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A lyric is a set of verses and choruses that make up a complete song, It can also mean a set of words that make up a poem. A lyric usually uses a single speaker or performer who expresses their thoughts, emotions or other messaging. Lyrical poems on the other hand, which are often memorable for their rhythm, are also aesthetically pleasing to the ear and are easily put to music.

The word "lyric" derives originally rom the Greek word “lyre,” which is an instrument that was played while reading a poem. Lyrical poets histoirically demonstrated their specific moods and emotions through words designed to create a feeling. Such moods express a range of emotions including life, love, death, or other experiences of life.

Songs & Lyric Facts

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Featured Songs Song Profiles

Hit The Road Jack

Clocking in at exactly two minutes, “Hit The Road Jack” draws up the short course in how to make a Rock-N-Roll record. Among the vanguard of the second wave of pioneers, Ray Charles leads the attack with humor, aplomb and an infectious beat in his second #1 mainstream chart song (after “Georgia On My Mind”). It was his first song to hit #1 on both the mainstream and the R&B charts.

What does Hit The Road Jack mean?

The popularity of the Ray Charles song has made “Hit the road jack” into a popular pop culture phrase with multiple meanings. It has become a slang term to use when firing an employee, or breaking up with someone as a couple. It is also used generally whenever the target of the phrase does something that negatively impacts the person who is referring to them using the phrase.

Now, back to the song. The scene is simple enough. A ne’er-do-well man is trying to slip back into his woman’s good graces after hound-dogging around. She wants no part of him and his lousy moneymaking abilities and a presumed propensity to spend what little money he has on bad habits.

The vocal interplay between Charles and Margie Hendricks, one of the “Raelettes,” his backing singers, is tight and familiar, the result of strenuous practice sessions and a deep familiarity with the timeless story. It didn’t hurt that Ray and Margie were lovers and he refused to leave his wife for her.

She’s got his number and it’s a wrong number:

Now baby, listen baby, don’t ya treat me this-a way
Cause I’ll be back on my feet some day.
(Don’t care if you do ’cause it’s understood
you ain’t got no money you just ain’t no good.)

The pace of the song gallops. It’s got a touch of Country swing in it; a little Rock-a-Billy; some fast-paced Blues and the smirk of a novelty rrrrrrsong. A howling good horn section carries most of the action. A walking bass line snuggles in beautifully with not just the arrangement but with the sentiment, because, the singer surely is walking and walking after being thrown out.

Charles’s voice is commanding, protesting and lamenting all at once. He has some of the greatest Rock/Blues pipes of the last 60 years. The band’s playing is kept together in large part because his growling, barking voice demands that it toe the line.

The theme of “Hit The Road Jack” is an old one and can be found from the earliest rise of Ragtime, Country Blues and dancehall ditties. The diversity of such songs is striking. “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey”; “Tramp,” sung by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, as well as a freight car full of Country tunes about men (or women) turned out for drinkin’, cheatin’ or havin’ no ready cash.

There’s no deeper meaning to “Hit The Road Jack,” just a lot of tartly overstated emotions and a guy hightailing it out of town.

It rock with a vengeance – R&R course 101. Nothing advanced about it. Just flawless. Ray Charles is one of the Founding Fathers and this is part of the preamble to the constitution.

Featured Songs Song Profiles

Runaway Train – Soul Asylum’s Ode to Depression & Addiction

Runaway Train rises to the level of a great song for many reasons. Chief among them is that its poignant, well-crafted lyrics are open to multiple interpretations, sliding on a scale from the ridiculous to the sublime. Nevertheless, the words mean a lot of different things to many people.

Coupled with a mesmerizing rhythm guitar; a strong, if commonplace, back beat drum backing and the plaintive tone of its vocals, Runaway Train seems to have grow in stature and depth over its life. The Grammy Awards recognized it as the year’s best song at the 1994 awards, although the album it is featured on, Grave Dancers Union, was released in 1992. The single was officially released in ’93.

Runaway Train falls in the long tradition of the branch of folk rock that encompasses groups such as The Byrds; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ lighter work; Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding; and even the Allman Brothers’ Can’t You See, which reaches altogether different heights due to Duane Allman’s guitar.

The opening verse poses to us a sad soul who has evidently let slip away a love, who he proceeds to contact at an hour where nothing good ever goes down. We know from the start, he is hurt, desperate:

Call you up in the middle of the night
Like a firefly without a light
You were there like a slow torch burning
I was a key that could use a little turning

He goes on to confess to the listener that he can’t keep promises, a long string of lost opportunities part of his make-up. Somehow, this chapter is worse, though; he tells us, This time I have really led myself astray. Indeed, as we will find out, this habit of bad behavior extends to his choices concerning his mode of travel.

