Is there a difference between poetry and song lyrics? In my opinion there is none. To me lyrics are just poetry set to music. The words are written to a melody, the melody becomes a song. In generations pasts poets entertained the masses and entertained them with music to the words of their poems. Today poets still entertain the masses; they just do it to a beat.
There are many different genres of music. There is truly something for everyone. One thing almost all genres have in common is lyrics. It is the lyrics that we remember and sing along to. It is the lyrics that make us pay attention the first time we hear a song. It is the lyric that often prove meaningful to our lives.
In the past poets like Elizabeth Barrett Browning captivated her generation with her words. “How do I love thee” is one of the most famous poems and one of the most beautiful. One of the greatest poets of my generation is Tupac. He takes you on lyrical journey through the ghettos of America and through the hearts of millions. One of my favorite songs by him is “Changes.” The opening line gets me every time: “I shoulda seen you was trouble right from the start, taught me so many lessons. How not to mess with broken hearts, so many questions.” People often think he is just a “gangster” rapper, but he is so much more. He educated the youth of America. He talks about life and love in ways that made us listen when we weren’t listening to anyone else. He talked about subjects no one else was talking about. He did this through his lyrics.
Another song of Tupac’s that really had a profound effect on my life is Ghetto Gospel. This song makes me cry every time. As soon as I hear Elton John start to sing I get teary eyed. Trying to pick a favorite verse is hard but I love the passage where he says: “cause any day they'll push the button and you all condemned like Malcolm X and Bobby Hutton, died for nothing. Don't them let me get teary; the world looks dreary but when you wipe your eyes see it clearly.”
The pictures that are painted with words can change lives. Tupac surely changed mine. He can weave words around a beat like no one else. His lyrics are truly poetic. He uses language that is often not heard in popular music and does it in a way that seems fresh and new. If you read his lyrics without the music you would see no difference between them and the poems of another era.
This is just one artist whose lyrics are pure poetry. There are thousands more. My parent’s generation was well known for the singer songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Elton John and Carole King. These songwriters had just a profound effect on that generation. As time goes by we have just changed the definition and name of poetry. In the end it is all the same.