“The label “singer-songwriter” (or “song-writer/singer”) is used by record labels and critics to define popular-music artists who write and perform their own material, which is often self-accompanied – generally on acoustic guitar or piano. Such an artist performs the roles of composer, lyricist, vocalist, sometimes instrumentalist, and often self-manager.”
In other words, “Singer-Songwriter” is one of those labels people use when their brains freeze and they can’t come up with anything else.
Paul McCartney is a singer and a songwriter, but he’s not considered a singer-songwriter. Same with Neil Young, Billy Joel, Richard Thompson and a host of others. Phil Ochs didn’t make the cut because he recorded a few traditional songs he didn’t write, but Bob Dylan (who also recorded a few traditional folk and blues tunes) did earn that appellation.
I’m going to use Joni Mitchell as a prototype of the singer-songwriter and expand the definition to include “who are not associated with a band and whose music does not fit into a specific musical genre.” Ergo, Phil Ochs, Billy Joel and the solo work of both Richard Thompson and Neil Young make the grade.
It really comes down to this: if I say someone is a singer-songwriter, goddammit, they’re a singer-songwriter!
Richard Thompson and Phil Ochs have their own pages and spots on the menu bar; here are the other singer-songwriters I’ve covered:
- Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
- Ani DiFranco, Out of Range
- Ani DiFranco, Not a Pretty Girl
- Anya Marina, Felony Flats
- Billy Joel, The Stranger
- Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
- Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home
- Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
- Bob Seger – Ultimate Hits – Rock and Roll Never Forgets
- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes
- Joni Mitchell, Clouds
- Joni Mitchell, Hejira
- Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns
- Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
- Neil Young, After the Gold Rush
- Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
- Nick Drake, Way to Blue (Part 1)
- Nick Drake, Way to Blue (Part 2)
- Paul Simon, Graceland
- Tanita Tikaram, Ancient Heart