Melody / Paul McCartney

You can have a song…only if there is a melody.

You can have lyrics…but without a melody…it’s poetry.

You can have rhythm…but without a melody…it’s just a beat.

Of course lyrics and rhythm are important aspects in music, but the only essential ingredient is melody.  A song without lyrics is still a song…an instrumental…and you can vary the rhythm.

There’s an excellent book Songwriters On Songwriting by Paul Zollo.

He interviews over 60 songwriters.  One of the more fascinating revelations is that songwriters tell him some of their best songs come to them almost like the universe is presenting them with a gift.  Three famous examples of this are the songs “Yesterday”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “You’ve Got A Friend”.  Paul McCartney, Paul Simon,  and Carole King say the songs came to them in dreams.  Plus, so many times songwriters have said…”It practically wrote itself”.

So who is the best melody writer?  Paul Simon says it’s Paul McCartney.  Let’s check the evidence.  The most recorded song of all time is “Yesterday”.  For years, the second most recorded song was “Michelle”.  A recent search of the top ten most recorded songs found “Yesterday” still at #1 with “Eleanor Rigby” now at #2.  Also in the top ten are “And I Love Her” and “Blackbird”.  No other songwriter has more than one song in the top ten.  John Lennon has “Imagine”, and then there are older classics like “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Summertime”.

Here’s a playlist of some of McCartney’s Beatles songs:

  1. I Saw Her Standing There
  2. All My Loving
  3. Can’t Buy Me Love
  4. And I Love Her
  5. Things We Said Today
  6. I’ll Follow The Sun
  7. Yesterday
  8. We Can Work It Out
  9. I’ve Just Seen A Face
  10. Michelle
  11. Paperback Writer
  12. Eleanor Rigby
  13. For No One
  14. Here There And Everywhere
  15. Penny Lane
  16. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  17. She’s Leaving Home
  18. When I’m Sixty-Four
  19. The Fool On The Hill
  20. Lady Madonna
  21. Hey Jude
  22. Back In The U.S.S.R.
  23. Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
  24. Blackbird
  25. I Will
  26. Get Back
  27. Two Of Us
  28. The Long And Winding Road
  29. Let It Be

While nearly everyone knows The Beatles were the top Billboard singles artists of the 1960’s, it might come as a surprise that Paul McCartney was the top singles artist of the 1970’s (he was mistakenly listed as #2 earlier).  Sir Paul has had 37 top 40 hits, 9 number one singles and 8 number one albums.  McCartney opens himself to criticism at times for less than poignant lyrics, but no one questions his melody writing.

A playlist of some of McCartney’s best solo songs:

  1. Junk
  2. Every Night
  3. Maybe I’m Amazed
  4. Another Day
  5. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
  6. My Love
  7. Live And Let Die
  8. Band On The Run
  9. Jet
  10. Venus & Mars/Rockshow
  11. Listen To What The Man Said
  12. Silly Love Songs
  13. Mull Of Kintyre
  14. With A Little Luck
  15. Wanderlust
  16. No More Lonely Nights
  17. My Brave Face
  18. Hope Of Deliverance
  19. Calico Skies
  20. Somedays
  21. This Never Happened Before

Today, there’s a lot of criticism about the lack of great melodies, and of course Rap is often devoid of melody altogether.  The trend in Pop music is to have teams of writers manufacture the hits.  This results in some interesting arrangements that can have “hooks”, but most do not have the classic flow of great melodies.  Maybe there needs to be a little less teamwork and commercial intent, and a little more soul and inspiration.

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