Lyrics Make the Song Go Round

Recently, I’ve been on a kick of reading lyrics as I’m listening to songs. I think this is because I’ve been listening to full albums I’ve always liked on YouTube, and occasionally they spit out lyrics as well. It has led me down a path of having a perpetually open tab for azlyrics (not sure if this is a curse or a blessing). I’ve always bought CD’s in the past, dwindling down to maybe 3 or 4 buys in the last few years. I miss having that little booklet inside the case and forcing myself to listen to the whole track list from beginning to end no matter how eager I might have been to hear the popular singles over and over again.

At any rate, I seem to be more interested in what songs have to say. Thus far, I’ve been surprised and even amazed at how powerful a song can become when the lyrics behind it are broken down and digested. There are songs I’ve sung along to without even thinking about the sexual, disgusting, romantic or psychotic things I might have been stating. Obviously some bands have more talented lyricists than others, but I was just blown away when I let myself hear the text.

Pearl Jam released the song “Sirens” a year or two ago. I listened to it plenty of times and I liked the melody, but when I stopped to read the lyrics while I listened to the song, it actually made me tear up.

…Let me catch my breath to breathe
And reach across the bed
Just to know we’re safe
I am a grateful man

The slightest bit of light
And I can see you clear
Oh, have to take your hand
And feel your breath for fear this someday will be over

I pull you close, so much to lose knowing that nothing lasts forever
I didn’t care before you were here.
I danced in laughter with the everafter
But all things change
Let this remain

(Full Lyrics at AZLyrics)

Since high school I’ve always liked Tool and A Perfect Circle, and I’m sure I read some lyrics at some point, but I was completely stunned when I read the lyrics to this sequence of songs and did a little research to make these connections. Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer and lyricist of both bands, is a very peculiar person and an incredible writer. Even if you’re not a fan, I recommend listening to these three songs with this backstory in mind. I was so amazed by the way his personal history was put to music that I think it’s worth sharing.

When Keenan was 11, his mother Judith Marie suffered a cerebral aneurysm that left her paralyzed. She was devoted to her faith and never strayed from her relationship with God, something that Keenan didn’t understand as he watched her suffer. After 27 years, approximately 10,000 days, she passed away and Keenan apparently settled his past understanding.

Read/hear “Jimmy” by Tool (1996)

Read/hear “Judith” by A Perfect Circle (2000)

Read/hear “Wings for Marie” and “10000 Days/Wings Part II” by Tool (2006)

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