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How does tragedy affect your songwriting?

A guitarist who went insane a long time ago, writes:
Tragedy really helps my songwriting because it is an emotion that needs to be conveyed. Any extreme emotion I feel really helps my songwriting. Love hate, fear, and many more emotions that don't have names all find their ways into songs. I think if life was perfect, and there were no tragedies, music would be very plain. To back up my point, some of the best songwriters ever (in my opinion) were deeply troubled. Look at Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.

Shelly Bequette
Another Texas songwriter, writes:
I am not sure whether it's a blessing or a curse... but I am an emotional writer. When I am in an emotional situation, I find I write my most passionate work. When the September 11th tragedy occurred, I, like many other Americans, was devestated. I spent the first entire day and night glued to the television, unable to stop watching, yet not wanting to believe it was really happening. I cried my heart out, became very angry, and then the words came... like a flood. In 15 minutes I wrote my poem "What does it take to be a hero?" I wrote because I needed a way to deal with all the emotions I was feeling. When I look back at the songs I have written, I find that the ones that truly grip my heart are the ones written when I was experiencing tragedy, heartbreak, and loss. Don't get me wrong, they are not necessarily sad songs. But I think when you are in a very emotional place, you can see things so much more clearly. And the good has a very profound way of shining through, because we try harder to see the good in those times. Like I said, sometimes it's more like a curse to write more freely when things are tough. Because on a more average day, writing can be a real challenge. During those times I find myself trying to write from the tragedy and experiences in other peoples' lives!

Jeremy Greenway
A songwriter from Ontario, Canada, writes:
I guess it depends on your writing style. I'm so envious of writers who can churn out music methodically...only rarely can I write a truly fictional song. I'm sort of "out in left field" in that respect; writing is therapeutic, melancholic, celebratory and communicative all at the same time. If I'm faced with a loss, I will most certainly write about it, because it's the way I deal with things. I'll go down to my little studio, turn on a lamp or two, light some candles and incense (I know, I know...), and just write. And (sadly), the old adage that poets write best when they're troubled is true for me (I think). You can etch a sentiment into a song, and revisit it whenever you play it or hear it. There are entire eras of my life that I can define by songs I've written. I can remember what it was like to write them, and how I was feeling. The greatest thing we can do is write those songs, because in a world with billions of people, there are surely others who have felt the same...and may want to seek refuge in the same song. So death, a failed relationship, or anything else devastating always has a silver lining for me, in that it will provide me a platform on which to write. I don't welcome tragedy (who would?), but I understand why it happens to me. I'm human, and I'm a writer. I write out of self-absorption and egocentrism, but ultimately I write for others. A little ironic, isn't it...

A 20-year-old songwriter from Gary, IN., writes:
I try to write about everything! I've had a lot of tragedy and stife in my life to go along with the nice things. As much as I wish I could write about all of the trials and tribulations in my life, the words just don't come to me sometimes. Maybe what I need is a melody to write the lyrics along to because when I just do it without the music, it just seems odd. I'm sticking to it though. Times are hard nowadays: I might lose my college funding, there are no jobs here but moms constantly tellin me to go get one. Kind of hard when my car is broke down. I don't wanna end up in another welfare line like when me and my sister were kids. I have to do something. Hmmm.... sounds like some good song material to me!

A singer/songwriter from boring 'ol Michigan, writes:
It takes me awhile to sort out feelings personally. I don't think I really express what I feel about tragedy until long after it has passed, when I am in a safer happier place, when I can be less afraid of what might come. my mother died last June and I wrote really for the first time about it today, but more about the aftermath of it and not truly about the situation. I rarely ever write about anything directly, but I like to make references, which is very parallel with how I deal with life. I find inspiration in odd places, and when dealing with tragedy I find that to make smaller references over a period of time in many songs allows me to deal with it a piece at a time. Life is a montage, I find Iwrite like that so if you ever hear a song of mine you'll hear the sadness but also the laughter and everything in between.

