I had thought about creating a top ten list of the most used hooks but couldn’t decide which were used more and which hooks were the most effective. So in no particular order, here are some of the most commonly used song hooks.
Who can forget songs such as ‘Valerie’, ‘Donna’, ‘Shari’, ‘Angie’, and ‘Lucille’. You have probably come up with several that I ‘forgot’. The trick would be to find a girls name that hasn’t been used. I do remember one young lady who complained to me about the lack of a song with her name in it. So I wrote one. This is the first verse:
Kim came walking in my door,
this morning about a quarter to four.
I don’t care where you been I ain’t taking it no more.
‘Kansas City’, ‘Indiana Wants Me’ and of course the ultimate, ‘New York, New York’. One of the advantages of using place names is folks already know them. Maybe it’s someplace they want to go (California Dreaming), want to get away from (Leaving Las Vegas) or someplace that just sounds nice (April in Paris). I drove past a flooding river here in Central Illinois and got the idea for this chorus:
The Sangamon River is overflowing,
the water is rising, the banks are swollen.
There was no one near to hear or save her
when she fell into the Sangamon river.
Yes you’re right, this should have been first. However if you can come up with a fresh way of using ‘love’ in a song title I’m pretty sure that song would be a hit. My favorite love song title is ‘I love how you love me’ by Barry Mann and Larry Kolber. I’ve never written a song with love in the title that I can remember. Maybe I should correct that.
No not the fruit or romantic evenings but days of the week, seasons, months, etc. ‘Monday, Monday’, Ruby Tuesday’, ‘See you in September’. You could combine a date with a place for an even stronger hook such as ‘Summer in the City’. I doubled up on the time in my song ‘August Afternoon’.
And you can sit with me on this old porch swing,
we’ll talk about things that used to be.
Tap your fingers to the tune
of that old song by the Loving Spoonful
and help me remember summer,
on an August Afternoon.
Things that go bump in the night
Many song titles and hooks are not concrete ideas or concepts like those discussed above. Antonyms are very often employed with great success, such as ‘Sleeping single in a double bed’. Wordplay has brought us some of the most memorable hooks; country songs very often use them to great advantage. ‘I gave her the ring, she gave me the finger’ is one of my all time favorites. And if all else fails as a creative songwriter you are free to make words up. Like I did in this song:
Well a ding dang dodie and a woof woof woof
the frost is on the pine.
Momma’s in the kitchen doing the dishes
but it don’t make me no mind.
And I will end on that note. Hopefully the first two articles in this series has given you the inspiration you need to create your own hooks and put them to music.