Quote of the day

“I don’t write to get something through to somebody. I write for various reasons. Some songs I write for the pleasure of writing the song. It doesn’t have any great meaning, it’s just a song. Songs are nice. Kids sing songs all the time for the pleasure of the singing. The pleasure of the rhythm. London bridge is falling down… There’s a pleasure in singing the songs, there is a pleasure in writing the songs. Some songs you try and express yourself emotionally. Those are different songs for me. And they express what I feel and they relieve tensions that I feel when I express them. But I don’t think about getting through to somebody.”

– Paul Simon (From “Songs of America” documentary)

2 Responses to “Quote of the day”

  1. Scott Berkun

    I think Paul Simon isn’t being completely honest here. There are definitely choices he made (and makes) about what songs to put on which albums, or how to market his work, that are entirely about connecting with people in specific and planned ways.

    This may not surface all the time, and is unlikely to be his primary motivation for writing songs, but it is in there.

    In one sense of the word artist, the better artists are the ones whose natural way of exploring ideas and feelings resonates, for some inexplicable reason, with other people’s ideas and feelings. A better artist is able to convey their own feelings so potently through their craft that it connects.

    But from all I’ve read about artists, musicians and creatives of all kinds, you mostly get what you aim for. Popular artists don’t get their popularity by accident.

    1. Betsy Talbot

      Scott, I think he may write some of these fun songs just for himself (and who knows where “50 ways to leave your lover” fits in on his scale of fun/commercial efforts), but you are right that he only seriously promotes and records the ones that will likely be a commercial success. He has to pay his bills.

      I write mostly for my audience, but every once in a while something moves me to write for fun or for my own needs. I think it helps balance the scales a bit, so that I’m growing internally and can translate that into work that resonates for my audience later. These musings don’t always attract attention, but I can almost always trace back something that does hit to exploring those ideas in a more personally fulfilling way first.


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