Songwriting Basics Section II – Analysis 10: Oh, My Foolish Heart

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Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

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My Foolish Heart …

A long time ago, a famous and eminently recognisable folksingerFS.gif – whose name and face totally escape me – told me,
“What you need for a folk club is a daft song with a dead easy chorus that they can all sing along with!” This is that song. ……………………………………………………………..

What’s it all about, Bobby? …

Well, there’s a smidgeon of my own experiences colouring the song. I have, in fact, occasionally been in some ridiculous relationships.

And I do tend not to recognise when it’s time to admit that the roof has fallen in on l’amour.

However, apart from those minor details, all persons and events portrayed in this recorded work are fictional and purely for the purpose of silliness.

The notion for the song, and the chorus/title were pretty easy as I have, on numerous occasions, said something like this to myself. eejit.gif

Well, actually, more on the lines of, “You bloody eejit!”, but you get the idea.

I’ve had a long and eventful life, and somewhere in there bux.gif I’ve gone around with ladies who had, shall we say, large appetites, and others whose notion of fidelity was scarcely orthodox (no-one I’m currently talking to though!).

So, there’s a smattering of life experience in there, but the names mentioned are given purely because they scan and are the right length.

The last verse hints that a slightly greater degree of cynicism has developed. It was inspired by memories of a remote beach on Lanzarote. geez.gif 

It was populated for the day by a surprising number of unattractive male wrinklies (well, I didn’t fancy them) who, to judge by the collection of expensive 4-wheel-drive roadsters in the car park, and the champagne bottles in the picnic freezers, were not short of a buck or two.

They were, to a man, accompanied by lissome ladies in bikinis (at least the bottom half) who were considerably younger than them. seal.gif I remember giving this my mental seal of disapproval.

This memory led me to muse on what my own attitude might be if I were to come into money at this later point in my existence.

I’m not telling you my conclusion, save that it occurred to me that a self-seeking ending to the song would provide some contrast, and might also be seen as humorous. chortle.gif

I’m glad to say that audiences seem to agree with me, and the song has provoked many an example of that old Beano standby, the chortle. ……………………………………………………………..

Lend an ear and an eye …

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Oh, My Foolish Heart (unreleased demo)

© 2019 Bob Leslie

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How does it hang together? …

The song has a fairly simple structure.

  • The chorus alerts us to the subject matter: loving not wisely but too well
  • V1  tells of an affair that foundered on the singer’s incapacity to keep up!
  • V2 where love again founders, but this time on the rocks of infidelity
  • V3 a contrast and a turnaround: the singer has abandoned hope of real romance and his pinning his hopes on having a moneymaking hit to enhance his attraction

There are three main audience grabbers in the song: crowd.gif

  • humour
  • a nice, simple catchy chorus
  • the melody is sung over a descending bassline – a component of more hits than you can shake a stick at, e.g.
    • Stairway to Heaven
    • Dear Prudence
    • Hotel California
    • Whiter Shade of Pale
    • When a Man Loves a Woman
    • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
    • Something

The chorus chords are all in the key of C major.

The verse continues that for the first half, then slides, via an F>E, into one line of A minor, then one of A Dorian (hence the D major chord), before slamming straight back to C in the last line.

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The rhythm, rhyme and reason of it all … boogie.gif

The stress pattern is pretty regular for each verse:

  • 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 4, 4

while the chorus has 4 single-beat stresses on the Ohs, followed by  over “Oh my foolish heart”

Unusually for me, the song is almost entirely based around trochees (DUM-dahs)

  • Had a | wom-an | way back |  when and | She was | fine to  | see [the-dah beat is in the underlying music]

There’s the occasional dactyl (DUM-dah-dah), e.g.

  • give I lost | twen-ty | pounds and the | will to | live

shoehorned into the same duration as the trochees, but with the same emphasis on the first beat.

Rhyme-wise, the verses follow a regular pattern of end-rhymes on Ll 2/4 and 5/6:

  • A  B  C  B  D  D  E
  • when, see, night, mefencesense, heart
  • with an extra internal rhyme in V3 when “are/particular” is reinforced with “car”

 

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Coming to a verdict …

Not that I want to seem prejudiced, but these analyses follow my own recommendations regarding structure, so it’s hardly surprising that my songs follow the same path.

Oh, My Foolish Heart is extremely regular in stress, metre, and rhyme.

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When there are deviations from the pattern, they are minimal – always preserving the characteristic on-beat emphasis.

The melody is simple and easily remembered, as is the chorus cum hookline.

The tonality  is all based on the C major/A minor axis – even the excursion into A Dorian still maintains Am as its tonic chord.

The descending bassline is a tried-and-true catchy element – as the success of so many other songs using it testifies.

The simple chorus is set at a middling pitch which allows more ambitious audiences to sing along in harmony without too much effort.

It also parallels the descending bass for most of its length, mainly following a scale from high doh down to mi.

Again, very easy for the listening public to identify and sing along with.

And, lastly, the proof of the pudding is in the eating: I’ve now sung this numerous times and it has proven popular on every occasion. So, it’s definitely going on the next album! …………………………………………………………….. oldy.gif

Next week, we’ll look at an old, crumbly ballad to see how it holds up!

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Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

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