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Songwriting Survey
Who are your favorite songwriters & why?


Ken Napzok
An aspiring songwriter stuck in morning radio, writes:
As a Beatle nut Lennon and McCartney could fill my CD player for days on end, but the nights would be reserved for George Harrison. He certainly has been lost in the shuffle. From 'Something'and 'Here comes the sun' to 'Poor Little Girl' and 'The Art of Dying' George has got the touch. Noel Gallagher can get lost in the Oasis hype, but his work will stand the test of overplayed singles. Liz Phair proves simple is great and U2's Bono puts the most feeling into his lyrics. I can't forget Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Paul Westerberg, and Jay Farrar of Son Volt.
D. Winkelman
A songwriter from Minnesota, writes:
Rhett Akins is my favorite because his songs are great. He has also helped me in my songwriting through interviews and things like that.
JonathanIt's me! jonathan in boston! it's really me!, writes:
t.waits, r.thompson, c.hynde, t-bone burnett, bobby dylan, john cale guitar slim, c. berry, slim gaillard, louis jordan, chuck willis paul weller, sonny boy williamson...that's enough! why? i don't know why i thought it would be a good idea to ask why? just because!!
Mike Campbell
A Singer/songwriter from Alaska, writes:
My all time favorite would be Stan Rogers. I find his music to be well crafted, his lyrics meaningful and his melodies stirring. I like to listen to him when I'm all alone, and groups of people always seems to like singing along whenever one of his songs are played. I wish there were more of his albums available.
Dan Tamura
A Songwriter from San Francisco, writes:
John Lennon - The most soulful poet I've ever heard.
Prince - The most naturally talented, innovative musician in popular music. He's incredibly versatile. Listen to his albums, not just the hits, and you'll never see him the same way again.
Casey
A college student in York, ME, writes:
Dylan - the best lyricist of all time.
Aimee Mann - she writes songs the way i do. when i listen to the structure of the chorus, bridge, and verse, it sounds so familiar but like nothing else i've ever heard.
Joni Mitchell - the way her lyrics fit is as though she was singing them for the first time, but they're perfect.
Linda Jo Webb
A songwriter from Springfield, Missouri (that's just north of Branson), writes:
Woody Guthrie - Who else could take the newspaper story of a horrible plane crash with the victims merely described as "just deportees" and make it into a song that all these years later it can still make people cry. I may not have agreed with all of his politics, but he could paint an event in song.
Leadbelly - The man was a convicted murderer, yet he penned so many great fold song classics like "Goodnight Irene," "Cottonfields" and, my personal favorite, "In the Pines."
Tom Lehrer - Any man who can create songs like "Poisoning Pigeons In the Park" and "We Will All Go Together When We Go" has to be a favorite of anyone who has a sense of humor.
Hank Williams - (And I don't mean Junior!) - People who make blanket statements against country music have never listened to "Your Cheatin' Heart" or "You Win Again" or "I Saw the Light".
Noah McLaughlin
A university student and 3-year song writer, writes:
Certainly the foremost of my favorite of songwriters would have to be Trent Reznor. This may sound odd, especially concerning that most of the music I write is very folk/classical oriented. But, Trent is almost a composer more than a mere songwriter. Take a listen to "Closer" (Nine Inch Nails: "Further down the Spiral") (Even if it may bruise your ears) I've been listening to that song for two years now, and I STILL find new layers and musical ideas within. Trent breaks against all conventional ideas of musical composition and songwriting. He uses instruments and sound clips in the most original contexts and patterns. And he's not afraid to be mellow or melodical. Listen to "Something I Can Never Have" (NIN: pretty hate machine) or the haunting "Piggy" (Further down the Spiral). The harmonies on the prechorus in "Closer" are akin to those of Prince. Trent Reznor has practically single- handedly created a genre of music (no disrespect to Throbbing Gristle or KMFDM), but he has also in the course of two albums and an E.P. expanded this genre. Also, Trent has striking originality in his lyrics (this is a bit of an understatement to some.) But he is not afraid to tackle difficult concepts with a unique poetic outlook that commonly can make one shiver without the music. His latest album was centered loosely upon the theme of a man taking his entire life apart, and reflecting both upon its horridness, but also the freedom that he has been granted. Show me ANY other artist that debuted at #2 on the billboard charts with such concepts in the music.