Barbara June
A singer/sonwriter/musician in Maine, writes:
When I am under emotional stress, I tend to write more. Usually it's venting in the form of poetry but I use it later to build on or add to a song in progress. I find that I process things more clearly in writing. I recently finished a song written for my mother, who died almost 20 years ago. Ever notice how hard it is to write a "happy song"?
Lemont GANT
An R&B/JAZZ Songwriter/Producer from Indiana, writes:
Well, it really puts things into perspective because it makes you examine your priorities in dealing with say a loss of a loved one or a friend struggling with illegal drugs. It makes you want to do much better at paying attention to how you live and view situations. As far as your songwriting, these things should make you a better lyricist because some people just dream and wish to write about the things they want to say but can't. WE on the other hand have been blessed to do so and to touch the lives of those who can't express their words through songs. It's our duty to keep the standards high!
Shaun Odom
An affected songwriting from Indiana, writes:
Tragedy affects songwriting as far as what you can say and how words are directed towards people! It's definitely a crazy world we live in, however, we have to find the biggest musical influences. Me, I write and perform Hip hop music, poetry, and pretty much whatever I can get my hands on. Tragedy can also be a good thing; in my part of the jungle, it gives me somethin' to write about and it definitely adds to the imagination! The only thing that holds some artists' back is a boundry. We have to step over that boundry, take the world by surprise, you have to get the attention to make people listen!
Richard Brooke
An amateur songwriter from West Yorkshire, UK, writes:
Almost every time I write I let my emotions influence the way I write. It doesn't matter what the circumstances, any kind of emotion influences the way I write, whether positive or negative. Unlike most writers (I think) it is rare I express my emotions through my lyrics. It is almost always in my music, probably because I am more of a music writer than a lyric writer. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing lyrics too, but I feel that great lyrics mean little when not accompanied by an equally great melody. A great melody can stand well on its own whether or not it accompanies either good or not so good lyrics (I hope this doesn't offend anyone!).
The Worry Knot
A sadcore from PA, writes:
It's a crucial element in anything and everything that comes to the surface and becomes a song. I have yet to write a song that does not contain this "darker" element mingled within the situation, relationship that I'm trying to wrap myself around--and I write, for the most part, love songs. But what in life does not contain both happiness and sadness? Even the most pure, strong love has further aching and longing along with its bliss. The Portugese call it saudade, which is an inexplicable longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul. Yet, as in the preface of this poll where a great tragedy as 9/11 is referenced, I must confess I cannot come to grips with it to have something of it come through me. I have experienced no close personal loss in that tragedy. My personal loss and grief is in how the future was altered in the blink of an eye--and that, I's afraid, is too grand for my normal working; I will have to wait upon things to trickle into my daily life of relationships and community--and I don't mean economical woes, but rather, of course, soul-to-soul stuff. As for writing about all those others' losses and the poor victims, I'm afraid I'm not that songwriter. I ache for them surely, but I've not been compelled to let that door open, songwriting-wise.
M L Hopkins
A Lyricist from North Carolina, writes:
It doesn't. I can't handle grief all that well. Sometimes when someone I care about passes, it takes me up to a year to realize that they are really dead, and even then, it doesn't affect my writing. I write about my personal experiences and opinions, and grief and loss is the only experience that I just can't bring myself to write about. Some people can, but I just can't. The closest I've ever came to writing about grief was a song about someone leaving in the sense of forever. As for the events that have happened, I don't write grief OR motivational songs. I just write the truth as it is to me.
A teen songwriter from Ohio, writes:
Whenever something negative happens in someone's life, it affects everything they do. The way they act, the way they think, the way they live. And to me, a well written song will only be produced if you write what you feel inside. If it comes from real feelings, then it's bound to be quality work. Your work will reflect how you feel, so if you feel down and out, that's what your songs will be about. It's pretty simple if you think about it. Sometimes the worst thing can bring the best out in some people. Take it from someone who knows first hand.
Catherine Dunn Lyons
A Songwriter, poet and artist from Wyoming, writes:
It tends to make my work a lot deeper but a lot more difficult. The work I have done in sorrow is deeper and better than any of the work I've ever done excited and happy, but it's hard to get started and even harder to be honest without bleeding all over the page and committing suicide. Maybe pages were made for bleeding--I don't know. Wish me luck! I'm on my way back to the page.
Dave Weingart
Songwriter/systems analyst/snowboarder from Long Island, NY, writes:
I think that any major emotional event will have an impact on your songs. That emotional event can be happy, sad, tragic, confusing. Songs are quite often HOW we express our emotional state, and the grief, loss and shock can be expressed through our music.
Piper (little red) Kirk
A Smoky Mtns Songwriter, writes:
My natural tendencies when facing conflict are to avert attention to a more pleasant and gratifying experience. That is the human need which devised all forms of art. And although I most often write artistically and from self expression, it seems our nation's radio audiences are seeking amusement and are yearning for a break. In order for us as composers to gratify our audiences, we must be bearers of good news, or at least in my working genre of country, sugar to aid in swallowing. We all struggle with the bleak facets of our humanity, especially during wartime or while in mourning. I feel like my audiences understand what the "unspeakable" truly is and that some concepts can not be captured by any art form or even language. It is impossible to create melody from chaos. I believe it is to our better understanding to seek the lighter side of our recent horrors, whether National or personal. We as songwriters can conquer the evils of the world as we understand that sometimes, even songwriters, can only stand and shake their heads. Wonder. We don't have to know why our troubles exist. It is moot. Our duty is to express at least a subtle element of solution and healing.
Vince Donnelly
A songwriter from Havertown, PA, writes:
Personally, tragedy is one of the best places to find inspiration. Anything which sparks an emotion, be it happiness or sorrow, creates an opening for exploration and remembrance. I find that writing about tragedy, helps me cope with an event. I sort out my thoughts, by looking at different points of view and different reasons for it being a tragedy. Some of my best writing has come from grief, ex. losing someone close. This sort of writing, when done correctly, can be very comforting and very moving.
David Henderson
A songwriter in rock band, from Manchester, England, writes:
It tends to bring out the angry side in me, but I write my lyrics in a paradoxic form so that it is only obvious to me what the lyrics' true meanings are, which leaves other peoples perceptions of my lyrics to the imagination. When I hear of a tradgedy that affects me I tend not to write about in an unbiased format, I will only put down what I truly feel.
Christine Donovan
A singer/songwriter from Napanee, Ontario, writes:
Writing a song is a form of self-expression for me, that's for sure, but I can't force it. Tragedy happens around us everyday either directly or indirectly. If it affects me in a way that I feel the need to sing about it, great...if not then that's okay too. When I do compose a song, it comes from my heart and it needs to percolate I guess for a little while before it can really come out. My songs become very personal at times and when I record them or share them by performing them, it feels like I'm making myself naked in front of strangers. I don't know what to say really...Yeah, I guess tragedy, or any strong emotions for that matter, do tend to trigger a gut creative response but not always immediately... Sometimes it can be a delayed reaction you draw on later.
A Performing Singer/Songwriter, Inspiritrace, from Huntington Beach, California, writes:
I think writing is a spiritual exercise. Creating is divinely guided. The gift comes with a price and that means the artist experiences pain probably more intently that most people. I don't know how it is possible to be a songwriter and not have that come through your music. This recent tragedy has made me write more songs affirming the truth I know, which is that the movement of the Universe is always toward good, despite appearances. As a songwriter, I'm finding myself drawing closer to my spiritual base in my music, and affirming for the world that tyranny never wins (others or our own) and love survives. Despite all odds.
Donna Barrere Smith
A right brainer of all media, writes:
A friend I knew when I started writing used to say, "The best music comes from a broken heart". Unfortunately, it turned out to be true. During high school I wrote about the gut wrenching confusion of unreturned or betrayed love. Then my best friend moved and I wrote several lonely I-miss-you songs. These events don't sound that bad but, at seventeen, these were big major issues. Writing and art-making have always helped me to understand my life. These tragic events changed ME and my music. The arts helped me connect with the world and my songs became more socially and spiritually aware. Lately, I HAVE managed to write a few happier tunes, but they seem to be triggered when a life trouble is resolved. SO I would have to say that sorrow has always affected my creative expressions.
Lien Tremblay
A Female Songwriter/Composer/Singer/Guitarist from Ottawa, Canada, writes:
Any ups or downs directly affect the way I write songs. In fact, they are my inspiration. If I'm down...I compose. If I'm happier than usual...I compose. So usually when people listen to my songs, they can automatically feel, or get a sense of what I was feeling at the time. For me, writing music is therapy. I deal with my emotions through music. It gives me a sense of release and accomplishment since I can listen or play my songs and remember what I was going through. It's great!! It's a perfect way to measure your personal growth and evolution. Music is my life. My life is music. It's that simple.

