The Knack: How to pen a lyric by Hal David
Friday 25 June 1999
Try and tell a narrative. The songs should be like a little film, told in three or four minutes. Try to say things as simply as possible, which is probably the most difficult thing to do. It's easier to say things in a complicated way than to take the same thought and say it well but simply. The more you work at this, the better you'll get. There has to be a basic truthfulness in the lyric that people can identify with. Otherwise it won't move or touch people. Find your own voice, don't copy what other people are doing. And don't try copying the latest thing - today's big hit will not be tomorrow's big hit.
Ideas can come from all sorts of sources, in most cases they're subconscious, but read books, go to films, listen to people talking, and you'll find lines or phrases sticking out which lock into your mind. Many years ago, when I was in London, I was supposed to be going to a dinner party and I called to find out what time I was due, and the hostess said: "When you come, don't ring the bell, just come up, that will make one less bell for me to answer". That last phrase became the title of one of my songs. That happens. When writing lyrics, it's important not to take the easy way out - know that there's something better than the first thought or first line you had, and keep digging through until you find something that you can really feel proud of.
Hal David, lyricist of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Walk on By", amongst others, has recently won the Special International Award at the Ivor Novello Songwriting Awards
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
- 2 John Smid: Former leader of US ‘gay cure’ group has just married a man
- 3 These grandmas smoking weed for the first time are wonderful
- 4 Pastafarian former porn star Asia Lemmon allowed to wear colander in driving licence photo
- 5 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Willow and Jaden Smith talk duality of apples, holographic realities and the melancholia of the ocean in incredible New York Times interview
The earliest known Arabic short stories in the world have just been translated into English for the first time
Winnie the Pooh banned from Polish playground for being 'inappropriate hermaphrodite'
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds Kent seat
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'
G20 summit: David Cameron warns Vladimir Putin that Russia's relationship with the West is at a 'fork in the road' over Ukraine
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track