Tori Amos has to be another of my favorite song-writers. In a world of guitar-laden music with incomprehensible screaming and ranting, or dance songs that have the SAME beat and drum pattern over and over and OVER again, Tori throws both the guitars and often the drums out the window. She is one of the truly original songwriters in the world, practicing the dying art of piano as THE instrument, and I have heard few other artists who can manipulate the instrument with such expertise and love as she does. Tori, like Reznor, is also never afraid to completely side-step mainstream/classical thinking when it comes to her compositions. She has sung a song completely a cappella ("Me And A Gun" from "Little earthquakes"), and has incorporated a harpsichord (an instrument long dead, like centuries) into a number of the songs on her latest album "Boys For Pele". She pays no heed what so ever to rhythm if she does not feel like it and STILL manages to make the song sound so beautiful it leaves one in shock. Listen to her cover of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", or the completely unexpected version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Her voice, too, follows nothing conventional, yet still can sound sultry or screeching, or longing. Her lyircal depth, like Reznor's is incredible. It is more like that she writes sheer poetry to accompany the music, not caring too much about rhyming patterns or rhythm; truly thought and emotion-provoking words and images.

The complete opposite (practically) from both Tori and Trent is Leonard Cohen. What I like most about Leonard Cohen is his lyrics. Where most main-stream aritists stay with the themes of love and maybe more recently angst and contempt, Leonard Cohen more than thirty years ago delved deep into the psyche of loneliness and the jealousies often painfully involved in love. He is not afraid to be graphic, and yet he does so with a grace and poetic integrity that it strikes home in the way that it should: as a solid shocking image within the grotesqueness of the song or situation. While his themes are often complicated and melancholy or even grotesque, his music is refreshingly simplistic. Gorgeous, though often as haunting as the words. Listen to "Last Year's Man", or "Who By Fire". My personal favorite of his is "Famous Blue Raincoat" a classic example of story-telling that has but all been lost in most contemporary songwriting.


Peter Saint-Andre
A songwriter, poet, composer, writer..., writes:
Starting in antiquity, Sappho. She's now known only as a poet, but she accompanied herself on the lyre (thus "lyric poetry") and so I like to think of her as a songwriter. I also love the medieval troubadours, such as Guiraut de Borneil and Bernart de Ventadorn (check out the recordings by Paul Hillier). In more recent times I especially admire Jackson Browne for the wonderfully direct quality of his writing, Joni Mitchell, Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step, Jon Pousette-Dart, and of course the ones who started the singer-songwriter movement in modern times: Bob Dylan and Lennon & McCartney.
Heather Holland
A short, curly haired songwriter from Utah, writes:
Billy Joel is my ultimate favorite. I think he is awesome because he doesn't stick with just one type of music. He's really willing to explore his capabilties as a songwriter. I also like Yanni. He is just very talented.
Anatole (Tony) Soyka
An involuntary tunesmith from San Francisco, CA, writes:
Leonard Cohen - he links together senses and emotions in a seamless palette
Andy Partridge - his puns and insights are very vivid
David Byrne - turns geeky nonsense into a staggering wall
Neil Young - melodramatic and syrupy, powerful and turgid