A student in the UK who has experience of bands and songwriting, writes:
Tragedy deeply affects songwriting. It's a similar reaction to when you are drinking - the pure truth comes out through the music that you write. Words and phrases are at their most meaningful because you finally realise the world in its beauty, and its not so fine qualities. Reality strikes.
Jacques Goudreault
A songwriter from Oshawa, Ontario Canada, writes:
I deliberately stay away from tragedies as subject matter. It's like lemmings to the sea when this sort of thing happens. Before you know it you'll start hearing "Not another song about...." Besides, songs related to terrorism, politics and religion are very complex issues and a song can be interpreted many different ways and even insult the same audience you are trying to reach. It certainly can not entertain. Time is the key. Leave the subject a few decades. Write about Pearl Harbour, Titanic, shipwrecks, WW1-. Allow some time to pass so that your song isn't lumped into the cheesy schmaltzy opportunist category. On the other hand, significant personal events inspire me to write. I almost always write them in the third person if it's about me. I'm not interested in evoking sympathy.
Tim Stevens
A Songwriter from Philly PA, writes:
It's sad to say but tragedy helps me write better songs. When Aaliyah died earlier this year it really made me brainstorm. I came up with three songs, my favorite of which is called "An Angel Before Her Time".Also, 9/11/01 made me write more too and I have come up with a few great songs.