Meanwhile, underneath, in a slow, insistent way, the song’s music builds dramatically, guitars tracked over one another to help punch out the chorus, which is in each succeeding version a variation of:

Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I’m neither here nor there

The confessor’s disclosures begin to grow in scope until we become aware of a full-blown depressive episode that drives him to seek distance. Power chords from the lead electric sound far away, mixed almost into oblivion, piling on the notion of helplessness. The plaintiveness in the voice turns into a soulful plea:

Can you help me remember how to smile

Make it somehow all seem worthwhile

As the song closes – well, as it slams shut – he draws himself as one who

Bought a ticket for a runaway train
Like a madman laughin’ at the rain
Little out of touch, little insane
Just easier than dealing with the pain

Some have interpreted the burnin’ in my veins of the final chorus to be a reference to heroin addiction. And, if you’ve had trouble with drugs or been through a heroin intervention, the round peg of the whole song can kinda-sorta-maybe be forced into that square hole of addiction. Others feel the song is about capital-D depression. But it just seems really sad, this unfolding of the story of a person who has sabotaged his entire life and, as the music cues us to understand, rides away on the runaway train he himself bought the ticket for, boarded, and now cannot get off of.

The strumming and sound levels get weaker and weaker until the music fades out completely. Runaway Train is a brilliant explication of a love affair and its destructive aftermath.

Lyrics to Runaway Train by Soul Asylum

Call you up in the middle of the night
like a firefly without a light
you were there like a blowtorch burning
i was a key that could use a little turning
so tired that i couldn’t even sleep
so many secrets i couldn’t keep
promised myself i wouldn’t weep
one more promise i couldn’t keep

Get the full lyrics…

This song by Soul Asylum is titled Runaway Train and was named Song of the Year at the 1994 Grammy Awards, making it one of the most notable songs of the 1990s. As noted in the commentary, there is sometimes an association between this song and heroin addiction due to the words within a small portion of the lyrics.

If you have ended up on this song in error and were seeking information about drug addiction or drug interventions, start your search for professional intervention info here.

Featured Songs Song Profiles

Runaround Sue’s Ties to Buddy Holly and the Famous Plane Crash

It was the swaggering, swinging exuberance and old-fashioned excellence emanating from the big cities that lifted Rock-N-Roll out of the hole it had fallen into after a series of devastating losses in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The state of Rock-N-Roll was in a state by the middle of 1961. February of 1959 witnessed the “Day The Music Died,” when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper all went down on that notorious plane in a snowy field in Iowa.

For the want of $35, Dion, who was touring with the others, would not get on the plane. (Nor would Waylon Jennings, then a member of Holly’s backing band.) Dion returned to New York.

The next month, “A Teenager In Love” by Dion & The Belmonts would rocket to #5 on the charts, establishing Dion as a bona fide star. That success was followed by a remake of a dreamy 1930s number, “Where Or When,” which reached #3. But there was trouble in the paradise of the Little Italy of The Bronx, the Belmont section Dion and his back-ups called home. (The group was named for Belmont Avenue there.)

Most significantly, even while the hits were flying high, Dion checked into rehab after a heroin intervention, something hushed up for many years so as not to tarnish his teen idol image. It was an era of less-talented teen idols, quasi-manufactured types, handsome and usually sporting pompadours, who were called up from the reserves to fill the void created by the infamous plane crash and the gaping hole left when Elvis Presley was inducted for military service. Dion was the real deal.

When he left his professional intervention and successful treatment program, Dion was a different man. He and the Belmonts broke up and he set his sights on a solo career. “Runaround Sue” was the first stop on Dion’s express to the top. It was released in September of ’61 and by October it was #1 in the U.S. It gained gold record status (1 million sales) in early 1962.

“Runaround Sue” is sung from the position of a jilted lover giving others (listeners or perhaps even real-life acquaintances) the low down about a cheating lover. Because it is about a real girl and a real experience, the song is delivered with great conviction despite its very polished stylization.

That we know there is a real Sue (forever unidentified, though) enhances the enjoyment. Queerly, Dion’s wife, whose name happens to be Susan, is not the Sue of song fame. Yet, according to Dion in a 2009 interview, “”She goes around telling everybody, ‘Yeah, I’m Runaround Sue.’ I said, ‘Why do you tell people that?’ She says, ‘They remember me.’ She said, ‘If I don’t tell them that, they won’t remember me.'” The former Susan Butterfield and Dion have been married since 1963.

Soulful innocence, pain and a drop of revenge percolate through from the mournful, slow, almost spoken start.

