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What’s in a Song? Well….a lot!

The Library of Congress recently honored Garth Brooks with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. A broadcast of the concert will be coming up on March 29 on PBS. In an interview with the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, Mr. Brooks spoke of songwriting and his emphasis on recognizing more women as songwriters. It may seem easy to express one’s feelings, find a few words that rhyme, come up with a melody or work with a collaborator, but it’s not. In popular music, finding a ‘hook’ is essential. A ‘hook’ is something, either melodically or lyrically, that stays with listeners.

I especially enjoy how Mr. Brooks uses wordplay in his songs. I remember laughing at one of his early titles, “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places.” But…it worked. I remembered the song, I remembered the artist. Another one of his is “Dive Bar.” Sounds nefarious, right? Here is the last line, “We’re gonna spend the weekend in the deep end of a dive bar.” I suppose they’ll come to surface after drowning all their sorrows and disappointments.

We have many titles in braille and audio format from the country genre. One audio title has become a standard reference tool for patrons interested in country music: Classic Country Music by Bill Malone, DBM03645. In braille, we have Hot Country Singles of 1991, BRM34549, and Top Country Hits of the 90s, BRM34547. Both of these titles are in bar-over-bar format and available on BARD.

Here are some guitar-by-ear lessons for songs by this year’s Gershwin Prize recipient, Garth Brooks:

Thunder Rolls” DBM02099

Unanswered Prayers” DBM02105

The River” DBM02102

If Tomorrow Never Comes” DBM02089

Friends in Low Places” DBM02473

The Dance” DBM02100

Belleau Wood” DBM02081

You Move Me” DBM02109

And here are some titles I’ve chosen to highlight because they have a good ‘hook’:

“All My Exes Live in Texas” DBM03022

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” DBM02505 (Chet Atkins fingerstyle version), DBM03386 (in the style of Willie Nelson) and DBM03271 (flatpick guitar version).

Midnight in Montgomery” DBM02092, a song about the legacy of Hank Williams in the style of Alan Jackson

“Boot Scootin’ Boogie” DBM03032.

OK, let’s “Cowboy Up” and write some songs!

Blind James Campbell and His Nashville Washboard Band

“Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be”–This is the song that we have been singing for the past several weeks here in the Music Section of the National Library Service (along with Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in their song “Tennessee Jed”).  The NLS national conference in Nashville has now come and gone, […]

Nashville Sound: Hargus “Pig” Robbins

Hargus “Pig” Robbins might be the most famous piano player you’ve never heard of, though you’ve likely heard his work. The National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals will begin in a matter of days in Nashville, Tennessee, so today I want to tell you about a musician who is blind and […]

Carnegie Hall of the South: Nashville’s Musical Legacy, Part 2

This is the second half of a two-part post on Nashville’s musical history and related books in the NLS Music Collection. Read the first part here: Athens of the South: Nashville’s Musical Legacy, Part 1. Nashville’s most famous music venue, the Ryman Auditorium, was completed in 1892 and was originally a church called the Union […]

Athens of the South: Nashville’s Musical Legacy, Part 1

Here in the Music Section of the National Library Service we are counting down the days until the National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals begins next month in Music City, Nashville, Tennessee! As I mentioned in my last article, I’ve been taking the opportunity to learn about the musical history of […]