The 3 Rs: rock & roll & writing

Oh, music, is there anything you can’t fix?

Whether it is commiserating with me when the world seems cold or urging me to go on when all appears to be lost or pumping me up when my energy gets low, you are always there, you are always perfect.

Except when you’re not.

Your poets are our heroes. Your poetry is sublime. But your grammar sucks.

Listen, I know you’re all about staying up late and destroying hotel rooms and demanding the brown M&M’s be removed. I’m down with all that. I don’t mean to pick on you, but you do provide some great lessons in grammar.

I’m not talking about whether lyrics are “good” or “bad” – that’s personal preference. (Click here for a fun blog post on that subject from former Nazareth guitarist, now classic rock DJ, Billy Rankin.) Nor am I talking about the obnoxious overuse of “baby.” But like their freak-flag-flyin’ writers, some songs play fast and loose with the rules.

Bruce Springsteen: “Don’t make no difference what nobody says / Ain’t nobody like to be alone.”
Neil Young: “Don’t want no cash / Don’t need no money / Ain’t got no stash / This note’s for you. / Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi / Ain’t singin’ for Coke / I don’t sing for nobody / Makes me look like a joke…
Why it’s wrong: double (and triple and quadruple) negatives.

Bob Seger: “Like a rock, standin’ arrow straight / Like a rock, chargin’ from the gate…”
Oasis: “Slowly walking down the hall / faster than a cannonball.”
Why it’s wrong: mixed metaphors.

Led Zeppelin: “In a tree by the brook there’s a songbird who sings…”
Why it’s wrong: incorrect pronoun.

The Doors: “If I was to say to you, girl, we couldn’t get much higher.”
Why it’s wrong: subjunctive (click here for an explanation).

Ringo Starr: “You know it don’t come easy.
Rod Stewart: “I couldn’t quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats / ’cause it’s all been said before.”
Why it’s wrong: You don’t really need an explanation, do you?

Bread: “Baby, I’m-a want you / Baby, I’m-a need you / You the only one I care enough to hurt about / Maybe I’m-a crazy…”
Why it’s wrong: File under “Huh?” This must be where Kanye got it from.

If you have other examples of bad grammar in music, please share.


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