Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Youtubery

Since Minstrel Boy reminded me of this song...

To recap my earlier comment: Steve Earle is the only songwriter I've ever encountered whose best, most innovative work came after age 40. Most songwriters, their best work comes early, before they know too much, before they've said everything they have to say and have nothing left to say and are just going through the motions or rehashing old themes or desperately trying new things they're not good at to avoid rehashing old themes. Linda Nyro, finished by 24. Townes van Zandt, pretty much done by age 34, he did some good work after that but all his best songs, the ones that everybody covers, were written before 1978. Suzanne Vega, four brilliant albums then done by age 32. Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan... their best work done in their 20's, they've done good work since but nowhere near the brilliance of their early work.

But Steve... he just keeps writing, and getting better. Starting in 1995 he released a string of albums that ranged from "very good" to "brilliant"... and remember, he was 40 years old in 1995.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Bonus song to irritate BBC: Fort Worth Blues

PPS #2: Just worked out the chords for "Goodbye". Most of the time, sad songs are written in a minor key. Not this one. It's basically A-E-D. Play the counterpoint via augments and pick the chords in the right order and you have the entire guitar backing, though Steve plays it capo'ed up to his vocal range. Just ran through it a half dozen or so times arranging it for my own guitar style, a few more (dozen?) times and I'll have it in my repertoire. A simple, yet beautiful, song. It is exactly what it needs to be, and no more.


  1. Steve Earle is the only songwriter I've ever encountered whose best, most innovative work came after age 40.

    Don't know of him and don't care to, the first thirty seconds of that started putting me to sleep so I turned it off.

    Bring back the 50's and 60's. Not that we can I guess.

  2. Hint, it's got these "words" thingies. I know this is a hard concept, but if you, like, listen to them, you might start to understand what the song is about.

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

  3. "Steve Earle is the only songwriter I've ever encountered whose best, most innovative work came after age 40"

    Uh yeah, ask MB why.

  4. I assume because Steve was high as a kite during his first 40 years of life would be your answer. The problem with that notion is that brilliant work came early from many others with, err, "substance abuse" problems. And many of these people did dry out when older, but they never did the quality of work sober later in life that they did drunk or high early in life. So while certainly substance abuse can stop creativity, lack of substance abuse doesn't seem to be enough to create creativity from thin air.


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