Crow's Feet - Rediscovering Your Old Songs

Last week Paul McCartney was awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. At a press conference prior to the ceremony he was quoted as not being able to recall how to play many of his own songs. “There’s just a few that I’d do if I’m at a party,” he said. “There are certain ones that I can conjure up but really, the truth is people say, ‘Go on, do that one!’ and I say, ‘Sorry, I have no idea how it goes.’”

Rejoice with me, fellow songwriters – our secret shame is no more.

Losing Touch
Like Sir Paul, I too have suffered the silent scorn and the mocking laughter. I have shrunk from the accusing whispers. “How can you not remember a song that you yourself wrote?” they say, and then throw their discarded respect at your feet.

But they don’t understand. Each song is like a child - birthed, nourished, raised to ultimately live its own life. In the end they leave you, and though they will always remain your songs, without day-to-day contact your familiarity with them withers. You lose touch. Before you realize it, years have passed. You can remember the feelings you had at the time, but the details have gotten fuzzy. It is like trying to remember what you were doing on an exact date a decade ago. No matter how hard you try, it’s just not there. The specifics have become diluted in an ocean of impressions and generalities.

Thank-you, Sir Paul for reminding us that there is no shame in this. If it's OK for you, then it's OK for songwriters everywhere. We can look confidently into those beseeching eyes around the campfire and say “Yes, I created this song, but it’s been a while. We’re strangers now. Give us some to get to know each other again.”

Reunited (And It Feels So Good)
You see, the art of creation and the art of performance are not inextricably linked. Each requires effort and its own kind of preparation. Creation is about letting go of your instincts, inhibitions and preconceptions. It is the process of finding something new and unfamiliar. Performance, on the other hand, is all about familiarity; about knowing something well enough that it becomes instinctual.

In order to perform them, the songs you have created must be practiced often. Old songs must be relearned. And therein lies one the best aspects of being a songwriter: the joy of rediscovery - the bittersweet realization that absence has indeed made the heart grow fonder. As you become reacquainted with an old song you sense that you both have changed since you saw each other last, but behind the crow's feet and the wrinkles is a face you recognize and love.

Milking The Metaphor
Over the years your songs will multiply, and there will be more and more to keep track of. You will find that you are closer to some than others at different times in your life. You will do your best to have reunions once or twice a year. You will continue to love each of them differently and wish them all a good life - and will secretly hope that somehow, some way, at least one will make enough money to take care of you in your retirement.

* Photo by ::Wendy::


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