New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

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.” 

The article continues after this ad


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. 

Upcoming Events

Metric To Play Tri-State Area

Metric To Play Tri-State Area

(HOLMDEL, NJ) -- Critically acclaimed Canadian group Metric recently kicked off a 38-date run of live performances in arenas across North America as special guests on the reunion tour of legendary artist the Smashing Pumpkins. The tour comes to the tri-state area with shows at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on July 28; Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 1st; and the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on August 2nd. Metric is also getting ready to release their seventh full-length studio album September 21 via MMI/Crystal Math Music. 

The West Windsor Arts Council presents WWACFEST 2018

The West Windsor Arts Council presents WWACFEST 2018

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The West Windsor Arts Council presents WWACFEST on Saturday, August 4th from 11:00am to 8:30pm.  The free event is a one-day performance festival of diverse genres held at the Nassau Park Pavilion in the Shopping Center on Route 1 behind Panera. The day includes traditional cultural dance, jazz, rock, music for children, circus, art activities, folk-art vendors, ethnic food, and more. This year's headlining act is Ja-Tun and Random Acts of Soul. The raindate is August 5, 2018.

NJPAC Presents Eric Johnson

NJPAC Presents Eric Johnson

(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents GRAMMY-winning rock legend Eric Johnson and his original band performing their landmark 1990 album, Ah Via Musicom, live and in its entirety on Saturday, October 20th at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $49 to $99. 

Get The Led Out Returns To Mayo In Morristown On August 8th

Get The Led Out Returns To Mayo In Morristown On August 8th

(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Dubbed "The American Led Zeppelin," Get The Led Out (GTLO) performs the best of the classic British band at MPAC on Wednesday, August 8 at 8:00pm. From the bombastic and epic, to the folky and mystical, Get The Led Out has captured the essence of the recorded music of Led Zeppelin and brought it to the concert stage.Tickets range from $29-$59.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018


THE HIGH DIVERS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Lindsey Stirling + Evanescence @ BB&T Pavilion, Camden - 7:00pm

YANNI 25: ACROPOLIS ANNIVERSARY CONCERT @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

The Pierce Sessions @ Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church, Farmingdale - 7:30pm

THE MAVERICKS @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


Chapter Two @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 8:00pm

The 1940s Cabaret @ Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May - 7:00pm


A Bag of Marbles @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 7:00pm

Ben-Gurion Epilogue @ Jewish Heritage Museum, Freehold - 7:00pm

The Wedding Plan @ Monroe Senior Center, Monroe - 7:00pm

DESPICABLE ME 3 @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 10:30am and 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.