If you will allow Cole Porter to be nominated, as a writer of ‘popular’ music, then he wins all lyric-writing contests hands down. However, perhaps he’s too old and ‘swing era’ to be included.
A few personal favourites:
“It’s the damage that we do and never know
It’s the words that we don’t say that scare me so”
- Elvis, ‘Accidents Will Happen’
“What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way.
What a wicked thing to do, to let me dream of you.”
- Chris Isaak, ‘Wicked Game’
“Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen; they’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will.”
- Don McLean, ‘Vincent’
“Sergeant O’Leary is walkin’ the beat
At night he becomes a bartender
He works at Mister Cacciatores down on Sullivan Street
Across from the medical center
And he’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a
You oughta know by now
And if he can’t drive with a broken back
At least he can polish the fenders”
- Billy Joel, ‘Movin’ Out’
“I break into a cold sweat
Reaching for the phone
I let it ring twice
Before I chicken out and decide you’re not at home
Does everyone stare the way I do?
I only stare this way at you”
- Sting. ‘Does Everyone Stare?’
And all of the lyrics to ‘Time’ by Pink Floyd.