Saturday, January 20, 2007

Musical Genius

One of the things about myself that I have rarely mentioned on this blogpage [if ever] is how much I love singing. Both doing it, and listening to it, when both are done well.
I am the consummate dashboard-tapping guy that gets caught singing at the red light!
So today I thought I would just take a minute to tell you of one of my favorite songs of all time.

It’s the song Sacrifice, performed by Elton John.
The song was originally released on the 1989 album entitled Sleeping With The Past, but was also subsequently released on the 1996 compilation album Love Songs.
The lyrics are written by Bernie Taupin, who has composed at least eighty thousand poems for Elton to put the music to. Seriously, check this out. Taupin is some sort of writing machine! The success of the collaborative efforts of Taupin and “Sir” Elton are impossible to exaggerate.
OK, but this one song, Sacrifice.

I just think that it is incredible, and it is not so much the lyrics that impress me, even though they are pretty dang good. It is what Elton John has done with them that makes me listen to the thing a thousand times over, wanting to hear it one thousand and one!
The genius of the song is in the “phrasing.”
By “phrasing” I am referring to the value of each syllable in each word. And it includes the invention of syllables that are not there. Phrasing refers to the artist’s choice of how long these syllables will be drawn out or extinguished. With careful attention given to inflection.
For instance, from the very first line, there is an artistic choice involved in making the word “sign” have three descending steps to it. Stuff like that. This first sentence ["It's a human sign"] has five syllables, but Elton John makes it contain eight.
And the result is that the listener runs UP five steps and DOWN three, and pauses, as though waiting to hear what more needs to be said. And that is exactly what the writer [Taupin] would want a listener to do.
But to create it, to do this, requires musical genius.
I could mention similar things about every single line of this entire song.
I just think it is one of the most beautifully crafted songs of all time.
So much so, that the best thing I can do is shut up about it. My comments cannot do it justice.
You can hear and see the music video for Sacrifice, HERE.


It's a human sign

When things go wrong

When the scent of her lingers

And temptation's strong

Into the boundary

Of each married man

Sweet deceit comes calling

And negativity lands

Cold cold heart

Hard done by you

Some things look better baby

Just passing through

And it's no sacrifice

Just a simple word

It's two hearts living

In two separate worlds

But it's no sacrifice

No sacrifice

It's no sacrifice at all

Mutual misunderstanding

After the fact

Sensitivity builds a prison

In the final act

We lose direction

No stone unturned

No tears to damn you

When jealousy burns

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin


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