“A song is an injured poem
Which leans on music for its strength.”
Or worded in plain-speak: “Songs are mostly appreciated based on the accompanying music.”
This is the standard English teachers’ rule to which The Beatles hold myriad exceptions. In fact, literally hundreds of lines from Beatles’ tunes – throughout the span of their career – stand alone as poignant, memorable poetry.
Take for example, the haunting warning, “One day, you’ll look to see I’m gone. But tomorrow many rain, so…I’ll follow the sun.” Poetry! Tune, or no tune to back it up.
“It’s only love and that is all.
Why should I feel the way I do?
It’s only love…and that is all.
But it’s so hard – loving you.”
Read that verse aloud, without the music, and what you will find is the complete helplessness of the writer – the frustration and pain of loss – a loss made even more evident in the tuneless void. Spoken without the magical music behind the words, there is nothing to soften the blow. What you discover is a lover desperately trying to shrug off the intensity of his feelings and forebodings – and failing miserably. Utterly. You witness a very private moment and an unforgettable one. And that, my friend, is poetry.
The Beatles were, indeed, poets whose music only enhanced the strength of their compositions. Their lyrics are works of art, and “in their own write,” they succeed.
My favorite line from the immense Beatles catalog is, surprisingly, not a Lennon line. But I like to think that Paul was addressing his words to John – that he was reminding his old friend of the lifelong connection the two of them shared, despite the difficulties they were encountering in the moment. That image, in itself, injects the words with raw emotion. But the couplet also has a second level of meaning as my husband, Rande, and I prepare to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary on 23 June.
You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.
Sad, but true, I think. Although (who knows?) we may be lucky. My parents celebrated 72 years together. Dare we hope for 80? Perhaps. Though reality nudges me to admit that Paul’s affectionate and haunting line is probably closer to the truth.
The first time I heard these words, I was sitting in the lobby of the Gibson Guitar Factory in Memphis, Tennessee, waiting to take the tour. The invisible powers-that-be behind the scenes were playing The Beatles – as it should be – and the quiet group listened. I had heard “Two of Us” countless times, I’m sure. But I’d never really absorbed the words until they filtered into that immense room…until the poetry swirled over and around the atrium, washing every patron in deep emotion. Instantly, my eyes filled with tears…for my parents who were in their early 90’s and sitting with us that afternoon, for my husband and me – and yes, for Paul and John. It was a tender moment.
Beatlesongs. So many of the lyrics could stand alone without any music to lean on – mature, complete in themselves, needing nothing more. But why should they stand alone? When the poetry inherent in “In My Life” can be accompanied by the perfect melody, why not have the best of both worlds? Why not enjoy the whole package? We can be selfish, Beatles fans! We are blessed.
But if you had to pare down their songs to the lyrics alone…pare them down to the poetry – the most memorable words – which lines have touched your heart the most? Which lines from a song by John, Paul, George, or Ringo have stayed with you throughout the years? And why?
Please take a moment and share your thoughts with us here at The Fest…and you could win a collector’s tin of Beatles coasters! Just respond in our Comments section and in two weeks, we’ll draw a winner from the responses we receive. We truly love hearing from you, and we hope you enjoy taking a moment from the hectic, work-a-day world to revel in the music and poetry of The Fab Four.
Let’s talk Beatles. Let’s talk poetry.
Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com