By on June 03, 2014 . Category Column

Okay, I’m totaling dating myself with this story, but what the heck?  I’m going to own it.  I’m going to be proud of my late 80’s/early 90’s childhood.  Be prepared for a story involving (gasp) mixed tapes…

I used to sit next to my stereo waiting for a favorite song to come on the radio.  (Ah, I’m already dating myself.  No music downloads, iTunes or iPod docks in this tale.  Sorry!)  Of course, the DJ always told a corny joke over the first few notes of the song much to my dismay, but I hit “record” anyway.  Who knew when I’d catch the song from the very beginning again?!  Once I had the song recorded, I’d listen to a few lines and then rewind and listen to it again.  This is how I memorized the lyrics, because in order to be cool, I needed to know every word and YouTube music videos with lyrics weren’t invented yet.

The plus side to teaching yourself a song is that you really do let it in and, as a teenager; music greatly had an effect on me.  No matter what mood I was in, I could find a song to quickly adopt as my anthem of the hour.  So I took lyric memorization very seriously.

I can recall listening to the words, letting them seep in.  Sometimes, I felt inspired and empowered.  Yes, someone gets me!  And I’d applaud the profound musician who was able to put my feelings into words. 

Other times, I felt – dare I say it? – “cheated” by the artist when lines were merely tweaked.  Only the chorus is allowed to repeat and repeat in rhyme, mind you.  That was the rule, right?!  The verses were supposed to have originality dripping from every syllable.  You are my voice, song writer.  Don’t fail me!

It was only later that I understood the power of reiteration.  Song writers weren’t taking the easy way out.  They were emphasizing important concepts and using poetic license to do so.

As an adult, I no longer found it cheating.  Alas, I found it thought-provoking and impactful.  One of my favorite songs is U2’s I Will Follow.  I love the line, “I was blind, I could not see.”  As a teenager, I probably would’ve been like, “Uh, yeah, dude.  That’s what blind means.”  The adult thinks differently.  I appreciate the metaphor and the deeper level of thinking.  Like many writers, I allowed this newfound nugget to influence my work and now I pass it on to you.  But keep in mind reiteration can easily teeter on redundancy.  To avoid being superfluous, excessive, unnecessary, redundant, gratuitous, unneeded (catching my drift?), make sure you use it strategically to accentuate a point.  And once you do, write on…


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