As I’ve also worked on movie scripts, I can say with some authority: writing is re-writing. I say this for two reasons. Songwriters that sing their own stuff don’t have “clients”. They know what they want to say and pitch their lyrics to themselves quite easily. As a professional songwriter, on the other hand, you have to be able to re-write for various reasons. The singer might have difficulty with lines or specific words. The producer might want something more “commercial”. The manager might find the theme unsuitable or too complex or even too simple. So you will find yourself re-writing quite a lot.
But only wussies re-write, right?
No. The example comes from one of the archetypal songwriters: Bruce Springsteen. An upcoming auction has an early version of “Born to Run” for sale. Apart from the buzz of possibly owning handwritten lyrics by Bruce Springsteen, the lyric sheet has another interesting angle: it shows how much the song changed from the first sketches to the final recording.
Whole sections were dropped or changed as Springsteen went from having a lyric with interesting mood and potential to having a song with universal appeal, great themes and that is well-polished. By the way, all of these are good things in my book!
So come on, are you man enough to re-write your lyrics?
For more about the Springsteen auction (they have lots of other stuff, by the way), check the article on Forbes website. Springsteen and lyric fans, click to enlarge the image.