So far Larry is the only blogger I have actually met in person, an event which I wrote about here. At this time I learned about Larry's talent for writing song lyrics and later I was fortunate to obtain several of his self-published books of lyrics. After having read this talented man's lyrics I asked him if I could introduce this side of him to my readers. And now I'd like you to meet Larry Cavanaugh.
Can you start out by telling a bit about yourself?
|Larry Cavanaugh at age 20|
How and when did you get started songwriting?
As a kid, I was always writing stories. They started out as crudely drawn comic books with my friend Chris providing the finishing art, and by junior high they were mostly science fiction and fantasy (a reflection of what I was reading at the time). In high school, I encounter Tom Williams, an English teacher who taught me that even though most of my friends were not achieving academically, it did not make me less their friend to perform at my best in class, helped me grow up, and inspired me to write my first poem
Where do you find your inspiration?
|A more recent photo of |
Interestingly enough, depressed moods do not inspire me to write (not that I get depressed all that often). It really seems to be emotions born of passion (love, anger, jealousy) that fuel my fire, so to speak. Maybe I’ve had it too good the last decade…
Do you have an idea in your head of how you'd like a song to sound and what styles do you prefer?
Sometimes, yes-the melody will come to me and the words will just flow. Sometimes a line will occur to me and I’ll build the rest of the lyric around it. The styles are usually classic rock, ranging from ersatz Springsteen to arena rock, with a lot of Rundgren influences thrown in (big surprise there, huh?). As much as I like progressive rock, you really need to be more of a musician for that. I will often have progressive ideas, but since lyrics are secondary, there’s nothing to anchor those ideas in my mind. Most of the lyrics you’ve read have a melody that I still remember, for some as many as thirty years later.
Have any of your lyrics ever been actually put to music and recorded or performed?
Only three have been recorded (to my knowledge), two in demo form and one was the flip side of an indie 45 release by a Philly band back in the 80’s. That’s the only one that I am sure of that has been performed live. Finding musicians to collaborate with has always been somewhat harder than I’d expected.
In your thinking, what is the difference between lyrics and poetry.
Poetry has some fairly rigid rules around structure. Sure there is free form poetry, but usually the expectation is there for a certain rhyme pattern, and certain metre. You can get away with a little more with a song lyric-you can cheat on rhymes easier, and squeeze in extra syllables in a line since the singer will just make it fit to the music. Try that with a poem and it will often throw the reader off.
Of course, that’s my opinion-there are a lot of poets out there who would disagree, I’m sure.
When I started writing, I had fantasies of making a living at songwriting. Sadly, there’s not much of a market for poetry, and most poets that see their work in print are self-published. Nothing wrong with that (I did it with the lyric collections), but hard to pay the rent that way.
Now if some aspiring young musician were to turn just one song lyric into a hit…
Can we obtain any of your lyric books and how would we go about it?
Well, I have a few left. I guess one could e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line LYRIC BOOK and we’d work something out. If there was enough interest, I’d see about getting additional copies printed.
What are your writing plans for the future?
Lately, it’s been mostly checks. I’ve gotten quite good at it.
Can we see an example of one of your lyrics?
I wrote this when my younger sister was dying of cancer. She was one of my best friends, and this was a dark time for me. It was hard to see any sense, or order, in life when one of the best people I knew was dying (she died two months later at age 34) from a disease that I can only characterize as evil.
I SEE HEAVENPeople like to say “God has a plan.” I don’t believe that. Yet, I do believe that there is something we can learn from everything. Her suffering and death taught me to live life a day at a time. As clichéd as that sounds, you really should enjoy what you’re doing today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I wrote this for Mary Anne, who is still missed more than a decade later, and for Eileen, who was a pretty important part of my life at the time.
I saw a man with a sign that read ‘God Is Dead’
As I pondered this, I scratched my head
Guess he had a point-how else do you explain AIDS?
Then I thought and I thought and I thought some more
Thought so much ‘till my brain got sore
Had the man lost his faith? Maybe he was just afraid.
Cause if you look closely you can see God’s hand
In a flower’s bloom, in every blade of grass
In the light of a full moon-in every sun rise
I see heaven when I look in your eyes
Heard a lady on the subway screaming “Where is God?”
As I listened to her, I found it odd
But with cancer in the world, who am I to debate?
Then I got to my knees and I prayed for a sign
But I got no answer or else I was blind
I was scared for a moment-afraid we were too late
Then I heard a bird’s song in the morning light
And knew that God was near day or night
Every rainbow is a sign of His grace
I see heaven when I look at your face
(acoustic guitar break with harmonica)
And if you search hard enough you will see the signs
Of the miracles that God has left behind
In every wonder of beauty He placed His clues
I see heaven when I look at you
Copyright 1998 by Laurence M. Cavanaugh
This is intended to be played folksy/bluesy, with an acoustic guitar, accompanied by a harmonica.
Thank you Larry for taking some time to share your lyrical talents with us today. Be sure to stop by to say hello to Larry at DiscConnected. And if you're looking for something deeper and more controversial visit his other blog Back in the USSR. Either way be sure to let him know you learned about his blogs here on Tossing It Out.