Posted by: jockmackenzie | April 30, 2009

“Poetry and Song” – ENTRY 1 – Song Writing

CHAPTER TWO – Song Writing

Writing new words to old songs is Job #1. We start small. As a class or in small groups, we consider a song like “Old McDonald.” To begin, I share the original words. If I were to write the lyrics on the whiteboard, I would leave lots of room between the lines. The first concern is replacing ‘McDonald’ and ‘farm.’ For my gang, that is quite easy. One possibility is almost always “Old Mackenzie had a class.”

From that point onward, the trick is to differentiate as much as seems necessary. With some classes, I can immediately replace the E – I – E – I – O with Gee – Oh – Gee – Oh – Gosh. With others it seems best to mimic the rhythm with as few changes as possible and save the differentiating to the assignment.

Once the class grasps the idea that the new song must be sung to the old tune (necessitating the same number of syllables per line) and that it has to have the same rhyme pattern, I turn them loose with some old standards like “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” and “I’ve Been Workin’ On The Railroad.”

Here’s one example:

I’ve Been Working On The Railroad

I’ve been working on the railroad
All the live-long day.
I’ve been working on the railroad
Just to pass the time away.

Don’t you hear the whistle blowing,
Rise up so early in the morn;
Don’t you hear the captain shouting,
“Dinah, blow your horn!”

New Words – from my archive of Student Writing

To “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”

I like playing my computer,
Ev’ry single day.
I like playin’ my computer,
Just to pass the time away.

Can’t you hear the thingy bleepin’?
Press alt, control, delete.
Can’t you hear my father shoutin’?
Kelly, come and eat !


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