Singer songwriter is a genre of music

Singer / songwriter

The term singer / songwriter (also known as singer-songwriter) was originally narrowly defined: a musician who not only writes his own songs, but also sings and performs them, usually with a guitar. It cannot be clearly proven whether it was created in connection with Bob Dylan. What is certain is that the man from Duluth, Minnesota was regarded as the prototype of the singer / songwriter before his "change" to more rocky sounds in the mid-1960s.

Using Dylan's example, further characteristics can be noted: The seriousness of the topics, which are often based on real events (so-called "topical songs") and hardly disguised personal experiences, a certain distance from the glamor of the pop world and an origin from North America, preferred the USA.

Up until the 1950s, New York's Tin Pan Alley was crowded with the offices of songwriting agencies composing songs on the assembly line. Arrangers often took care of the music, and finally singers recorded the lyrics. In the singer / songwriter, these three aspects are theoretically united.

But it's not that easy. Even before Dylan there was the figure of the fearless denouncer of adverse conditions: Pete Seeger, for example, Leadbelly and above all Woody Guthrie - just not so well-known and successful that you would have needed a separate genre name for them. In addition, very few people shy away from interpreting the songs of others, which, strictly speaking, leaves them out of the category.

The movement reached its first climax with the student protests in the second half of the 1960s and then went into hiding in the first half of the 1970s after the first major female representations, Joni Mitchell and Carole King. Rock and disco are sexier at this point.

But the movement never died out. In Great Britain, Billy Bragg appeared at trade union events in the early 1980s, and Bruce Springsteen's solo work "Nebraska" brought the genre to new attention in 1982. But it is mainly women who have held up the flag of the singer / songwriter since the mid-80s. Above all Tracy Chapman and Suzanne Vega, with Vega rather settling in sophisticated pop realms.

Drawing the line is not easy anyway. Is Paul Simon one of them, even though he is one of the most commercially successful musicians? What about Ani diFranco? She plays the piano and loves indie sounds. Where does Sheryl Crow stand, who climbs to the top of the charts with every new album? How about Dave Matthews or Ben Harper? The material for discussion never runs out, as you can easily see on the Internet.

The drawing of national borders is just as controversial. Although many of the musicians mentioned come from or are based in New York, German songwriters like Reinhard Mey or Franz Josef Degenhardt are related to them in terms of attitude, as are French-speaking chansonniers like George Brassens and Jacques Brel or Italians like Gino Paoli and Fabrizio De Andrè . With their ambitious texts, they all got a lot of attention in their home countries, although they are hardly known abroad.

What is certain is that the character of the singer / songwriter in the strict sense of the word has landed back where it began in the new millennium: in corner pubs and small clubs and only on the big stage at a few festivals. Hard-earned bread. But those who primarily report on the darker side of life are not necessarily interested in great commercial success.