Lately, I've been reviewing songs that I love, but don't know the lyrics to. I may know some of the words, but not all of them and find myself curious as to just what they were singing about.
My favorite example of late is Benny and the Jets by Elton John. I remember the song well from my childhood and early adulthood. I recall and still feel elation when listening to that song, hearing the clapping in the air, the subtle echoes, the melody and cadence of the piano, and the swag of John's voice. It is just one of those songs that always lifts my mood.
But for decades, I had almost no idea what he was singing about. I knew it was about some sort of band, about being a fan and enjoying their music. That's it. So I found a video on YouTube that plays the song and the lyric that go along with it. It was a relief to listen to the song and finally know the words. I have them almost memorized now. I have an almost photographic memory, so I can replay the video in my mind to see the words with the music when I want to.
I had always had the impression that the song was recorded live. So I wanted to check that out, too. I found the Wikipedia page on the song, just the song alone. It's kind of a bummer to learn that the sounds of the audience in the recording I heard on the radio was actually sampled from other concerts and mixed in with the music from a studio recording. Still, I love how that song sounds, especially with the audience clapping in time with the song.
The Wikipedia page also documents that the lyrics are actually a satire of the glitz and the glam of the early 70's rock scene. That was kind of a bummer too, because I always thought of the song as a happy song. Satire is sort of like sarcasm. But still, I love that sound and will probably have forgotten some of those facts the next time I hear it.
What I've found is that I can find the lyrics for nearly any song on the internet. I know there are some songwriters that are not happy with this prospect, but there are others perhaps more forgiving. Really, there is nothing nefarious here. We just want to know what you're singing when we a song we love. If you're a songwriter and you're not happy about this, put it on your own website and make sure it's got the mojo to be at the top of the search results. Besides, I think that not knowing the meaning of the song sort of leads to a subliminal influence. Like knowing what a song is about, but never really being able to act on that information at a conscious level.
This is what living in a free culture is about. We share ideas, music, stories, whatever. The internet just makes this possible at scale, for all of humanity. If your song is so great, don't be afraid to let people share it. Don't worry about extracting every last rent that you can find out there. Just know that if you serve, the universe will provide. It always does. Just ask The Grateful Dead.
In the meantime, take a crack at it. Think of a song you love, but are not sure of the lyrics for, and check them out. Find a YouTube video with the lyrics, or just play the song and read the lyrics if you can find them. Find the Wikipedia page on the song if there is one and learn what the artist had in mind, what he got, and how he got it. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.