Learning From the Oldies

There’s so much we can learn from classic hits of the past. Which songs have made you the songwriter you are today?

Most of the world’s greatest songwriters, when interviewed, will talk more about the music that has influenced their development than about their own offerings. One of the best ways to improve your songwriting abilities is to study hits from the past.

We all have that list in our minds of songs that have defined who we are, music we can’t imagine having grown up without. At the top of that list are those songs that have made us the writers we are. As a songwriter, it’s vital toTina Turner really dig into these tunes and find out why they were so influential, so crucial to our artistic development.

Which songs that have made you who you are today? Over the next few months, I will be featuring analyses of classic songs from the past, and posting those analyses here on “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” blog. I’d like to consider your own suggestions for this project.

Please submit your suggestions by commenting below. And when you do, let me know any aspect of these songs that have guided your musical development. Fantastic melody? Great chord progression? Unique song structure? By doing a deeper analysis of the song, we  improve our compositional abilities.

I’ll be starting the first analysis within the next two weeks, to be posted on Wednesday, October 26, so give me your suggestions soon!

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Posted in Song Analyses and tagged , , , , , .


  1. Hey, thanks for the response, Gary. I’m a big fan of your blog – but maybe I’ve missed the odd post about Dylan! I’ll pay more attention in future!

    Thanks for all the analysis and advice – keep up the excellent work.


  2. Guys, from the responses Gary has given, we can deduce that Gary digs Kenny Loggins (who?), but doesn’t much care for Rundgren, Presley, Dylan, Legend, Gore, Waits, Sting etc. Or maybe he’s just busy…

    That said, Gary’s blog is just about the only blog in the world that I read on a regular basis, so keep up the good work, Gary – though you probably won’t read this comment either!

    • Sorry I’ve been a bit slack in responding lately, and yes, I’ve been quite busy with a couple of projects. But so that you know, I read every single comment. And what? Me not like Dylan??? Are you sure you’re reading my blog???

      Like most bloggers, I don’t respond to every single post, but I do very much read and consider (and appreciate) every comment made. In fact, “Like a Rolling Stone” will be my next “Classic Analysis”, which I’ll hopefully have finished and posted tomorrow (Wednesday).


  3. I would really like to read an analysis of Depeche Mode’s 1990 hit single “Enjoy The Silence,” which has been covered by such wildly different artists as Tori Amos, Linkin Park, Keane, The Bloodhound Gang and recently Susan Boyle (in addition to all the cover versions by less famous bands). Whether it’s Tori Amos’ low-key piano version or the electro pop original by Depeche Mode themselves (by far the most popular version), most people seem to enjoy this song a lot. It just seems to be one of those “timeless” pop songs, and I would love to know what its secret is.

  4. Eternal – ‘Stay’; D’Angelo – ‘Shit, Damn, Motherfucker’; Marsha Ambrosius – ‘Far Away’; Tom Waits – ‘Hoist That Rag’; Police – ‘SOS’; Gabrielle – ‘Give Me A Little More Time’….so many songs its hard to narrow it down….

  5. Hi Gary, first song that popped into my mind was “Love of the Common Man” by Todd Rundgren, but hey! who’s ever heard of Todd!? So then I thought Elvis Presley – far more popular than Todd! – which leads me to suggesting either one of the Mark James compositions I love: “Suspicious Minds” or “Always on my Mind”.

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