"Genius" somebody once observed "Is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration" Song writing, on the other hand is 99% inspiration and 1% perspiration. Ergo, you don't have to be a genius to write a song. 

Not quite, but the real challenge is inspiration. Oh, and motivation. And passion of course. Then there's collaboration and dedication and.....anyway, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Anyone Who Had A Heart

 There are lots of places to find tips on song writing. Just google "Lyric Writing" and you'll be there for the day. Also, if you have a spare week or two, google Wikipedia's "American Songwriters". I think it runs to 700 pages but didn't include James Taylor or, one of the most prolific songwriting teams ever, Burt Bachahrach and Hal David.

Back To Black

The Telegraph is not a paper I normally read but it did recently run an article on the top 50 British songwriters which included Ivor Novello and Noel Coward. Novello because of the annual awards in his name for best British song of the year etc..and both for their influence on the development of popular music in Britain before and after the war. Amongst the contenders were, of course John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but it is noteworthy that many of those named were songwriting teams.

Lennon/McCartney, Elton John/Berny Taupin, Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, Morrissey/Johny Marr, Joe Strimmer/Mick Jones ("Clash"), Neil Tenant/Chris Lowe (Pet Shop Boys), Syd Barret/Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) and Annie Lennox/Dave Stewart.

Amongst the "singletons" were Kate Bush, Pete Townsend, Joan Armatrading, Cat Stevens, Brian Ferry, Amy Winehouse with no mention of Paulo Nutini or David Gray.

From "Love Me Do" to "Another Brick in The Wall" and from "Wuthering Heights" to "Back To Black" there are a fair number of examples of successful songwriting to choose from.

Nobody Does It Better

But the good news is that, no matter how successful, famous, rich and influential any of these guys and gals are, when it comes to writing your song, they can't do it. Only you can.

Write an original song and watch it grow. Nobody can say it's right or wrong. Nobody can say it is good or bad. Only you can and that's your judgement and your talent being put to the test by the only person who matters in this, you.

Paul McCartney is probably one of the best songwriters these islands have ever produced. When it comes to tunes, he is unsurpassed. The Telegraph wrote "Paul McCartney could stuff more melodies into one song ("Hello,Goodbye" for instance) than most bands are capable in a whole album". But McCartney's lyrics are frequently pretty poor ("Mull of Kintyre"??). Even his seminal ballad "Yesterday" (one of the most covered songs ever) is little more than a sequence of cliches wrapped up in a cocoon of beautiful melodic sentences.


There's no such thing as a "bad" song, only an unfinished one. Always be prepared to edit. Happy with all the lyrics? Got a weak section that didn't stack up when you first wrote it? Still think the "hook" is strong? The hook is your song's USP (Unique Selling Point), the one thing everyone will remember it for. 

If you are happy with it, the acid test is to perform it, or get somebody else to perform it. An audience will tell you in a minute what a library of self-help song writing books never will. And if you can't perform it, submit it for competition. The UK one is a good place to start.