I’ve always got my songwriter dial on. I’m always open to inspiration and never know where it might come from, so staying aware is key. Yeah, sometimes I just can’t focus on lyrics and have to take a break from writing, but I always try to keep the radar on.
So when I’m not writing songs I’m listening / reading other songs and lyrics. There are a lot verses that stand out to me by Bob Dylan, Guy Clark, Leonard Cohen, Ben Harper and many many others but the verse that stands out most is from ‘To Live Is To Fly’ by Townes Van Zandt.
“Days up and down they come, like rain on a conga drum, forget most, remember some, but don’t turn none away. Everything is not enough and nothing is too much to bear. Where you’ve been is good and gone, all you keep is the gettin’ there.”
I love the line about the conga drum. I can see and hear the rain bouncing and bumping gently or roughly on a tight drum. He’s not only describing the ups and downs of life, but also giving us a surreal image to go with it. He made writing like that seem so simple, but anyone who tries to write multiple meanings summed up in a surreal image, finds out it is very difficult.
Dual nature shows up a lot in Townes’ songs. I think he expresses it best here describing everything and nothing as the same experience. He mentions being grateful for life, but also knowing to not get hooked on the up or the down by saying “where you’ve been is good and gone..”
The song is a masterpiece in the way he sums up all of life in a simple way, but also has strong imagery and profound thoughts that can inspire with each new listen. “The choice is yours to make and time is yours to take.”
I highly recommend the Townes album ‘Rear View Mirror.’ Recorded on the road in the 1970s with Danny Rowland on guitar and Owen Cody on fiddle