Dmitry Vasiliev
A beginning songwriter from Los Angeles, writes:
John Lennon and Paul McCartney. You know, I dont think either of them was an exceptional musician or an exceptional lyricist. The reason I like them the most is their incredible talent to compose melodies - you know those silly 15 notes on the staff that usually make a song - of amazing quality and consistency. Yep, those silly 15 notes that made Lucy In the Sky WIth Diamonds, or Yesterday, or any of their other tunes that any child can find on piano. It is strange some songwriters tend to dismiss the importance of the melody. Well, just listen to Beethoven's 6th or Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1..The same silly 15-note melodies(well, 20) that will live forever. Interesting to know how the most important part of the song seems so simple, yet 99.999999 percent of all songwriters will never be able to compose those "15-notes" that will put them on top of the charts..15 notes?? Just 15 notes??What's so hard about it? How come no one writes their own "Yesterday" daily, while taking a break after a good day's work of songwriting?
Good question, Dmitry. Maybe that should be the next suvey question. *g* --Jodi
Dan Tamura
A San Francisco singer/songwriter, writes:
Prince - Always comes up with new, weird ways to deliver a song. His innovative ideas may not always fly, but he's rarely boring. Incredible stylistic range and he's incredibly prolific - it's reported that he has recorded over 500 unreleased songs he keeps in a vault!
John Lennon - The guts and soul of the most influential musical group in history. Paul was no hack, either!
Mirko Ruckels
A singer, guitar player and songwriter for "Cousin Em" out of Australia, writes:
My favourite songwriters are John Lennon (Beatles 65-70 period), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer- the most infectious songwriter you will EVER hear!), Claude Debussy (early 20th century impressionistic composer- breaking down tonality very cleverly), Andy Sturmer (ex-Jellyfish- another master pop writer)Elvis Costello, and Andy Partridge (XTC- check out his lyrics. As good as his melodies!)and Jeff Buckley (for breaking away from verse chorus verse, ever so sweetly. That voice!)
Allison Durno
I hang out with Jodi in Urban Tapestry, writes:
(Jodi's gonna faint when she sees I've finally answered her survey!) -Yup. Fainted dead away, Allison. *g* - Jodi

Favorite songwriters: Lennon and McCartney, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Pete Townsend, Stan Rogers. I tend to be especially drawn to songwriters I feel are vivid poetic lyricists, as well as having an uncanny ability to create melodies I can't get out of my head for days or a lifetime.


Ed Polchlopek
Primarily a country music singer/songwriter/guitarist, writes:
Tony Arata - His songs, such as The Dance (Garth Brooks), Satisfied Mind (Hal Ketchum), The Change (Garth) are so powerful and mean so much, yet they are written in a simple way. They are easy to understand, yet mean so much about life.
Mary Chapin Carpenter - She creates great images with her songs and says a lot about life.
Gary Burr -- This guy (Originally from CT) can write any type of song - serious of lighthearted and it is usually a hit for someone. I have seen not only commercial stuff, but also other kinds of ballads, such as The Time Machine (Colin Raye) that are very deep and emotional.
Douglas John Cameron
Songwriter and composer from near Toronto in Ontario, writes:
I favour songwriters like Jesse Winchester who I heard a lot when I was in in college here in Ontario back in the 70's. Lately of course he has a few hits on the radio recorded by other people.

I was always a big fan of early Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills and Nash, but these days I'm not so genre focussed. I love a lot of the songs that Bonnie Rait has recorded (like Love Has NO Pride and more recently I Can't Make You Love Me).


Tim Alves
A musician from PA, writes:
Kurt Cobain because I never get tired of any of his songs.
Geni Paisley
A singer/songwriter from Brookhaven, PA, writes:
Mary Chapin-Carpenter: Brought me back from the depths of despair. Just when I thought there was nothing worth listening to anymore I saw her at the Philadelphia Folk Festival about 2 years before she hit the big time. She blew me away, and apparently alot of other people too, as her name was one that was heard on everyone's lips throughout the festival weekend. Her songs have a depth and complexity that get better with every passing year. Powerful both lyrically and musically. Thought provoking and intelligent.

She also introduced me to one of my other very most favorite writers: Lucinda Williams. Decidedly the most talented writer of simple songs ever to grace the planet. Strong and powerful, yet simple and straightforward. If only more of us could follow her lead.

