Monday, April 16, 2007

You Can't Copyright A Title

Sometimes I'm a little behind on "cool," but I'm catching up as fast as I can. This can be credited in part to my Gen-X friends, one of whom put me on to an absolutely hilarious You-Tube video. Check this out at

The video is "Title of the Song." It blatantly gives away a formula for writing popular Contemporary Christian music. I got an enormous kick out of it because when I worked in Nashville, Tennessee for Tree Publishing/Meadowgreen Music (later sold to Sony), our songwriters considered formula songwriting to be taboo or at least in poor taste.

Formula writing was contrived and was the playground of amateurs. It was like copying a famous painting and calling it your own idea. Great hits came out of the writers' hearts before they were ever formulated in their brains, and we all knew a hit song when we heard one. Usually they were so obvious we kicked ourselves for not writing them first.

When I used to be in touch with copyright law, the deal was that you could not copyright a title. But then, who could re-write "Amazing Grace," which came out of John Newton's very soul. Who could write anything to compare with Charles Wesley's majestic Advent hymn, "Lo! he comes, with clouds descending."

But the pressure is on to keep producing hits like these, and the only way to do that is to keep writing. Every now and then you'll get one that's just right. Charles Wesley (1707-1788) is reputed to have written more than 6,000 hymns, but only 23 made it into The Hymnal 1982.

In every genre of expression originals are nice, but look-alikes are expected. For an example, read Psalm 118 and 136 back to back and then come and tell me what you think. And yet, we have this request of us in holy writ:

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

(Psalm 149:1)

Have you written any good songs lately? Don't be shy.

Pastor Linda
The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

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