Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Winehouse v Dylan v Raleigh

English students at Cambridge University have been asked to analyse lyrics by singer Amy Winehouse in a final-year exam. They were asked to contrast aspects of Winehouse's "Love is a Losing Game"" with Bob Dylan's Boots Of Spanish Leather", Billie Holiday's "Fine And Mellow" and Sir Walter Raleigh's "As You Came from the Holy Land" in an examination question.

A university spokesman said English students had always been asked to compare writers of different times. He said the question was "interesting, but not news".

I agree. The lyrics of these songs show how language changes over long periods of time, but essentially show that the nature of human emotion and feelings is the same. An excellent way to engage anyone (especially young students ) in the discussion and analysis of language, I think.
When the Primary Music curriculum first introduced the music of the 60's and in particular John Lennon, I was at first a little taken aback. On only slight reflection, I realised that firstly, I was going to enjoy teaching this immensely, and secondly that it correlated with so many other areas that could be studied and discussed - culture, society, influence of musicians and effect on peer pressure, to name but a few.

I am not a fan of Amy Winehouse, but can see a place for analysis of her words (and possible influence of her lifestyle!) in education.

"Though I battled blind
Love is a fate resigned
Memories mar my mind
Love is a fate resigned
Over futile odds
And laughed at by the Gods
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game "

One critic said the song conjured up "images of fag smoke, empty vodka bottles and smudged mascara" and was "perhaps the most heartbreaking thing she's ever recorded". I suggest if we did not know the singer of these words, and had not seen and heard the details of her life, then the words would not come over in that context at all.
Heartbreaking, yes, but fags, vodka and smudged mascara? That critic has a strange imagination.

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