Kevin Courtney tries to sing one for his baby
Some things just make you want to sing: falling in love, watching your team win, becoming a father for the first time. Words can’t express the feeling you get when you see that wondrous creation smiling back at you, but that hasn’t stopped many a songsmith from trying.
Sometimes, looking at little Daniel grinning gummily up at me, I think to myself, I’ll write a song about the little fella (and sell zillions of copies, thus putting him through college). It can’t be that hard – all you have to do is list all his good traits (pretty eyes, beautiful smile, kick like a mule), write a catchy melody and hey presto – royalties-a-go-go.
Sadly, I’m not much cop as a songwriter, and the only word I can think of that rhymes with Daniel is a breed of dog. Not very poignant. Okay, I know you don’t have to rhyme his name, but you do have to find words that resonate with the pop-listening public. If rock’n’roll history is anything to go by, that’s easier said than done.
At some stage in a rock star’s life, he will become a father (with all that girl action, how could he avoid it?). And, at some stage, he will sit down and write a song about the little bundle of joy. The song will end up on his band’s album, despite the protests of the other members, and fans will automatically skip over that track and get straight to the ones about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
Songs written by rock stars about their kids tend to be doting, mawkish and sentimental – hardly the criteria for kick-ass rock. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to turn your songwriting to mush, it’s becoming a dad.
John Lennon wrote Beautiful Boy for his son Sean and was shot dead shortly afterwards; the two events are not thought to be connected. Lennon disciple Liam Gallagher is not known for bothering his arse to write songs, and with Little James, written about his wife Patsy Kensit’s son from her marriage to Jim Kerr, he really shouldn’t have bothered. The only thing memorable about Rufus Is a Tit Man, written by Loudon Wainwright III, is that Rufus famously turned out to be anything but a tit man.
There are exceptions. Kooks, written by David Bowie for little Zowie, is charming. But the best one by far is Sarah, a lovely song written by Phil Lynott that can still make a grown man sigh.
If you’re going to write a song about a child, make sure it’s your own and not one you’re babysitting for, as Gilbert O’Sullivan did with Clair. The parents might wonder what was going on while they were at the opera. Also, make sure it’s not so sickly sweet and stinkily cheesy that your offspring grows up unable to have a radio in the room. Given the choice between Stevie Wonder’s Superstition or Isn’t She Lovely, I’ll take the voodoo over the goo-goo any day.
So, maybe I’ll just leave the bad songwriting to the professionals, and find a more fitting way to sing little Daniel’s praises – a column in The Ticket, perhaps. At least it’s less likely to haunt him in the future.