prefer lyrics that make me think. The banal repetitive lyrics of the average pop song are okay if they’re carried by a spectacular voice or accompanied by really good music. But intelligent or thought-provoking lyrics can get by with a lot less window dressing.
From my earliest childhood, this attitude has been influenced by the songs of Paul Simon. My perspective of the entire marketing field has always been colored by Simon’s “Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine” just as the first mental pictures I formed of New York were pleasant, happy images, wrapped around the 59th Street Bridge. Paul has always been introspective, and his lyrics are full of self-analysis, and, on occasion, the anguish and doubt which sometimes result. “Ten Years”, written for the anniversary of a television show (10 points if you can guess it) has meaning and value far beyond its origins. The singer looks back, noting the rapid passage of time, feeling a dearth of accomplishment; then, looks forward, wondering if the future holds more of the same.
Simon is a wordsmith. From the opening lines
You are moving on a crowded street through various shades of people
the sky turns dark as stone
to the final line
sunny days have burnt a path across another season
he chooses slightly unusual descriptions for the mundane, the expected, and thereby makes them something entirely new and different. Simon’s voice is as simple as always; the musical accompaniment sounds much like an outtake from “Graceland”; but the lyrics make the song stand out among his works.
The song first appeared, in shortened form, on the Oprah Winfrey show. The full version is only available on Carnival“, an album to benefit the Rainforest Foundation, and featuring Sting, <James Taylor, The Chieftans, and others.
In spite of the bleak lyrics, the song feels hopeful. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but when he sings
If you look into your future life ten years from this question, do you imagine a familiar light burning in the distance?
I do indeed imagine a familiar light, but it’s a light I’d like to see.