Also got more into Shawn Colvin as a result of MCC's influence. Her songs are musically and lyrically compelling. Not the sort you listen to once or twice and say "that's nice." Again a depth and complexity that lend themselves well to repeated listenings.


Norman Lamont
Edinburgh (UK) songwriter, writes:
Leonard Cohen - I have to admire a man who takes months to write a line
Paul Simon - breadth of style, use of melody and ability to use language like 'role model'
Momus - intellect and wit and you can shuffle to it
Robin Williamson and Mike Heron - reaching for the stars
Jonathan Richman - catching the stars
Brian Eno - everything a singer-songwriter should be without having touched an acoustic guitar. His 'Belldog' is the best mystical hymn the INcredible String Band never wrote.
Cleveland Fisher
An aspiring songwriter from Northeast Louisiana, writes:
Bob Dylan-you've gotta love bob. He's the ultimate storyteller. The characters he writes into his songs are so vivid. His language is simple while his emotions are not.
John Prine-another amazing storyteller. His grasp of everyday life and his ability to write about it make for an entertaining, if sometimes sad, ride
Paul Westerberg-The ability to go from rough and tumble fun guy to completely lost soul in the span of a few lines is astounding. And "Skyway" is the saddest song ever...
Lee Elliott
A Beatle guy in Stones town (that would be Austin), writes:
Lennon/McCartney- Duh.
Jules Shear- Wow!
Andy Partridge-Whew.
Paddy McAloon- Ahh.
Aimee Mann- Sigh.
Difford/Tilbrook- Quite.
Elvis Costello- Oh!.
Prince- Damn!
Kate Bush- Sigh,Sigh,Sigh.
Chris Sheridan
A guitarist/songwriter from Santa Cruz, CA, writes:
Cat Stevens - Great songs that tell a story without being too heady or too simple.
Chuck Berry - One of the original rock-n-roll singer/songwriters who really helped invent the whole thing and has influenced generations on musicians. Good rockin simple, honest songs.
Laurie Early
A singer/songrwriter from NY City, (I also set sacred text for a capella performance), writes:
Harry Nilsson - vivid imagery
Carly Simon - emotional content
Loudon Wainwright III - humor and biting satire/social commentary
Dory Previn - poetry and social commentary
Paul Simon - always begins songs w/ one line of truth (for him)
Harry Chapin - his use of language and images
Carole King - great lyrics and melody
Phil Collins - singablilty (energy)
Joe Linker
MudGuitar, writes:
Tom Paxton, Woody Guthrie, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger... and others like them, because they are beat poet hipster minstrel troubador folk chroniclers of the real song in the heart of the street, in the heart of the heart of the country. Say what you want about Dylan, they still won't play him on the radio! Pete Seeger has done more to bring song into the American family than Lawrence Welk!
Billy Lee McDow
An aspiring songwriter from Missouri, writes:
Travis Tritt. Because he doesn't write for anyone else. Just for himself. I hope I'm successful enough to do that someday. And what he writes, you can always tell when he's singing/performing, that he feels every bit of the song. Emotion, is what makes him awesome!
Ed Skibbe
A singer-songwriter from Lakewood, CO, writes:
I'm feeling a little country-ish today, and though on another day I might list a bunch of pop-song geniuses, today I'll stick with some tried-and-true favorites. These are for me, not for the music business.
Hank Williams, for his lack of pretense. I often think it would have been nice to have lived in such relatively simple times.
Steve Earle, who never misses that exposed nerve you maybe didn't even know you had.
Joni Mitchell, who always writes the "whole" song and makes it seem so effortless.
Kevin Welch, whose songs are so damned honest.
Guy Clark, who builds a song like he was building a skyscraper from toothpicks, without glue; everything is so perfectly balanced that it just quivers.
David Lowery, because anyone who can get away with being a world-class smartass deserves some credit.
Kurt Neumann, who writes great hooks. Jackson Browne, who writes great bridges. I also admire him for courageously addressing political subjects.
