PROMPT: Learn a Tom Waits song.

If you don’t know who Tom Waits is, and you’re a songwriter, you’re in for a treat.  This dude has been writing songs since the 1970’s (maybe earlier) and has a huge range of styles and subject matter to delight his listeners.  He can be tender and outright frightening.  His songs have been covered by everyone who is anyone in the singer/songwriter field.

He’s kind of like Bob Dylan (who also gets covered a lot) because his voice is not  exactly what we would call pretty but his songs lend themselves to all kinds of voices.  The man just writes wonderful songs–songs that invite anyone to reinvent and play with what’s already, well, a solid piece of music.

For instance, if you’ve watched THE WIRE, you will recognize that each season begins with a different version of Tom Waits’s, “Way Down in the Hole.”  High five to the person who complied all the versions into a single Youtube video:

Season 1: Blind Boys of Alabama

Season 2: Tom Waits (himself!)

Season 3: The Neville Brothers

Season 4: DoMaJe

Season 5: Steve Earle

My favorite Tom Waits album is called Mule Variations.  I think it’s a good place to start if you’re not too familiar with his music.

SONG OF THE DAY: Chocolate Jesus

This is one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Kim Taylor, covering a great Tom Waits song.


Happy Songwriting month! Are you ready to write a song now?

We’re going to be writing a new song every three days so that we can come out of this adventure with 10 new songs.

Intimidated? I get it, so am I, but we can do it.  Remember, the songs don’t have to be brilliant, just workable.  We have all month and then the rest of our lives to make the song spectacular.

TODAY’S PROMPT: Write a sonnet and put a tune to it.

It’s okay if you don’t know or remember how a sonnet works because I’m about to tell you.

It’s simple: The only rule is it has to be 14 lines. In a song, that’s probably going to look like three verses and a rhyming couplet at the end.

You can go Shakespearean on the rhyme scheme:





Or Petrarchan:





Or you can do whatever you want! The only rule is that it has to be 14 lines.

You can be super formulaic and write each line in iambic pentameter, but in my experience, ten syllable lines sound terrible in songs. (Yes, I have tried to fit iambic pentameter in a lyric line before.  Have I mentioned that I’m a nerd?)

One thing you might try, which works wonders in getting the song to move, is to try the traditional sonnet form for subject/verse relationship.  It goes something like this:

Verse one makes a statement or proposes a problem.

Verse two develops that statement or problem.

Verse Three counters the statement, or tosses a curve-ball into what you’re developing.

The end, or rhyming couplet somehow brings conclusion to the problem you’ve set up.

Have a go!


This song has nothing to do with sonnets.  It’s the first Tom Waits song I ever loved.  The real reason I’m choosing it is because I’m hitting the road real early this morning to embark on a long drive home. It is the world’s best song for an early morning’s drive.

By the way, someone posted the whole Closing Time album on Youtube and that’s what I’ve posted. Listen to the whole thing! It’s so good. And sexy. Young Tom Waits is actually sexy.

He’s also a poet, which makes him appropriate for sonnet day.

You’re a poet too, Shakespeare. Now go at it.