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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?