Song Talk: Songs About Songs

Songs have such a big impact on our life experience that they sometimes inspire songs of their own.  It’s a cool theme that I wish more singers and songwriters would explore.

Here are some of my favorite examples of this theme:

Trisha Yearwood The Song Remembers When

Trisha Yearwood, “The Song Remembers When”

Far and away, the gold standard for songs about songs.  I love the way the intro’s guitar hook is repeated immediately after Yearwood, sings, “When I heard that old familiar music start.”  Producer Garth Fundis is the unsung hero of this classic recording, which has always seen heaps of deserved praise for Hugh Prestwood’s poetic songwriting and Yearwood’s skillful interpretation.

David Nail the sound of a million dreams

David Nail, “The Sound of a Million Dreams”

This is the track that got this discussion topic spinning in my head.  “The Sound of a Million Dreams” is a song that I seem to love more with every listen.  I’m moved by the way the memories of songs impacting him inspires him to keep writing himself, hoping that one day his “voice will cut through the noise and stir up an old memory.”

Clint Black No Time to Kill

Clint Black, “State of Mind”

One of the cool things about music is that a song can make you feel very intense emotions which will immediately fade as soon as the song ends. The kicker is that  memories associated with a song can make you feel emotions from forgotten memories all over again.

Olivia Newton-John Please Mr Please

Olivia Newton-John, “Please Mr. Please”

This is one of those songs that my sister and I used to sing in the kitchen over and over again, a song that I’ll never be able to remember the first time I heard it.   It’s just always been there.  The imagery seems so specific that it’s hard to imagine it being anything but a sad country ballad about a lovesick woman begging the cowboy not to play “B17.  It was our song, it was his song, but it’s over.”  But the original version by its English songwriter, Bruce Welch, is remarkably upbeat, and it was turned into a reggae hit in Jamaica by Barbara Jones.  The sentiment is universal.

Jason Isbell Southeastern

Jason Isbell, “Songs that She Sang in the Shower”

I am eternally grateful toward by colleague Jonathan Keefe, who introduced me to Isbell’s incredible songwriting.   What makes this song a bit different from the others is that Isbell is in the middle of making the painful memories that will be associated with the song down the road.  As he’s being left, he’s running through all of the songs he’ll never again hear her sing in the shower, and “experience tells me that I’ll never hear them again without thinking of then.”

These are five of my favorite songs about songs. What are some of yours?

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17 Comments

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17 Responses to Song Talk: Songs About Songs

  1. bobNo Gravatar

    Love the Yearwood and Nail songs and Please Mr. Please which I haven’t played in quite a few years.
    Here are a few others I like:

    “There’s a Song in There Somewhere” – Victoria Shaw (Gary Burr & Victoria Shaw)
    The first verse begins “I’ve got the broken heart, I’ve got the empty bed, … the tear stained pillow …” and “the only thing missing is the steel guitar”. The chorus begins with the song title and continues “isn’t that what they say, between the saddest of goodbyes and cheap wine, tonight I’m a walking cliche”. It concludes “there’s a song in there somewhere, maybe I’ll write it someday”.

    “Somedays You Write the Song” – recorded by Guy Clark and by Gary Nicholson (Guy Clark, Jon Randall & Gary Nicholson) “Somedays the song writes you”.

    “Songs About Rain” – Gary Allan (Liz Rose & Pat McLaughlin) The song mentions “Rainy Night in Georgia”, “Kentucky Rain”, “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Early Morning Rain”. The last song title made me think only of Willie Nelson when I first heard it. The writers may have intended it to cover two songs, Willie’s and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain”.

    “Songs for Sale” – David Nail (Scooter Carusoe & Billy Montana) Songwriting is just his job, just as “some are called to preach the gospel, string fence in Colorado” … “swing a hammer at a nail, haul bricks or carry mail”, … “I got songs for sale”.

    “Very Last Country Song” – Sugarland (Tim Owens, Kristian Bush & Jennifer Nettles) The scene is a woman looking through family photos on her birthday and talking about each one. The chorus includes lines like “If nobody did nobody wrong … this would be the very last country song”.

