Who writes the songs that make the whole world sing?

I’ve long had issues with the conventional, legal view of song authorship. This view hold that a song is essentially a melody atop certain chords. This made sense 100+ years ago when the way a song was sold was by selling a lead sheet people would use to play the song on their instruments. But it doesn’t make much sense now. Sometimes the best part of a recorded version of a song is the sax solo or the timbre of the instruments – the kinds of elements that are completely unrecognized by the conventional definition.

I’ve been reading David Byrne’s book “How Music Works” and he gets into some of this, particularly the idea that in modern music-making the technicians – the producers and recording engineers – are integral to the process.

One could argue that these technicians were as responsible for how records came to sound as the composers or performers were. In effect, the authorship of a recording, and of music in general, was being spread around, dispersed. It became harder and harder to know who did what, or whose decisions were affecting the music we were hearing.

He recounts a situation were a particular drum part played on a James Brown track was sampled. The song’s author was reimbursed but because the drum part wasn’t considered part of the song (in the legal sense) the drummer was not. Screwy!

3 Responses to “Who writes the songs that make the whole world sing?”


  1. john

    “It became harder and harder to know who did what”

    So fuckin’ what?

    Of course “the producers and engineers are integral to the process”. Most of the records that people love feature performances by people with absolutely no talent at all and are only worthwhile because of the efforts of the Producers and the Engineers. Let’s sit down and listen to all the big Motown hit singles, we’ll have a great time but not because of any of the Singers or Musicians on those records. And then there are tons of people who are very talented but couldn’t put a decent record together on their own to save their lives. Just listen to anything John Lennon or Paul McCartney did without George Martin. Opinions! Opinions! John got opinions!

    Rosario Dawson gets naked in this new Movie “Trance”. I’ve already seen some stills on that “internet” thing and I’m gonna buy me one of them “computers” right away!

  2. john

    I’m listening to the most recent Ace Frehley album “Anomoly”. Everybody hates this thing, I totally dig it. Guess I’m some kinda fuckin’ knucklehead or something.

  3. Wil

    I saw that you were listening to that on facebook so I listened to some it . Not bad. I used to listen to Frehley’s Comet all the time.