Music and writing are two of my favorite things. When they are combined, it’s even better. I have made my top 10 Best Songs about Writing. Keep in mind; the songs are about writing, not songs that are named after writers or book titles. Maybe some on here you may have not heard before or forgot about. Here we go:
10. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter” (various artists). This song is the oldest on the list, dating back to 1935, but it was made famous by Frank Sinatra and has been covered by Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Paul McCartney, and Barry Manilow. What better than writing yourself your own love letter and having it come from your crush, because they are not going to write to you? This song can appeal to a young teenager’s love to an older love. Because of the age of the song, it shows it belongs on the list. Check out Manilow’s version as well-it’s great.
9.“Dear John”-Taylor Swift (2010). Say what you want about Swift being Country/not Country or Teen Music, but this song showed me her great songwriting. The song is rumored to be about John Mayer from her “Speak Now” CD. My favorite line is “Wondering which version of you I might get on the phone tonight/Well I stopped picking up and this song is to let you know why.” A great “I’m over you after breaking my heart song.”
8. “Blue Letter” –Fleetwood Mac (1975). This song has personal history for me because when I was a drummer in one cover band, my guitar player would always play this song at practice. I have no idea why we didn’t play it in our setlist. This was off the first album that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came on (yes they weren’t original members of the band). I like the rhythm and tone of the song. It’s a basic rocking song about being dumped. The song was produced by Keith Olsen, who worked with Heart, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, and on my favorite album, Rick Springfield’s “Working Class Dog.”
7. “In Your Letter”- REO Speedwagon (1981). I was a late REO fan. I liked the hits that they have, but several years ago I listened to the whole “Hi Infidelity” CD and liked the other songs. This song was a single, but I didn’t remember it. Written by Gary Richrath, this reminds me of a girl writing a breakup letter but the guy edits it for content. “You Could’ve Said it Better.” You may dump me for another guy, but at least I can write a better send off.
6. “If You Could Read My Mind” –Gordon Lightfoot (1970). This song was rumored to be written after a divorce, but there is so much substance in this timeless song. There is a gothic feel with ghosts and wishing wells, to comparisons to a drug store book novel. I used to show the lyrics to students when I was teaching English during poetry sessions. Just reading the words are powerful, but with the music, it’s even better. The song has been covered by Johnny Cash, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Glen Campbell, among others. Surprisingly, the song only hit #5 on the U.S. Charts, while it hit #1 on the Easy Listening Charts.
5.”Please Mr. Postman”- The Marvelettes (1961). This song was the debut of the girl group The Marvelettes and was Motown’s first #1 single. It is rumored to be written about a girl waiting for a letter from her man who is away at war, but there is no mention of war in the song. Nevertheless, back in the Pre-Internet days people had to write hand written letters and hope they were not lost in the mail. The song reminds me of the days when you would wait for the post man to come and deliver mail to you. The Beatles had another famous version of it a year later. A little trivia note: the drummer on the Motown version was Marvin Gaye.
4. “Western Union”-The Five Americans (1966). This is the only hit for this band, but it was a great one. The birth of the song came when guitar player came up with a sound on his guitar that made him think of a telegraph key. It’s a medium tempo song about a girl that’s leaving her man via telegram. It has such a catchy hook and is one of the under looked songs when you think of great songs from the 1960s. And the chorus is pretty easy to remember, although pretty high at times to sing.
3. “The Letter”-The Box Tops (1967). The title of this song says it all on why it’s making this list. A guy has to find any means of transportation to get back home because his girlfriend wrote him a letter. This song is one of the shortest songs in length to hit #1 on the U.S. Charts. Many other artists recorded this, including Joe Cocker, The Ventures, and several disco versions, but the original is still the best version.
2. “I Write The Songs”-Barry Manilow (1975). Next to “Mandy,” this might be Manilow’s most famous song, but it was written by The Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston and was recorded by Captain and Tennille, and even David Cassidy, before Manilow released it, which became a #1 hit. The song describes how music is created and written and it’s effect on those that listen. He almost always closes his concerts with the song.
1.“Paperback Writer”- The Beatles (1966). This song is the first song I think of when I see lists about writers or authors. The background harmonies were rumored to be inspired by The Beach Boys, and the song was rumored to be created when Paul McCartney saw Ringo Starr reading a book, but the story has changed several times throughout the years. Nonetheless, the song about a writer who finishes his novel and needs someone to give him a break , which any writer can relate to. In today’s society it may be hard to grasp the concept of having to write a paperback novel and try to get it read, but it is still a timeless song, as most of the Fab Four’s songs.