    “That’s Another Song” – Bryan White (Monty Powell, Jule Medders, John Paul Daniel & Doug Pincock) A song of regret remembering another time, another place and another song.

  2. SRMNo Gravatar

    “Sound of a Million Dreams” is amazing. That whole album is very, very good.

    One of my favorite songs about songs right now is Eric Paslay’s “Song About A Girl”. With its subtle jabs at “bros”, Paslay’s energetic vocal, and the fact that song is just unapologetically fun makes it, I think, one of the best singles of the year.

  3. Ben FosterNo Gravatar

    Great list and great idea for a discussion topic. Besides these five, “Three Chords and the Truth” comes readily to mind, but I’m sure I’ll think of plenty others given time.

  4. ThomasNo Gravatar

    I love Songs that She Sang in the Shower.

  5. “Power of a Song” off Randy Houser’s ‘How Country Feels’ is amazing IMO.

    Also really love “And The Radio Played” by Lady Antebellum. I like songs that title-drop other songs and the way they did it with that one was great IMO.

  6. AndrewNo Gravatar

    I’d add “The Song” by Craig Morgan, which was an album cut on Little Bit of Life that I’ve always really liked.

  7. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    Caitlin Rose, “No One To Call”:

    “I’m making a call to any line that’s open
    Static’s always rollin’ on airwaves
    So long ago, my radio heart got broken
    Now the songs I wanna hear, they never play.”

    Unsubtle, but effective (IMHO).

  8. ThomasNo Gravatar

    “What Are You Listening To” by Chris Stapleton is up there too.

  9. Motown MikeNo Gravatar

    Some of the songs about song I enjoy most not yet mentioned . . .

    “The Last Song I Will Write” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

    “That’s All There is to This Song” by Willie Nelson

    “Your Song” by Elton John

    “The Stranger Song” by EmmyLou Harris

    “A Singer of Songs” by Johnny Cash

    “Daddy Frank, the Guitar Man” by Merle Haggard
    (Not sure if this fits the category per-say)

    “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan
    (Again, not sure how much this one fits)

    My favorite though is “Song For the Life”, both the Alan Jackson and John Denver versions.

  10. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    “Mr. Radio”–Linda Ronstadt (or one of her hundreds of acolytes, Trisha Yearwood)
    “Song On The Radio”–Al Stewart
    “Mexican Radio”–Wall of Voodoo (1983 new-wave cult classic)
    “FM (No Static At All)”–Steely Dan
    “Mr. Songman”–Elvis Presley (extreme 1975 rarity from The King)

  11. RussellNo Gravatar

    When I first saw the post, I was expecting a mention of “Write a Song” from John Fullbright’s excellent new record. Great song.

    Many, many excellent songs here. Love the Isbell track. “Songs About Rain” is one of my first favorite country songs when it came out. Still love it, which I cannot say about many of those early favorites.

  12. No love for Joey+Rory’s “Play The Song?”

  13. bobNo Gravatar

    Playing some Jim Croce this morning reminded me of this Songs about Songs post:
    Every time I tried to tell you,
    The words just came out wrong,
    So “I’ll have to say I love you in a song”.

  14. Here’s another – Jim Lauderdale, “I’m A Song,” title cut from his brand new album.

  15. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Of coarse there are songs about specific songs, too. How about “After Sweet Memories (Play ‘Born To Lose’) by Dottsy , or the Buck Owens/Emmylou Harris duet of “Play ‘Together Again’ Again”

    Plus who could forget Johnny Paycheck’s jukebox classic “A-11″

  16. Andy ColleyNo Gravatar

    Vern Gosdin’s “Set ‘em Up, Joe”.

  17. ScottNo Gravatar

    “The Song Remembers When”
    “Songs About Me”
    “Jukebox junkie”–ok this one doesnt quite fit as a song about a single song, but it deserves mention.
    “Three Chords and the Truth”
    “I sang Dixie”

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