It is widely understood that Morrissey’s lyrics helped a lot of us fey sensitive boys survive high school.

Morrissey’s heady sense of camp, angst, and longing made most of us feel that we were not the only witty faggy boys in the world pining for that one unattainable straight friend.

(Meeting Morrissey at a record store  signing a dear friend of mine told him,  “Oh Morrissey! You helped me survive my adolescence!”

Morrissey looked at my friend and tartly replied,   “Are you sure you survived it?”)

So yes, Morrissey’s  lyrics are good, but are they poetry?

Dr. Gavin Hopps, a lecturer at St Andrews University, makes the case in his book,  Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart,  that Morrissey is a wordsmith on par with the likes of  Philip Larkin, Lord Bryon, Mary Shelly, and George Eliot.

Hopps calls Morrissey ” the greatest lyricist in the history of British popular music.”

Of course not everyone agrees with Dr. Hopp’s assessment.  Writer Michael Deacon offers a dissenting opinion in The Telegraph UK stating:

Morrissey isn’t a poet. He doesn’t write poetry; he writes song lyrics. The two are not as different as chalk and cheese, but they are at least as different as Brie and Dairylea.

Poetry is written to fit metre, song lyrics to fit melody. This is why poems look good on paper, and song lyrics almost invariably do not.

One of my favourite Morrissey songs is called Speedway. It features this refrain: “All of the rumours keeping me grounded/ I never said, I never said that they were completely unfounded.”

Why does he repeat “I never said” in that clunking way? Why is the couplet so lopsided, the second line much longer than the first, and with no discernible pattern to the stresses? Because the song’s vocal melody demands it. When he sings the couplet, it flows beautifully. But on paper, it’s stone-deaf doggerel.  Even a poet who writes free verse, the stuff that ignores traditional verse forms, has to keep his ear open for his lines’ rhythms.  A singer doesn’t; he just has to follow the tune.

Poor Morrisssey.  It seems even at age 50  he can’t take that triumph victory lap with out someone throwing an egg at his face.   But I have feeling, that deep down in his depressive little  heart,  he would not have it any other way.

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