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Dave Frishberg & Bob Dorough: Dave’s on First, Bob’s on Deck

Dave Frishberg

A few years ago, I was having dinner with my old friend Dave Frishberg. He was pleased to learn that I find writing lyrics very hard: “Waltz for Debby” took me a year. I told him that Johnny Mercer took a year to complete “Skylark.” That equally pleased Dave because, he said, he finds the process excruciatingly painful. This not only pleased me-misery loves company-but surprised me, because Dave’s lyrics have a felicitous-seeming ease. They appear to flow from him without effort-brilliant, witty and technically flawless.

In an age when slovenly practice is being taught in lyric-writing classes at such institutions as the Berklee College of Music, Frishberg’s lyrics are little wonders of perfect craft. The rhymes are all true, and more than true, completely unexpected. The trick in writing lyrics is not to lower the standards and accept what nowadays are quaintly called “slant rhymes” or “near rhymes” but to use timeworn rhymes with complete freshness. Dave does this, always; and yet the rhymes always seem like serendipitous discoveries, not the product of painstaking and patient work.

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