Ya know what drives me nuts? When I come across a news item attributing the authorship of a song to the performer who sang it. For example... “Out From Under,” by Britney Spears. “Out From Under,” was not written by Britney Spears. Although I’m delighted she recorded my song, I was the one who wrote it. (Along with my collaborators.)
I know it wouldn’t be as exciting for fans if the copy read, “Out From Under,” by Shelly Peiken. They’d all be like, Who’s that? I get it. And I realize I'm being a bit neurotic but it still bothers me.
Blame it on semantics, and/or the naiveté of the editor.
I would so much prefer to see “name of song,” as recorded by fill-in-the-blank. Or the possessive: Britney Spears’ “Out From Under.” They don’t even have to mention my name. (I mean they can if they want to). Just don't write that a song is “by” someone unless they wrote it.
Ideally, a pop-star and a songwriter should hold each other's hands. We have our own indispensable function in the creative food chain. But it's the performer we think of as “The Artist,” right? And they are. But, I put forth that the songwriter is an artist too.
After all, we paint pictures—not with brushes and strokes but with words and melodies and beats.
We search for truth. We put ourselves out there. We hone our craft. We’re poetic. We research and document the state of the human experience. We spend countless hours wondering, pondering, pacing, considering, second guessing.
We set time aside to practice. We improve (hopefully). We wait for our muse to arrive. Sometimes it doesn’t show. But we are patient. We believe it’s just late. Got caught in traffic. Dog ate its homework. Somethin'. It will come. And when it does we’ll be there.
We're passionate, dysfunctional, dramatic, emotional. We were born this way. We’re in High School. We’re in College. We are Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents. We’re 12. We’re 60.
We get our hearts broken on purpose so we can write about it. Again and again.
We are legends in our own minds, yet our egos are fragile. We smile through criticism and then go home and weep into our pillow.
We see things in unique ways. And we’re able to find a Universal way to express it.
Is this not what an artist is all about?
We may not be larger-than-life. Or Edgy. or Photogenic. Or Media Trained. But we songwriters are just as noteworthy as the pop-stars who record our material. We'd be nowhere without someone to deliver our message. And that someone, if they're not a contributor themselves, would be nowhere without us. We are the Unsung hero. The Unfamous. The Unfamiliar. The Unknown. Just because we’re behind the curtain doesn't mean we should have a lesser title. Or status.
Our appearances vary. We may look like a rabbi or the boy next door or the waitress that served you breakfast this morning or the uber driver who just dropped you off. In fact we may be your uber driver cuz most of us can no longer make a living writing songs. That's why we at least deserve the recognition. The kudos. The credit!
There's a whole lot of heart and soul (not to mention blood, sweat and tears), that go into an idea long before it becomes a song that makes it to someone's speakers. Or earbuds. Or Spotify. And it all may very well have started with one of us:
These are the faces of my people.