Who’s the best lyricist?

More than a year ago, two of our sons started a discussion about singer-songwriters. Nathan believes Stevie Wonder is the best. Jordan doesn’t agree. He cited Bob Dylan and James Taylor, and all folk/country artists as contenders.

1967 Nationaal Archief

In defense, Nate quoted Elton John and Bob Dylan, talking about Stevie Wonder, crediting him with changing music for all time. Our “Stevie Wonder supporters” said that in “centuries to come” people will talk about Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.

1963 USIA

The discussion has spread over the year. We had a recent extended family What’sApp exchange where Trevor joined the discussion as another Stevie Wonder advocate. Jordan added Paul Simon and The Beach Boys to his list. And then he pulled out the Dolly Parton argument (She has written 3000 songs, released 956 of them, 25 of them #1 songs).

Brendan joined the discussion, supporting Jordan. “He (Stevie) is fine, but he’s no Mozart.” Natalie lightened the tone of the discussion by suggesting we should consider Justin Beiber (with special reference to these lyrics: Baby, baby, baby, oh).

Trevor made a spreadsheet comparing Stevie, Dolly, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and Paul McCartney. (Yes. He made a spreadsheet). And Nate said this (and I’m so proud of his use of descriptive language), “Stevie Wonder’s albums . . . are just an inimitable artistic achievement. It’s the Sistine chapel of American popular music.”

At Sunday dinner this week, Devon joined the discussion, also as a Stevie Wonder fan, and we spent the final hour or so of our time together listening to some of his music. (Jordan wasn’t present, so no one complained).

I’m not a musician, but I do believe lyricists are today’s poets, and when they write well, it’s an unparalleled delight. As a budding writer, I am in awe at the power and beauty of well-written lyrics. So I’m enjoying the conversation, and the passion behind it.

And I’m interested. What does your family discuss–over extended time and with real fervor?

And a last question (okay 2 questions), who is your favorite lyricist? And what is your vote for the best song lyrics? Those lyrics that just speak beauty/power to you?

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