Some lyrics are like poetry. But when songwriters tire of writing songs, they often turn to genuine poetry, novels, plays and other more concrete forms of literature to express what they cannot with a backing band. Stripping away all the fabric of music, audiences are left with simple yet intimate black and white musings on life, death and everything in between. From erotica to children’s books, here are some singers who have put down the mic and picked up the pen. John Lennon Lennon was indeed a “Paperback Writer.” He wrote a collection of poems and short stories called In His Own Write. The book is illustrated with Lennon's original art from the height of Beatlemania in 1964 and contains clever puns and turns of phrases filled with sarcasm and wit expected from the British Beatle, including an “About the Awful” section in place of “About the Author.” Jim Morrison The Lizard King’s extreme, erotic and enigmatic persona oozes out of his poetry and prose just as it does in his lyrics. His writings offer a brighter spotlight and deeper exploration of themes merely grazed in The Doors’ popular songs: sex, drugs, fame and the beautiful tragedies that come with them. While the books are more surrealist than Shakespeare, The Lords and the New Creatures, The American Night and Wilderness still explore society's dark side with sensual yet seething images and ideas. While they might not make very much sense at first, Morrison explains in Wilderness that they don’t need to: “Listen, real poetry doesn't say anything, it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you.” Billy Corgan The lead singer and lyricist of Smashing Pumpkins puts the same bold, frantic passion of his songs into his poetry in Blinking with Fists. No stranger to spoken-word performances, Corgan’s intense yet sincere energy comes through in poems like “The Sun of Flowers”: “The way/ You look/ At me/ Makes me/ Lonely/ Grinding tears/ Behind a mask/ Made of/ Abalone.” The absence of music invites the reader to concentrate on the words themselves, bringing the meaning and message of them to the forefront of his work. Colin Meloy The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy has joined the list of musicians who have written children’s books (including Jimmy Buffett, Paul McCartney and Madonna, with the latter publishing a coffee table book called Sex). Illustrated by his wife (and Decemberists album artist) Carson Ellis Meloy, Wildwood was released last summer. The same darkly dangerous yet excitingly adventurous spirit in many of Meloy’s songs is reshaped into a child-sized story about a girl who must rescue her brother from a murder of magical crows in the “Impassable Wilderness,” an enchanted park in Portland. Laika Films, the Portland animation studio that produced “Coraline,” will transform the book into a stop-motion feature.
Be sure to check out:
String Quartet Tribute to John Lennon Available at iTunes and Amazon
String Quartet Tribute to The Doors Available at iTunes and Amazon
String Quartet Tribute to The Smashing Pumpkins Available at iTunes and Amazon
Vitamin String Quartet Performs The Decemberists Available at iTunes and Amazon