A songwriter from Ontario, Canada, writes:
As a writer, tragedy in any form eventually finds its way from my heart to my mind and begins to take shape in words. Most writing does flow from "somewhere", not simply from the craft itself. It flows out from me first so I can try and make sense of it and then it becomes something I want to share with others. Outward expression connects us, it frees us and it heals us eventually. Writers express themselves with words and melodies. Just as we want to write about the good times in our lives to share the joy, we also want to write about those things which sadden us. And this is not to deepen the pain, only to begin the process of healing and understanding. When Bette Midler sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" or Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless The USA" in New York today (Sept 23/01), each song stirred emotions in people and moved them to tears or moved them to patriotism. In other words, these songs had an effect on people's hearts. Tragedy and loss are not things we wish to face, but when they occur, I find that writing about them, in order to understand and heal, is a very natural process.

A writer and artist from New York, writes:
It can be real tough to express myself when I'm feeling strong emotions. I think that it is because I feel that once I have something written down, that now it's real and something I need to face. So it is scary at first, but once I find a way to express myself, it is a lot easier to deal with the root of what is bothering me. My songwriting has been my "therapy" and it is also a way for me to express myself to others in a way that I feel comfortable.

A One man rock band (for the moment) from the UK, writes:
After the terrible events of the other week, I had two initial reactions. 1) write down my feelings about this. More as a way to personally express what I was feeling to myself, not others. 2) Never ever write a song about it. Songs about tradegies possibly don't work, if done at the time (as heard on most recent offerings by many others). I think a bit of perspective is required and possibly a bit of time for healing (some of the songs were on the net the following day!). There seems to be a lot of hatred and defience in many offerings on sites I frequent. I didn't want to add to that. Saying that I have in the last week started writing again. Maybe, the events may darken my songwriting a bit. Maybe not. We shall see.
A songwriter from New Mexico, writes:
Tragedy affects the passion that anyone puts into a song. When something bad or tragic happens and it affects you in any way, it will aways affect the way you deliver the song. This is something that you can't help. You can't try to stop it, you can't try to obtain it. It just comes by nature.
front girl screams, writes:
I can't explain it but I write best when I'm in pain...........maybe that's just how I function. I've written 2 songs about the WTC tragedy.....and they're some of the best work I've ever done. During times of loss I do use my writing as a release..............although I still don't' feel like I've been completely able to release it all. About 4 months ago I went through a period of depression and this produced some very good results as far as my lyrics go. I'm glad I've gotten over it, but I'm kinda disappointed at the results I usually get out of just writing now. Like I said, maybe that's just me, but I hope it's just an answer to a simple question.

Mark Vieaux
everyman, writes:
A broken heart tends to be a great source of inspiration, though I am still in the fear/anger stage of my emotions, which for me tends to block my muse. I've begun a song related to the 6000 murders of September eleven, and as I write, and consider the ripple effect (tidal wave effect?), my mind numbs to the enormity of the sadness/terror/hatred of those events. Putting pen to paper certainly allows for some processing of these thoughts and emotions, and the healing begins.
A songwriter from Sydney, Australia, writes:
Its doesn't consciously. I have never set out to write a song that follows a theme or makes a direct point. Still, these things work their way into my lyrics and music as does everything that I experience. The bad things in life do feature in my lyrics but it is the more introspective side that shows. Maybe I'm just too flat to express these emotions. I would rather write about the girl I saw on the train station on Tuesday or that black crunchy potato chip that always works its way into the bottom of the bag or what I'm planning to do on the weekend or ..... Well you get the picture.
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