes the song come alive in a new way. The same goes for when singers take the time at concerts to explain the inspiration for their songs.
It's also interesting to compare the singer/songwriter's interpretation to the one I've created or imposed upon the song. I connect with many of Sarah McLachlan's songs, but not for the reason that she wrote them. And that to me is another sign of great songwriting: it has multiple layers and allows listeners to connect with one of a variety of meanings behind the lyrics.
Do you prefer to listen to singer/songwriters over singers who sing music written by other people? Is there a noticeable difference to you between the live performances of the former versus the latter?