Here’s my story, it’s sad but true
It’s about a girl that I once knew
She took my love then ran around
With every single guy in town

The opening is immediately followed by a powerful vocal jam and sass-filled handclapping executed by the whole group that runs through the whole song, bulldozing all the conventions of Doo Wop. Dion’s voice literally soars over, in, and out of the arrangement. He’s a kid at this point with a seriously distinguished voice. He’s part Jazz, part Sinatra, part street tough, part soul singer and part almost-cheesy nightclub act. All the notes seem effortless and totally natural, like a bird singing in a forest, in this case the urban forest. Although we know he rehearsed obsessively, no matter – he sounds like a natural and it works to his great advantage.

He claims he learned about singing – phrasing and dramatics – from sitting on a fire escape or in hallways listening to Italian immigrant men singing opera on the sidewalk below on hot Bronx summer nights. What he had to learn about love, jealousy and the put-down by an ex he learned all by himself on the street corner.

The Belmonts continue their vocal jam on the ridiculously upbeat song – they all sound so happy giving the word on Sue – backed up by Carlo Mastrangelo’s drumming that deserves unreserved praise for its simplicity and precision.

The lyrics, too, remain simple… simple and heartfelt.

I should have known it from the very start
This girl’d leave me with a broken heart
Now listen people what I’m telling you
A-keep away from-a Runaround Sue

I miss her lips and the smile on her face
The touch of her hand and this girl’s warm embrace
So if you don’t wanna cry like I do
A-keep away from-a Runaround Sue

When he says he misses ol’ Sue, he means it with every fiber. But he can’t resist the indictment that comes with a brilliant music change. Betwixt and between are sufficient ooohs, aaahs, dit-dits and laddle-laddles to fill a cargo ship. For some reason, corny as they are 60 years after the recording, they don’t get old.

Ah, she like to travel around
She’ll love you and she’ll put you down
Now people let me put you wise
Sue goes out with other guys

As the song draws to its close, we get the moral of the story. In case you couldn’t figure it out, it’s: keep away from Runaround Sue.

The sublime beauty of the great Doo Wop classics lies in their honesty, the complete absence of irony or afterthought. “This is what I feel,” they say, “Take it or leave it.” And, even in their darkest moments, there is something in short supply currently: hope. The songs are overflowing with enthusiasm and hope. Tomorrow comes. Maybe the world isn’t an oyster but it is a big steaming pile of calamari in marinara and there’s a cute girl at the next table.

Featured Songs Song Profiles

Profiling Caravan by Van Morrison, A 1970 Rock Great

Kot: Did you enjoy The Last Waltz? (the Band’s farewell concert in 1976, in which Clapton, Bob Dylan and a host of greats performed.)
Clapton: I did, yeah. A fantastic event. I loved it.
Kot: Was the music up to snuff?
Clapton: For me, Muddy [Waters] and Van [Morrison] steal the show. Van doing Caravan with the leg kicks. Some of the greatest live music you’ll ever see.
– Interview with Eric Clapton, by Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune, July, 2007

The impact of Van Morrison’s Moondance album continues apace even decades after its release. Although the title track and Into The Mystic seem to be both fan favorites and pet songs of the critics, it is Caravan, which truly will rock your gypsy soul.

Caravan seamlessly blends all of the main elements of rock’s synthesis of other kinds of music. It is bluesy, folky, jazzy, soulful, lyrically complex and complete; and produced flawlessly. There is a slow rocking feel to Caravan; saxophone bits that recall the best of Motown and Doo-Wop; a vaguely honky-tonk piano; a bouncy, bubbly base line; and a sweet, friendly acoustic guitar.

Morrison’s voice had just entered its peak period (which lasted decades). He blues-shouts, bends sound. He coaxes and massages words and phrases as if he were a living trombone. Much of his phrasing in Caravan is among the most inventive in all Rock history.

Caravan includes images and impressions from different parts of Morrison’s life, especially observations of gypsy life. Known as Travelers in Ireland, they inspire the tune’s broad motif. “Emma Rose” is a very popular first-middle-name combo in Morrison’s native country. And his time in Woodstock, New York, informs the “turn up your radio” images, as well as his soul-stirring tribute to his then-wife, Janet Planet.

Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really wrong
I long to hold you tight so maybe I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night, I will reveal you.
Turn it up, little bit higher…

America has had many dystopian moments scattered about in many places. The region around the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains in New York, 75 to 100 miles north of New York City, is one of the few utopian-washed regions of the United States, one that exists not solely in reality, but also in memory, due in significant part to the legendary festival named Woodstock, which was staged some 30 miles away in Bethel.

