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INSIDE MUSIC: I Can’t Remember The Lyrics!

By Rosemary Conte

originally published: 07/01/2018

INSIDE MUSIC: I Can’t  Remember The Lyrics!I’ve always had difficulty memorizing song lyrics. There are many reasons why singers might have that problem. It might be fear. And the fear of forgetting lyrics becomes a mental loop;  the more anxious and fearful one becomes, the greater grows the fear and anxiety.  Like attracts like.  

It wasn’t until I became a grandmother that I found out why I couldn’t remember song lyrics, and poems…and phone numbers…and dates.

I have a learning difference, sometimes referred to as a learning disability. It’s a neurological thing -- a novel wiring of my brain that creates problems working with numbers, visual perception, and organizing data in my brain (and files on my computer’s hard disk!) I stopped complaining about what was diagnosed as Gertsmann Syndrome when I came to appreciate that the “difference” also came with some benefits that I had taken for granted all my life; like a high level of creativity, multiple talents, and a natural ability in areas for which I had little or no academic training. 

Through the years, I used the advice I’d give to my voice students -- write the lyrics until they flow from mind to paper with ease. This and other techniques didn’t solve my problem, but helped explain why I had the problem with lyrics.  

Some songs tell stories with a beginning, a middle, and an ending, e.g. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” by Gordon Lightfoot, that tells the story of the ship’s crew and ends with the sinking of the ship.   Some songs don’t tell a story, but express a feeling, or a romantic idea   in a series of verses or phrases that use different lyrics each time, as in “I Love You” by Cole Porter:   “I Love You”, hums the April breeze.  “I Love You,” echo the hills.  “I Love You,” the golden dawn agrees, as once more she sees daffodils.” 

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I figured out that song lyrics I remember most easily tell a story from beginning to end, e.g.  "Makin’ Whoopie," by Gus Kahn/Walter Donaldson. It’s a clever, humorous song that begins at the church wedding  and moves forward in the marriage with each five-sentence phrase, then, ending in the courtroom with divorce: “Another bride….another June…another sunny honeymoon…another season…another reason, for Makin’ Whoopie.” (Jumping ahead in the story) “He doesn’t make much money, only five thousand per…some judge who thinks he’s funny, says you’ll pay six to her.”

The type song that is a bigger challenge for me, is one that doesn’t have a story line, but that describes feeling or an idea.  I love to sing Adele’s hit, “To Make You Feel My Love,” by Bob Dylan. Each phrase expresses a different way the singer could prove her love. My challenge is remembering the order in which Dylan wrote those phrases. 

Another one I love to sing, “The Glory of Love,” is the hit from the film “Beaches” and sung by Bette Midler. If when performing, I write the first rhyming word of each phrase on the palm of my hand, that word will prompt my recall of the entire longer phrase, ending with its rhyming partner.  It’s unlikely that an audience would recognize – or care – if a singer re-arranged the order of the complete phrases, because there’s no story line; just a bit of wisdom expressed each time in a different way:  

“You’ve got to give a little, take a little, and make your poor heart break a little. That’s the glory of, that’s the story of love. You’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little, until the clouds roll by a little. That’s the story of, that’s the ‘Glory of Love.’” And finally, “You’ve got to win a little, lose a little, and even have the blues a little. That’s the story of, that’s the ‘Glory of Love.’”

This may seem confusing to you. Only another person with GS, dyslexia, or dysgraphia (the inability to write coherently) can imagine the level of confusion we deal with every day…including how to use quotation marks and other punctuation!  

Why does all this matter so much that I’d write about it?  I know that many adults may not know they’re living with novel brain wiring that grows worse with age. They may fear they’re in early Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. 

In children, this neurological twist may exist at birth, as in my case, or be caused by brain disease or damage.  (Think situations in which kids should wear helmets.)  An undiscovered learning  difference can impact a child’s social and intellectual development.  And it might cause behavior problems in school as it might manifest as ADD/ADHD.  Kids who recognize they perceive things differently don’t normally talk about it. They don’t know how. A child might think he’s dumb because he can’t recite poetry or remember a dance routine like the other kids.  If detected early, a child can be guided toward those exceptional abilities that often come with different brain wiring, for example, the exceptionally high level of performance in math, music, and other areas among children on the Autism Spectrum. 

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(TEANECK, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 8th, singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jann Klose will perform at Ethical Brew on behalf of Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, a community arts and cultural center for children and teens located in Bronx, New York.  Doors open at 7:30, show begins at 8:00pm.
Kenny Chesney To Perform At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Focusing on smaller venues and markets not directly impacted by his massive stadium tours, Kenny Chesney sought to make his Songs for the Saints 2019 Tour mirror the intimacy of its namesake album. Inspired by the resilience of the people around him, Chesney doubles down on the human connection for his 2019 tour by seeking those members of No Shoes Nation who have spent the past decade and a half making the trip to stadium markets for what is now a summer tradition. On Saturday, May 11, 2019 he brings the tour to Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in Atlantic City, NJ.
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NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm

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