Thursday, 15 December 2011

Because I like it: "Says My Heart"

Frank Loesser
You'll find nothing mind-blowing or earth-shaking or ground-breaking here; just a perfect little song and a perfect record: Says My Heart, music by Burton Lane, lyrics by Frank Loesser, recorded in 1938 by Mildred Bailey and the Red Norvo band. Frank Loesser is one of my songwriting heroes, as lyricist and composer. His lyrics are often so natural-sounding they're easy to take for granted. In this one, there are no lofty, hyperbolic declarations, no word-inversions, no imagery; just the age-old heart vs. head story told with total believability from the female point of view.

"Fall in love, fall in love," says my heart;
"It's romance, take a chance," says my heart.
But each time
That I'm
Almost in your arms,
This old schoolteacher-brain of mine keeps ringing false alarms.
Then my head rules instead and I'm wise
To the scheme of that gleam in your eyes;
So I kiss and run, but the moment we're apart,
"Oh, you fool, that was love!" says my heart.

With a good, professionally crafted lyric, there's always a telling detail or unusual turn of phrase that makes it memorable, which is all you need in the short span of thirty-two bars. In this song it's "this old schoolteacher-brain of mine" -- just right for the character and situation. I wish all songwriters who overload their lyrics with Poetry would heed Frank Loesser's advice:

Try to make everything refer back to the title... Keep focused in on what the title is saying... Avoid colorful language unless you put a rest nearby so that the audience can have time to digest it. Otherwise, they'd be admiring, or wondering, or puzzled about it and lose the next lyric or two, because the purpose of writing is to get their attention and keep it.

You've got it and you've kept it, Mr. Loesser.

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