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Lyrics about grief. Can they be used in music really?

Lisa Gates


Working with a licensing publisher by shear chance has opened my eyes to the uses of all lyrics.


My current grief has all these poems, thoughts, and full fledge lyrics pouring out of me. I kept thinking there is no way they can be of any use. They are dark and personal. Can anyone really identify with this? (enough to make it worthwhile?)


When I write, I try to make it a timeless scene. One that young and old, present and future can all identify with. Grief can be so specific and then it changes as time goes on. It never dawned on me that my lyrics about grief could be taken out of context and actually be used! Take for example this verse from "This Road":


This road

No telling where or when it will end

All I know is nothing                         

Looking round for the next bend

It was written about my grief, my path, my road. But my licensing publisher thinks it might make a great jingle for a car commercial. Hmmmm my grief a car commercial? or perhaps in one of those "destination vacation" advertisements? movie trailer?...

It's all relative at this point...

I don't think I will ever hold any lyrics back again. The possibilities are endless and if I'm willing to release them to the Lady Luck of Music.


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who'd'a' thought? Grief to a car commercial? Out of context it does work though, and they probably wouldn't use much more than those lines.  Good for you!

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Thanks Plaid! (I think Ilike using "Plaid" instead of "PP") It takes a lot to release my lyrics but I'm learning. They are not meant to sit in my lyrics book ya know?! I want to be a songwriter not a song horder! LOL

chat soon,


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51 minutes ago, Lisa Gates said:

It takes a lot to release my lyrics but I'm learning. They are not meant to sit in my lyrics book ya know?! I want to be a songwriter not a song horder!



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I think yes they can be used, but lyrics and their meaning take on a life of their own. Unless you mourn a public figure almost all listeners will relate your lyrics to their situation. I think many writers writing deeply personal, grief inspired lyrics are not ready for that... they are still in sharing their feelings mode, an outpouring. If you are comfortable with the adoption and sometimes meaning adaptation, I see no problem.


The suitability of grief inspired lyrics is another issue, as is the volume of sad works writers can generate while griefstricken. All of a sudden all new songs are desolate and sad, and often deeply personal.


When confronted with grief I have written several songs, most of which I chose not to release. One song I did release after a friend died in a fire meant something to all her friends, at the time... also a lot of other people who had lost someone identified with the lyrics... however I was not prepared for the fact that the elements of the song that were deeply personal were often also personal to my friends. It served as a regular reminder of the loss. An unhappy reminder. While my friends were happy to remember our lost friend, they wanted to do it when they chose to, which was pretty well not on a night out. Had it been a song focused on the life once lead and all the fun in it, it might have been welcome at such times, but as it bridged the gap of loss, it became difficult, and painful.


So I dropped it from the set. Much to the annoyance of band mates and fans. In all honesty I couldn't face playing the song at all for a long time after that.

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I can imagine that song about your friend would be an unhappy reminder especially on a night out. Not being able to play your song is understandable. I can barely read the song I wrote the night before Paul passed away. But I am proud of it. I think it has good structure and a great hook. Maybe I'll present to a Christian band/singer sometime. I do have a melody for it too.

It's all about timing...


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Such a good topic. I remember a while back that there was a discussion about how personal a song should be and the challenges of writing about your own life. I think grief is as personal as it gets but also can be very public when it changes how we approach life and interact with those around us--sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. If we are able to pass through the darkest moments, days, years, the clarity we get on the other side can result in powerful lyrics, music, and other art forms.  And some even find the strength to create art in the midst of the pain, which perhaps helps in the healing. Based on John's experience, the question that comes to mind for me is: Once you've created a song out of grief, for whatever purpose--to heal, to inspire, to help you remember--what is your responsibility to others that are touched by it?  In the most personal sense you are writing about your own loss, but also exposing and giving voice to their loss too. Some folks find comfort in that. Some take a while to get there and some never do.


Turning to Lisa's original question--My take on it is that  lyrics about grief can take on another form and serve another purpose when you no longer need them as a primary expression of grief. I've written lyrics out of grief and have been initially very protective about the original meaning, but over time have been able to recast them into a broader context that was less about my personal experience and more universal. Now the car commercial goes further than that, but I think it's the same general idea--being comfortable enough with the meaning/context changing that it doesn't feel like another loss to grieve. ~T

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Hey Timbre, yes, my writing is part of my healing process. It just keeps going and changing. So I'm not sure when I'll get on the other side of it. I'm hopeful my lyrics I create then will be different for sure. I have a lot of lyrics from my grief that I cannot share or that are just fragments of thoughts not appropriate for songs anyway.

I like how you say that I am writing about my loss but also exposing and giving voice to their loss too. I hope my words can comfort others.

Although I will always need my lyrics from this time to stay as they are to remind me. I can (as you said) "recast them into a broader context" I think then, my original lyrics would have to stay in the shadows and let the recast lyrics shine as a new song...maybe that's what I need to do. If my lyrics from a grief related song gets attention for another reason, I could just write around the new purpose.

Anyway, thanks for the input. It helps more than you know. :-)

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