songwriting1

The E-Male Chronicles: “Songs–The Key of Life”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Evan McArthur Kane

The first thing I ever remember writing is a song. In fact it was a very long time before I wrote anything without poetic or melodic intention. I can’t tell you that I remember the lyrics to my first song. Even now, it is rare that I remember what I write once the ink dries (or to be more presently accurate, once I click “Save As”). But I can recall exactly what led me to drag a pen across a piece of paper on that day. It was a girl I had my eyes on and a man whose eyes couldn’t see. Add to that the chilling effect of a few obscure songs that reside on a recording which was anything but obscure–Songs In The Key Of Life.

Released by Stevie Wonder while I was still a child in the womb, Songs, along with many other Wonder recordings, would live loud in my house for the better part of a decade. The album was noted for so many never-been-done-before historic accomplishments that it’s become almost cliché to mention. But the first “first” for me was the discovery of just how limitless and powerful music is–especially lyrics. As a child, every input is an influence, and to hear a man who could so confidently make a song out of an editorial was intrigued my impressionabally creative mind. “Wait–what did he say–what does that mean? How can you say stuff like that in a song? And how can he know about all of this stuff if he can’t even see? How could even write it down? He must not be all the way blind–is he really?” I’m sure my parents got a thrill and a half listening to me trying to sort all of this out.

So in the fourth grade, my black history report was on none other than Steveland “Stevie Wonder” Hardaway Judkins (now Morris). Who else could I write about that would top my A+ second grade report on Michael Jackson, with the glove and jacket no less? There were three songs included in my report: Village Ghetto Land; Black Man and If It’s Magic. I remember writing down the lyrics for my presentation. I remember bringing the Songs album to school to spin on the old record player in the blue box. And I remember Yaneek. She liked it. Her approving smile was better than any A+ as far as I was concerned. That was the day I became a songwriter. My rapidly beating nine year-old heart knew all it needed to know about LOVE that day. And I put it all in a song (to Yaneek of course)–then another one–and another one, and so on until I had filled a composition book.

I stopped passing notes a long time ago. But I never stopped writing. I never will. The affectionate rantings, that were once meticulously penned in perfect cursive, are more mature in thought and theme. My many dozens of composition books have since been supplanted for gigabytes scattered over a handful of flash drives. Today I write more than just songs. And I understand now that life doesn’t always stay in the same key. My heart is bigger, beats stronger and, in some ways, is even more naively optimistic than it was when I was nine. All things considered, I had it easier back then. Dark chocolate skin, sweetened with the syrup of a sincere smile was the recipe that always seemed to come out just right. Some days it still does. Other days I leave the kitchen craving, with the hunger pangs of an empty stomach.

Most of the pressing questions I had about Stevie Wonder have long been answered. But there is one a very simple question he posed in a song, to which I am still trying to find an answer. “If it’s magic, why can’t it be everlasting; Like the sun that always shines; Like the poet’s endless rhymes; Like the galaxies in time?”

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