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the genius of song lyrics

Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesdays

As a writer, I love words and am obsessed with song lyrics. When I was in school — from elementary through college — I included song lyrics in all my papers and projects because there was always one that expressed exactly how I felt or what I was trying to say.

So, even though I am trying to get a ton of work done right now, preparing to leave for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Conference on Thursday, I have to participate in Twisted Mixtape Tuesday because the theme is “These lyrics are genius.”

I don’t have time to really sit and think too deeply about this one so I’m going to take the first songs that come to mind. Here we go!

Biting Your Tail by Iron & Wine

My daughter introduced me to this song, and it’s a beauty. There are so many gorgeous lines, like, “May your love be your only religion and preach it to us all.” I  just love when he sings, “May your words be well worth stealing,” and the last line, “The choir’s sick of the song but they still gotta stand,”  is one of my all-time favorites.

The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell

Okay, I could have picked any Joni Mitchell song. The woman is a poet. My whole life can pretty much be summed up through her catalog. As a mother, this song has taken on greater significance and become more poignant to me with every  painted pony going up and down. My baby is graduating college next month, and I’m teary just listening to this.

Youngstown by Bruce Springsteen

Nobody tells a story better than the Boss, and this one is full of such rich and vivid imagery — “smokestacks reaching like the arms of God” — I feel like I’m sweating and coughing in the mines every time I hear it. Beautifully written, and packing a powerful ending, it offers an emotional and personal history lesson. If students were taught this way in school, we would all be way smarter.

Mean by Taylor Swift

Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. T. Swift tells it like it is in simple but effective prose that everyone can relate to — “you have pointed out my flaws again as if I don’t already see them” and that is ultimately — “all you are is mean and a liar and pathetic and alone in life and mean” — oh, so, empowering.

Not Ready to Make Nice by the Dixie Chicks

I was a Dixie Chicks fan since “Wide Open Spaces” but this song — and the events that led to it — totally sealed the deal. I tried to explain to my kids what it was about when it first came out, and basically ended up reciting all the lyrics to them. I still get teased about it to this day but it does show the power of good lyrics.


  1. Your quick survey has some of my favorites too. I feel like we are fated.

  2. “May your mouth betray your wisdom. May you get what they failed to mention…” Wow, I love, love, love this song! Thank you (and your wonderful daughter) for introducing me to something new and oh so sweet!

    Funny, I included The Circle Game in my genius lyrics this week — probably won’t publish it but that song was definitely there!

    Awesome list!

  3. Glad you took the time to create a mix even though you are busy. Have fun at the Erma Bombeck workshop. I know Cindy Reed of “the reedster speaks” is attending, too.

  4. Love your choices and I’m kinda sad I didn’t think of “Mean” – it fits my mood perfectly.

  5. I loved this so much!! SO much! First of all my most favorite music teacher ever taught us The Circle Game and it comes to me sometimes and I have such amazing fond memories associated with it!
    I mentioned on two other posts now that I may not love the Boss, but I love his lyrics!
    Thank you so much for joining us again, please check in to see when we come back at the end of the summer, and have a great time at Erma Bombeck!!!

  6. Wow….I am so glad I read this one, Lois! How amazing is “Biting your tail!?” Thank you for introducing me to it…..your daughter too! I use lyrics in my writing…… and everyday speech too! Great post, my friend!

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