Category Archives: Hard Rock

Marking the beat: Paranoid, 50 years on

Watch a supremely young Ozzy Osbourne keeping the beat with his head as he sings. Paranoid is a song of carefully placed syllables:

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Lighting every step on the Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven is a classic choice for song contests.  If English is your native language, don’t take the words of this song for granted. If English isn’t your native language, don’t take the words of this song for granted. The words matter.

They matter, but they’re not a liturgy.  Dave Grohl captures the heart of the song without reciting every word in order. Or at all:

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Don’t Fear the Reaper

When you invite Death into a love song, how do you keep your audience sensing eternity, not endings? You build a regular, reassuring heartbeat of guitar and drums, with a hint of melancholy in the A minor scale.  You use words with warm, round ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘y’ and ‘b’ sounds. No guillotine cuts of ‘k’, ‘tt‘ or ‘ss’. No heavy, dead thuds of ‘d’ or ‘ug’. Light words, sung lightly, layered with the lalala of summertime. Death becomes a fact, not a fear; a natural part of life and love:

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Joan Baez and Judas Priest: Diamonds and Rust

Judas Priest added more than a touch of heavy metal to Joan Baez’s Diamonds and Rust. But listen to the beating heart of Joan’s song: time and the wistful distance of memory, coming through in Rob Halford‘s voice, between the electric guitars and the crashing drum, like a blackbird singing in a deep forest. Respect:

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Don’t worry about the Highway, worry about Hell

When you sing Highway to Hell, don’t waste too much energy on the word highway. Save your breath for hell. It’s the Most Important Word in the chorus. AC/DC wear devil horns, not traffic lights on their heads:

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