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
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.
Jann Klose and The Voice's Josett Diaz To Perform At Ethical Brew To Benefit A Cause Close To Home (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.State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze (NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.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 (BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!