Sing Poetic

Don't Let Me Down (The Beatles song)

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I came across a homework my daughter had submitted to her English teacher when she was a high school freshman. (I was cleaning out some drawers!) The class was asked to bring a song from whatever era or genre, that they thought was poetic.  I remember my husband and I played many older songs for her, some of which she had been familiar with.  She also played songs that were current at the time (2003).

After much deliberation, she made her choice and proceeded to write her essay.  I did not know until we met with her English teacher, Mr. K. Holderman, during parents’ night weeks later, that she had chosen “The Windmills of Your Mind.”  It was a song written specifically for the scene where Steve McQueen‘s über-wealthy playboy been-there-done-it-all character flies using a glider.  The song won the 1969 Oscar for best song for film, by the way.

I still remember that evening eight years ago and how my husband and I came up between us, our list of songs we thought were poetic, on the way home.  For some reason, I thought about this recently.  So, here’s my list, not in any particular order.  I wouldn’t consider all of them to be favorites, only that they strike me as poetic:

1.  Windmills of Your Mind – Of course! by Legrand, Bergman and Bergman. And Sting popularized it again in the 90’s.

2.  American Pie– Don Maclean’s catchy and much layered song, released in 1971, that was a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, etc., and a lot of people claimed to also be a song about the Vietnam War.  Not sure about the latter.  It may have just been that the song became popular during the anti-war movement.

America (Simon & Garfunkel song)

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3.  Sound of SilenceSimon & Garfunkel 1964 hit that has been assigned reading and writing for many a high schooler. Supposedly written in the aftermath of the 1963 assassination of JFK.

4.  Bridge Over Troubled Water – Another Simon & Garfunkel song written almost hymn-like by Paul Simon and released in 1970. It went on to win a lot of awards, including several Grammies.

5.  Don’t Dream It’s Over – 1987 hit song by Neil Finn of Crowded House. Won lots of Australian and New Zealand music awards.

6.  Dreams – Stevie Nicks’ hit song from the 70’s, written by Nicks around the time she was breaking up with Lindsey Buckingham, and the album Rumours was being created by all these talented people.

7.  Eleanor Rigby–  A 60’s Beatles favorite, string quartet in the background and all adding to the loneliness evoked by the entire song.

8. Fire and Rain – James Taylor’s hit song released in 1970, with only a pristine guitar accompaniment made it a very thoughtful song, evocative and distinct for the period.  It is ranked the 227th of 500 greatest all time songs by Rolling Stones Magazine.

9.  Fields of Gold – The quietly joyous song written by Rock musician Sting in the 90’s.  Sublime.

10.  Saranggola Ni Pepe (Pepe’s Kite) – A 70’s era song that seemed on the surface just superficial banter with a very playful melody to mask the underlying criticism over the oppressive regime at the time.  Popularized by famous songstress, Celeste Legaspi.  (I can’t seem to find a decent translation for this song.)

11.  Gran Torino Theme – 2008 theme song for movie directed and acted in by Clint Eastwood. Lyrics by Jamie Cullum and music by Eastwood, his son, Kyle, and Michael Stevens.  Very Sweet.

12. Anak (My Child) – 1977 song written and sung by Freddie Aguilar, a Filipino folk singer, has been translated into 26 different languages.  I found the English translation for the song.  It’s amazing how YouTube has versions of this song in different languages.

13.  Here Comes the Flood – 1977 song by Peter Gabriel where he begins the song with quite a deliberate keyboard introduction and then he quietly starts to sing, slowly building to the refrain, where he changes to a belt.

14.  Whiter Shade of Pale – 1967 debut song by British band Procol Harum, later popularized by Annie Lennox.  The background and melody are sort of haunting, coupled with very strange lyrics.  Artsy!

15.  Hey Ya – Andre 3000’s (formerly Dre) 2003 hit song with seemingly playful and upbeat melody.  I did not get to really listen to the words until I heard an acoustic cover by folk band Obadiah Parker.

16.  Moonlight Sonata – Or more properly called The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia”Op. 27, No. 2, Ludwig van Beethoven, completed in 1801.  It is said that he wrote this as he was slowly becoming deaf.  I know it has no lyrics. But you’ll have to agree it’s quite poetic.

Deutsch: Portrait Beethovens mit der Partitur ...

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17.  When Doves Cry – 1984 hit song from an all-time American favorite album Purple Rain by Prince.  It became a signature song for the artist.

18.  Fool on the Hill – 1967 Beatles song written by Paul McCartney after a conversation about God.

19.  Desafinado – 1959 Brazilian Jazz favorite by Antonio Carlos Jobim, (one of my hubby’s fave artists) meaning “Off-Key,” was popularized in English by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd in 1962.

20.  La Valse D’Amelie – Memorable piece by Yann Tiersen for the French movie Amelie, 2001.  Again, another song with no lyrics. But when you listen you’ll know why.

This is by no means complete.  There is so much great work out there. I’m sure that as soon as I click “Publish,” I will think of more beautifully poetic songs.

What’s poetic to you?

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14 Responses to Sing Poetic

  1. Pingback: The Cake Out In The Rain with Old Men Playing Checkers | Likeitiz

  2. I enjoyed scrolling down your list. Most of the songs holds a special memory for me like “The Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” I used to sing it during my earlier days of life trials and who can forget “Anak,” which sadly the younger Filipino generation has forgotten. It is a beautiful, moving song with a vital message any parent and child should listen….God bless you and your family…


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  4. Good list – top of mine would be ‘Year of the Cat’ by Al Stewart and also ‘Albatross’ by Fleetwood Mac, no words but musically poetic!


  5. Malou says:

    Great list, Mary Ann! You know what, my husband loves “Anak” and you can just imagine my amusement the first time that he told me about it. It is one of his favorite songs and apparently in late 70’s, “Anak” was a top song here in Holland. Everyone of our generation here in Holland knows the song when you hum it.


  6. melbau says:

    First song that came to mind…Macarthur’s Park… Richard Harris
    Can’t be missed…You Can Call Me Al … Paul Simon
    Haunting…Walking on Broken Glass… Annie Lenox
    Way to go…Set Fire to the Rain…Adele


  7. Hmmm…off the top of my head, here are some songs that I have found “poetic” recently:
    Paradise – Coldplay (anything by Coldplay actually)
    We Found Love – Rihanna
    The Wilhelm Scream – James Blake
    Midnight City – M83
    Something’s Got a Hold on Me – Etta James
    Hoppipolla – Sigur Ros
    Human Nature – Michael Jackson
    Young Blood – The Naked and the Famous


  8. Your first 4 songs were the same ones that came to my mind too! I will give this some thought, listen to the others on your list and try and add my own list. 🙂


  9. Gilly Gee says:

    Wonderful list, and well done for creating it as it’s something I’ve thought about many times and have no idea where to begin!


  10. Nice song list. I find Sting’s songs really poetic, maybe because he was a school teacher before he became a professional musician. Though Paul Simon’s Sound of Silence, I would say is very poetic.


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