A lyricist is a writer who specializes in song lyrics, usually paid for by a band to write a custom song(s). A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-songwriter, who also composes the song's melody in addition to the lyrics.

American Songwriting

The Tin Pan Alley tradition is that tunesmith and wordsmith are usually different people, though some celebrated songwriters have performed both functions (Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Noel Coward and Stephen Sondheim for example). Among the leading lyricists of this period were Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, who both wrote with Richard Rodgers, Ira Gershwin who wrote with brother George, Johnny Mercer and Johnny Burke.

Country music pioneer Hank Williams and folkies Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger pointed the way for American artists from Bob Dylan onwards. Specialists also have, on occasion, wrote for somebody else to perform (the spectacularly successful Diane Warren for example) both words and music.


Collaboration takes different forms. Some composers and lyricists work closely together on the song, with each having an input into both words and tune. Often a lyricist will fill in the words to a tune already fully written out. Dorothy Fields worked in this way. Lyricists have often added words to an established tune, as Johnny Burke did with the Erroll Garner tune "Misty". Some partnerships work almost totally independently, for example, Bernie Taupin famously writes lyrics and hands them over to Elton John, who then sets them to music, with minimum interaction between the two men.

Religious Songwriting

In the Christian hymn-singing tradition, many of the best-loved pieces have words written to fit existing melodies. The Christmas carol, "What Child Is This", had its words set to an old English folk tune that formerly was a lover's lament, Greensleeves. The English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams famously set existing poems, by men like William Cowper and Charles Wesley, to traditional folk tunes to create hymns, many of which he published in the English Hymnal. A different way in which this happened was the marriage of non-related words and tune, the best-known example being "The Star-Spangled Banner", the national anthem of the United States, with words written by Francis Scott Key strictly as a poem, which was later set to the tune of an old drinking song.

Classical Music

In opera, the librettist is responsible for all text, whether spoken or sung in recitative or aria.

See also

*Custom song

External links

Resources for Lyricists

* [ Songwriting Tips] Songwriting Tips and Tricks from Graham English
* [ Discover a Hobby:] Online guide to learn Songwriting
* [ Music Lyrics] - Reviews, critiques and news.
* [ NashvilleHype!] Hit Songwriter Interviews
* [ The World Wide Songwriters Association] Worldwide organization of songwriters with tips, articles etc. Be Heard. Get Published.

Major Music Publishers

* [ EMI Music Publishing]
* [ Warner Chappell]
* [ Sony ATV Music Publishing]
* [ Universal Music Publishing]

Major Independent Music Publishers

* [ Peer Music Publishing]
* [ Chrysalis Music Publishing]
* [ pigFACTORY Music Publishing]
* [ Bug Music Publishing]
* [ Kobalt Music Group]

Performing Rights Societies in the USA

* [ BMI]
* [ ASCAP]
* [ SESAC]

Mechanical Rights Societies in the USA

* [ AMRA]
* [ Harry Fox Agency]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • lyricist — 1832, one skilled in lyric composition; from LYRIC (Cf. lyric) + IST (Cf. ist). Meaning one who writes lyrics is from 1908 …   Etymology dictionary

  • lyricist — [n] songwriter composer, lyrist, musician, music writer, poet, songsmith, songwriter; concept 352 …   New thesaurus

  • lyricist — ► NOUN ▪ a person who writes the words to popular songs …   English terms dictionary

  • lyricist — [lir′əsist] n. a writer of lyrics, esp. lyrics for popular songs …   English World dictionary

  • lyricist — UK [ˈlɪrɪsɪst] / US noun [countable] Word forms lyricist : singular lyricist plural lyricists someone whose job is to write words for songs …   English dictionary

  • lyricist — [[t]lɪ̱rɪsɪst[/t]] lyricists N COUNT A lyricist is someone who writes the words for modern songs or for musicals …   English dictionary

  • lyricist — noun Date: 1881 a writer of lyrics …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • lyricist — /lir euh sist/, n. 1. a person who writes the lyrics for songs. 2. a lyric poet. [1880 85; LYRIC + IST] * * * …   Universalium

  • lyricist — noun A person who writes the lyrics of a song …   Wiktionary

  • lyricist — (Roget s 3 Superthesaurus) n. songwriter, songsmith, poet, composer …   English dictionary for students