James Taylor. Corny pick I know, but with him it's a matter of strict religious orthodoxy. Jeez, it pains me to think of those I left off the list!
Jefferson
A songwriter from Texas, who's currently in NYC by way of LA, writes:
Since writing his first number one at 17 (Carless Whisper) George Michael has evolved into the most versatile musician of the last twenty years. His new album Older, although not receiving much airplay nor promotion in the U.S. is a sound for sore ears. Whether he is making you forget or he is making you remember, he does it very vividly. His lyrics ("...you smiled at me, like Jesus to a Child") have always been there, but the maturity in his composing (whether it be a dance tune or a Bossa Nova) is unmatched. No one else alive could score a number one hit with a song like "Too Funky" and also sound so convincing on a latin ballad such as "Desafinado" (on the REDHOT+RIO album). Forget about his image. Listen witout prejudice.
Oliver J. Thornton, esq.
A singer/songwriter/guitarist from Yorkshire, writes:
Freddie Mercury; for his power and range of ability in all styles.
Noel Gallagher; THE best writer of Rock Anthems - easiest to sing along or learn to play.
Joni Mitchell; There's always at least ONE line which really strikes home.
Kurt Cobain; Sheer aggression doesn't come more tuneful or exhilarating than this.
Steve Strauss
A singer/songwriter from upstate NY, writes:
I would have to put Greg Brown at the top of my list. His music is humorous, poignant, and inspiring without an iota of pretention. He is not afraid to explore common subject matter time and again. Songs about the moon, sex, divorce, memories of growing up, each original and different from the last. He is a great inspiration and role model for me and my music. Check some out. He's one of them folkie types. (Wow, it's hard to respond in this window - it's like working on a typwriter! I can't remember the last time I had to hit 'return' while writing a document. Can we cope?!)
Cathy Tyler
A Singer/Songwriter from Charlottesville, VA, writes:
I'm pretty ignorant, but I like Madonna (because she knows how to put together clean rhymes and catchy tunes),
Amy Grant (because her lyrics always "fit" her music),
Bruce Cockburn (he's a genius!) Ad infinitum.
And anyone who can write a song that makes me forget time is passing.
Dianne-Romelle
A professional struggling songwriter in L.A., writes:
Huge Prestwood-- his prosody. The best! Gary Burr--everything he writes is memorable after just one listen.
Gretchen Peters--wonderful metaphores. ("Let That Pony Run")
David Bellemy--The imagery he created in "Santa Fe" was incredible.
Mike Reid--good combo of writing with his head & his heart.
Jon Vesner--"Where Have You Been" & "Slow Boat" WOW!
K.T. Oslin--strong female point of view.
Skip Ewing--Memorable melodies,fabulous lyrics!!
Matraca Berg--so many hits. so many reasons.
Paul Williams--his lyrics are so simple,beautiful we all can relate.
Walt Aldridge--his lyrics take me to a place I love to linger in.
Dave Martin
Male 28..from London Ont..., writes:
I call it the "goosebump factor". And the highest levels I've come from Genesis. I love the way their music sets a mood and the lyrics match. You know from the first 5 sec. of Mama that you're in a disturbing song. How Afterglow crescends in an outpourng of hope. How Open Door brings pathos for the soon departing alien. How Back In Nyc makes you feel the anger and confusion of Rael..I could go on (hmmm..and it looks like I have)..To find a bridge between this style of writing and 90's popular music would make me very happy indeed :)
Jeni Pitcock
A songwriter from TN inspired by all 80's music and 90's rock(NOT alternative!), writes:
Richard Marx is in my mind the greatest songwriter ever. He can capture even the most ellusive of human emotions and imprint them into your heart through his haunting music. He sees things through the eyes of a true poet, and presents what he sees in the most beatiful songs on earth. He is my mentor, my guide, and my inspiration. I hope he writes music till he's too old to lift a pencil!!!

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