Some of the 60s’ greatest music was either written, produced or sparked by the mellow landscape that is one part hillbilly, one part old New England and one part urban sophistication. The Band’s Music From Big Pink and their eponymous classic, The Band, grew from Catskill roots. On a third album, Stage Fright, in a song called Time To Kill, they cite the Catskills as a place for a rollicking good time in the summer (which it can be).

Bob Dylan’s album, John Wesley Harding also has the smoky, cozy feel of Woodstock, where Dylan went to rest after his 1966 melt-down and motorcycle accident, even if the work is austere and surreal. It is dripping with Americana. Dylan’s manager for the first part of his career, Albert Grossman, built Bearsville Sound Studios in the region. It has catered to some of the greatest rock and pop musicians of all time.

Of course, Van Morrison also quite consciously draws on the region’s lore throughout a handful of his albums – His Band And Street Choir and most pointedly in Tupelo Honey, which features a song called Old Woodstock. The Catskills have a long, deep history of folk music and northern mountain music that was swamped by modernism, tourism, and the decline of agriculture in the area. (For a glimpse into that lost world, visit this website as a jumping off point: )

In the end, perhaps that is the significance of Caravan. Contact with other luminaries such as Dylan and the cohorts in The Band, plus all the legendary lost music aroused Morrison to write lines such as:

And the caravan is painted red and white
That means everybody’s staying overnight
Barefoot gypsy player round the campfire
sing and play
And a woman tells us of her [fortune-telling] ways

The cherry on top: Caravan has given us one of the most-recognized song endings in Rock history, one of the most famous in the book of Pop, period: It’s too late to stop it now.

Featured Songs Song Profiles

Introducing Rock & Roll Fans to Can’t You See by Marshall Tucker Band

Although Marshall Tucker lacked the musical virtuosity of either The Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd, they recorded a handful of gold nuggets that helped propel them into the front ranks of the Southern Rock movement of the late 1960s and early 70s. (In fact, some would say this gives Marshall Tucker short shrift: They have four platinum and two gold albums under their tooled leather belts.)
The group could veer from rocking-chair Bluegrass as in “Amy,” or ramble out west with a cowboy song like “Desert Skies,” a slow, existential number. They banged out a head-bopping crowd pleaser in “Heard It In A Love Song.” Rarely, though, did they rock deep and steady. “Can’t You See,” then, represents a bit of a blip for them.
It’s a song defined by orneriness and fear wrapped together and in the vocal tone alone we can hear just why the love affair sketched out in the lyrics has failed. This is a drinking man’s song, a man who’s run up against a woman every bit as tough as he is.
Writer Toy Caldwell’s raw, powerfully despondent voice speaks directly to the soul. You can hear the Spartanburg, South Carolina, Blue Ridge countryside in every note, the aimlessness of small town America a half century ago. You can also hear the wounded Vietnam vet come home to rebuild a life shattered by war, a man not completely healed by the normalcy of civilian life.
Before Caldwell’s vocals slide in, there is a lonely, lovely acoustic guitar intro played by George McCorkle abetted by a distant-sounding flute solo by Jerry Eubanks. The two instruments are then joined by Toy’s own facile, bluesy, lead guitar.
Although the opening is unusual in Southern Rock – the flute alone tells us that – on first hearing “Can’t You See” you would never think it would unfold into one of the most revered Country Rock songs of all time.

Gonna take a freight train
Down at the station, Lord
I don’t care where it goes
Gonna climb a mountain
The highest mountain
Jump off, nobody gonna know

We are slowly treated to a routine “mean old woman” motif… but the universally touching “Can’t you see, can’t you see,” lines hurl the song across the steamy, confusing southern night. Emptiness, despair, a broke down train… everyone’s ridden one, at least in his or her head.

I’m gonna buy a ticket, now
As far as I can
Ain’t a-never comin’ back
Ride me a southbound
All the way to Georgia, now
Till the train, it run out of track

While the “end of the line” has a symbolic and metaphysical significance, a note should be made about the history of the railroad in the South.

Rail lines were often not completed as through ways, but rather stopped short from a dozen to a hundred yards from another line that would take you on your journey after transferring. Additionally, as can easily be imagined, the Civil War wreaked havoc with southern railroads, and in the period when Caldwell was coming of age, 100 years after war’s end, the damage had not been fully repaired.

An enthralling series of guitar and piano jams break up verses from chorus, the work projecting a sense of expansion, miles and miles of it, across the Georgia night. Caldwell is not Duane Allman, but in “Can’t You See,” he’s chasing the Skydog down the road and catching up fast.

As the song winds to its majestic close, Toy Caldwell makes his guitar “talk” answering his own vocals and those of the counter-harmony chorus singers. The jamming of instruments and voices represents one of the high points of not just Southern Rock, but of all Rock.