Monday, October 29, 2007


Once upon a time, the "art song" attempted to infiltrate the rock world. But despite the critical praise given Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Dory Previn and Phil Ochs in his "Pleasures of the Harbor" phase, artistic lyrics rarely bring in the big bucks. Check out what contestants gleefully remember on "The Singing Bee."

There will always be a stark tune here and there that might actually lead someone to hit replay, and then surf the Net for the lyrics. There will be a few odd crossover performers like Ute Lemper or Diamanda Galas around, and even a glaring spotlight for a guy like Don Henley to offer up "New York Minute" and mean it. Leonard Cohen's still puts out the black light, too.
But rock songs that could be considered art? Not many now. Not all that many successful ones way back when.
A long time ago, Dory Previn was the mad ex-housewife who kept a diary of dangerous lyrics that became songs. On a few, the lyric was so arresting and the symbolism so interesting that after encircling the ears, it could tighten around the brain. Here is one of them.

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