Now that's what I call music...

A great lyric can bewitch, baffle or break your heart. Ahead of the Ivor Novello Awards, songwriters reveal the lyricists who have inspired them

Guy Chambers

"Amelia" by Joni Mitchell

There is no one greater than Joni in the female singer-songwriter world. I love so many of her songs, where her poetic words perfectly match the tension and release of her music, but "Amelia" is particularly special:

"I was driving across the burning

desert/ When I spotted six jet planes

Leaving six white vapour trails

across the bleak terrain/It was the

hexagram of the heavens

It was the strings of my guitar

Amelia it was just a false alarm."

KT Tunstall

Bob Dylan

There are very few lyricists whose work translates directly as poetry, and Dylan qualifies. I get lost in his stories, and his words transport you to wherever he chooses.

 

Alison Clarkson (Betty Boo)

"Tears of a Clown", lyrics by Smokey Robinson

An amazing lyricist, once described by Bob Dylan as "America's greatest living poet".

 

Allison Pierce

"Graceland" by Paul Simon

Some of my favorite lyrics are from the song "Graceland" by Paul Simon:

"She comes back to tell me she's

gone/as if I didn't know that,

as if I didn't know my own bed.

As if I'd never noticed the way she

brushed her hair from her

forehead."

Oh dear god, the heartbreak. I well up with tears every time.

 

David Arnold

"Born Free" by Don Black

I keep thinking about "Born Free" – how the simplest line about the meaning of freedom:

"As free as the wind blows,

as free as the grass grows"

can tell you be everything you need to know in two lines. Don Black knows how people speak and what they hear and how they hear it. That's why his lyrics, while deceptively simple, can reduce a complex idea and make it sound like anyone could have said it.

 

Don Black

I love snatches of songs like: "This world was never meant for/ one as beautiful as you" by Don McLean; "Someday when I'm awfully low/ I will feel a glow just thinking of you/and the way you look tonight" by Dorothy Fields and "I was never crazy on my own" by Mike Batt.

As far as lyricists are concerned, in no particular order: Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields, Tim Rice, Jake Thackray, Oscar Brown Jr, Herbert Kretzmer, Tom Waits, Oscar Hammerstein. I could say to each and every one of them what Bruce Forsyth says every week: "You're my favourite."

 

Timothy McKenzie (Labrinth)

As for lyricists, I'd say Pharoahe Monch, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Drake. I really like the lyrics to the song "John, I'm Only Dancing" by David Bowie . It's about a guy dancing with someone else's girl, saying "don't worry, I'm only dancing" – but really he has other plans. I think the lyrics to Coldplay's "Fix You" are beautiful too:

"Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you"

 

Martin Fry (ABC)

"Land" by Patti Smith

One of my favourite lyrics is "Land" by the incomparable Patti Smith. It's a song from Horses that I'm still trying to decode all these years on. It's a movie that jump cuts through hallucination after hallucination. Poetry that you can dance to. Not too many people pull that off. She manages to channel Arthur Rimbaud and James Brown and William Burroughs all at the same time.

 

Peter Liddle (Dry the River)

"A Thousand Kisses Deep" by Leonard Cohen

I think Leonard Cohen is my favourite lyricist. The words are effortless – moving and poignant with just the right level of ambiguity. Melancholy, but full of wry humour and wit.

Rhythmically too, I never feel as though a phrase is shoehorned into a song, he has this wonderfully natural way of writing as though he were talking.

The first example that jumps to mind is "A Thousand Kisses Deep" – the lyrics are different on various recordings, sometimes sung and sometimes recited in spoken word:

"And I'm still working with the

wine, /Still dancing, cheek to

cheek./The band is playing Auld

Lang Syne /The heart will not

retreat./And maybe I had miles to

drive,/And promises to keep.

You ditch it all to stay alive,

A thousand kisses deep.

And now you are the Angel Death,

And now the Paraclete.

And now you are

the Saviour's Breath,

And now the Belsen heap.

And turning from

the threat of love,

No transcendental leap –

As witnessed here in time,

and blood,

A thousand kisses deep."

 

Johnny Marr

"The Thrill of it all" by Roxy Music

I like that it's philosophical in a pop-streetwise way, and has a sense of exhilaration that matches the music, which is very important:

"If you're feeling fraught with

mental strain,/ too much

thinking's got you down again,/

keep cool to the thrill of it all."

I couldn't say who my favourite lyricists are because I've worked with a few and if I leave someone out I'd be sure to get into trouble. Kirsty MacColl was great; Lou Reed.

 

Steve Sparrow (Morning Parade)

"Flowers and Football Tops" by Glasvegas

This changes weekly depending on who I'm listening to, I have a lot of favourites. One that springs to mind is "Flowers and Football Tops"; James Allan's lyrics really connect with me, in a way sometimes that I think he's inside my head. I'm also into Guy Garvey's lyrics; he has a great turn of phrase and wonderful imagery in his songs.

 

Adam Anderson (Hurts)

"Oh Mother, I can feel the soil

falling over my head/ and as I

climb into an empty bed,/ oh well,

enough said. I know it's over" is a Morrissey lyric I always liked.

"I'd love to wear a rainbow every

day/ and tell the world that

everything is okay/ but I'll try to

carry off a little darkness on my

back,/ until things are brighter

I'm the Man in Black" by Johnny Cash is another we like.

The further back you go in time the purer the lyrical messages become. I like the uncomplicated directness of many of the lyrics in Phil Spector songs, in Elvis songs etc.

A great lyric can also be so because it is so entwined with the music or the identity of the singer.

Who's to say "I'm a teen distortion,/ survived abortion,/ a rebel from the waist down" by Marilyn Manson isn't profound or poetic?

It's all about whether the words in a song provoke an emotion.

 

Sir Tim Rice

There are many, but one of my favourite lyrics is from Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues". I really love the words:

"Well I called my congressman and

he said quote:/ 'I'd like to help you

son, but you're too young to vote.'"

Another favourite lyric originates from Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's My Fair Lady.

"Ev'ry time we looked around

there he was, that hairy hound

from Budapest/never leaving us

alone/never have I ever known

a ruder pest."

And finally, another favourite that comes to mind is "Love Potion No 9" – there are some fantastic lyrics in there:

"I told her that I was a flop

with chicks,

I've been this way since 1956,

she looked at my palm, and

she made a magic sign,

she said, what you need is

Love Potion No 9."

 

Steve Winwood

I hate to leave out fantastic records, but I'm sure all the great writers and lyricists would forgive me for saying Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind". It's a brilliant song – the lyrics have such depth and mean so much to so many people.

 

The 57th Ivor Novello Awards takes place tomorrow at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering