Over my writing career (if you want to call it that) I’ve done a lot of kinds of writing. I freelanced for magazines and newspapers, ran mail-order catalogs, syndicated columns, wrote promotion and advertising, published literary journals, did poetry and novels and screenplays. I won awards in some of those fields, made good money, set industry standards, got 86’ed, had cult followings. But throughout it all, from my very first pencil scrawls, I wrote songs. And I would say it’s the type of writing I have done the best. I would hold the lyrics in this book up against anything on the charts, in a league with any song writer outside a top 1% I consider sacred. You can make your own judgments. I have always seen lyrics as poetry. Perhaps the ultimate poetry; where poetry really came from in human history. The ascendance of lyrics delivered to the masses by recordings and radio pushed poetry away from its roots. The days when Tennyson or Bryant or Lindsey could tour the world to packed houses and groupies, when families clustered around reading worn books with treasured poems by Kipling or Riley or Whitman or Frost, passed away in favor of radio, and poetry became an esoteric academic property–abandoning rhyme, then meter, then sound, then any kind of common referent.
The same pressure by which photography pushed the plastic arts into abstraction and absurdity. But meanwhile, kids were memorizing the words of giants: Dylan, Roger Waters, Robert Hunter, Ricki Lee Jones, Jackson Browne… the list is endless. Music lyrics became the ultimate genre or gesture for poems and produced some of the greatest poetry of all time: not sequestered in ivory towers, but pouring freely into the street.
I have wanted for decades to publish book collections that treated rock lyrics as poems, but the chores of rights and permissions makes it just too much of a pain in the neck. But there’s this: my own lyrics published as poetry. I’m the most cursed kind of songwriter: can’t play, can’t sing. I wish you could hear these words, but as it is you can read them. I hope you enjoy them.