“Troubadour” by George Strait is a hit song: and 34 million views on YouTube will attest to my claim.
When we analyze the lyrics, we see the art of songwriting at work; in particular, the use of effective rhyme scheme and pronoun.
I still feel 25 most of the time.
I still raise a little cain with the boys.
Honky Tonks and pretty women,
But Lord I’m still right there with ’em
Singing above the crowd and the noise…
The rhyme scheme here is AB/AAB. This sets the table for the rest of the song, and he’ll contrast it later against the chorus. The structure matters. Professional songwriters will never repeat a rhyme scheme in both the verse and chorus.
Secondly, he’s writing in the first person (I/Me/My). Again, we see an important element of songwriting. A hit song is always in the first and second person: it’s me/you and never he/she. Some examples?
- “Lady…for so many years I thought I’d never find you.”
- “I’ve got you…under my skin”
- “I left my heart in San Francisco.”
- “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”
You get the picture. The pronoun is critical to a hit song…a point that was made by Ralph Murphy, the vice-president of ASCAP. The next time that you hear a hit song, take note of the pronoun.
And now on to the chorus…
Sometimes I feel like Jesse James
Still tryin’ to make a name.
Knowing nothing’s gonna change what I am.
I was a young troubador
When I wrote in on a song.
And I’ll be an old troubador when I’m gone…
Notice that the rhyme scheme has changed: we’re on to AAB/ABB. It’s a subtle change, yet a profound one. The listener can notice a difference (if only on a subconscious level). Also, we’re still in the first person. Introducing a different pronoun would confuse the listener.
Now, we’re on to the second verse…
Well the truth about a mirror…
Is that a damn old mirror…
Don’t really tell the whole truth.
It don’t show what’s deep inside.
Or read between the lines.
And it’s really no reflextion of my youth…
The rhyme scheme here is different than the opening verse. The reason? Very simple…the listener gets bored easily. So the songwriter has to alter the pattern to pique the interest. Logic would dictate that we repeat the rhyme scheme from the first verse. But a talented songwriter knows better. You have to do something different if you don’t have a bridge (which the song doesn’t).
Needless to say, George Strait did not write this song; he knows better. Instead, he hired a pro to do the work for him. And Strait focused on what he does best – singing. Every man is born with a talent. And sometimes the talent involves knowing what you CANNOT do, as opposed to what he can do.
Enjoy the song…and notice how the fundamentals of songwriting come together.
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