Where do songs really come from? A brief spiritual essay

A young aspiring songwriter that I know was so impressed with Led Zeppelin’s songwriting yet couldn’t figure out how they wrote their songs, so he recently asked me where these songs actually came from. As songwriters, we’ve all asked ourselves these questions: “Do songs come from us through our talents, thoughts, and emotions? Are the songs we write merely based on absorbing and assimilating ideas we’ve heard from others?” Many of us have asked, “Is it possible that songs come from a higher power?” Some of us, including music fans, just consider it to be an unanswered mystery.

First, I want to let all of you know that I am not some Johnny-come-lately who suddenly discovered spirituality. The reason I say this is because I recall a fun night I had at the Metro in Chicago in the late1980’s when Polygram Record’s executive and Chicago area native Billy Cox invited me to go with him to see one of his bands from England who was performing there. At the time, he was trying to get me signed to Smash Records, which used to be a very successful label decades earlier. Polygram had acquired ownership of the label and was resurrecting it and looking for Chicago talent to sign.

At the concert, I remember Billy hysterically joking with me about how big rock stars get bored with being multi-millionaire egomaniacs, suddenly find God, then dress in all white and start stupidly running off their mouths about spirituality which they know nothing or very little about.

Some of you may already know that I have been seriously studying metaphysics and spirituality consistently since I was 16 years old and I’ve been extensively trained by highly enlightened spiritual masters. To many, it was considered a campy joke when I listed credits on my first records for spiritual guidance, psychic assistance, and astrologers, as certainly no one was really doing that in the world of punk, new wave and indie.

However, I was dead serious – and I knew back then that most folks would not associate being a hard core rock n roller, (one who has even raised the eyebrows of those in the rock n roll community) with understating the laws of the universe, being able to talk freely to the spirits of the dead, prophetically seeing the future, karma, past lives, and knowing what happens to people when they die. However, for any of you who really know me, you’re probably aware that I have always defied generic classification and stepped outside of the limits of what an audience would be able to accept – and paid for it dearly, lol.

So as I began explaining the spiritual truth of where songs come from to this young songwriter, I also felt inspired to also share this with all of you as it is something that has been clear to me for decades, and a great source of inspiration.

I want you to first think of eternity and how big you can imagine that to be. Then, think of eternity being created by universal mind: the mind that originated, created and joins all (yes, even those of us who feel disconnected, alienated and angry). Then, think of how big that is, and imagine for a moment just how many songs could fit into that infinite space.

Even for those who are non-spiritual and consider it to be corny, remember that I’m the one who challenged organized religion by writing the first blatantly sacrilegious rock song in history with “Sign of the Cross.” So I differentiate between spirituality and organized religion in that one can exist with or without the other.

Keep in mind that physics proves that everything in this universe is interconnected. Whatever a child is doing in India right now affects what I’m doing in Chicago — in real time. So if you’re having a hard time with the “spiritual” part, think of the provable truth that physics teaches regarding connectedness.

In universal mind, there is a treasure trove of infinite masterpieces that are just waiting to be freely channeled and brought into physical manifestation to entertain, enjoy, offer emotional catharsis, promote connection, provide social commentary, lead, enlighten, heal, and bring about anything else you can imagine! The artist is simply the vehicle to bring this through and should do so with utter humility.

Regardless of one’s spiritual beliefs, writing a song is a transcendent spiritual process, whereby our higher self channels the song directly from universal mind where all ideas originate from by literally plugging into this consciousness and bringing it through themselves and into physical manifestation: therefore, a creation! It’s just like plugging your guitar into an amplifier and Voila! There is sound!

The more the artist “gets out of the way” by surrendering themselves (especially their ego), the purer and more universal the work is. When the artist interferes with the process through worry, doubt, feeling blocked, self criticism, to opening their energy then shutting down, the more their personal stuff pollutes the creation. Let the song lead you on a wondrous journey; not you try to lead the song. To whatever degree your mind and spirit is truly open, the more access you’ll have to this incalculable treasure trove of masterpieces just waiting to be channeled.

Often, different artists who don’t know each other simultaneously “plug into” the same or similar ideas that exist in universal mind. Have you ever noticed how exact or near exact song titles and ideas appear in songs at the same time? I have. This would be where the songs were created independently of each other without either party being able to hear the other’s creations, as these songs weren’t released yet on record.

Or have you ever noticed how certain styles manifest in different parts of the world at the same time independent of each other where artists have not heard each other yet? I experienced it first hand, when I started dreaming of a new revolutionary sound as early as 1973 and started bringing it into style, sound, concepts and songs, which ultimately gave birth to the Chicago punk movement in February 1976. The Ramones were doing it in New York. In England, it was happening with the Sex Pistols and others there. It was also brewing in Los Angeles and many other places throughout the world.

That, of course became punk, new wave, alternative, then indie. Remember, this was way before the internet where information was instantaneous. For example, I didn’t hear the Ramones until their debut album in August 1976, and they didn’t hear me till they saw me perform at CBGB’s in New York in April 1977. Of course, the pace things cross pollinated at then was far slower.

Back then, it wasn’t just that people were fed up with long air, extended guitar solos and that in and of itself changed the musical world forever. These new styles and songs that came into being have always been present in universal mind as linear time doesn’t exist there as it does here on earth. So when it was ready to occur on earth, these new sensibilities were released into the ether for artists to channel and provide to the world as part of the natural evolution, growth and innovation that occurs in the physical plane.

For artists to be a part of this utter magic of songwriting and creation, they need to build and keep their connection with universal mind. It’s of crucial importance to not sever that delicate, precious connection for even a moment by closing your mind and shutting down, engaging in criticism of others or condemning yourself. Celebrate everyone, everything and be grateful for all the ideas you’ve been given as they are free gifts! Whatever criticism you receive should not be internalized, and perhaps more importantly, don’t attach to praise or approval as that greatly weakens you.

Every artist must keep improving their skill sets, fine tuning the process and continuing to grow, as whatever degree one evolves, just gives them a wider access to this infinite treasure trove of great universal masterpieces. These divine gifts are freely given and freely received by us on earth – from the spiritual planes to the radio waves that blast it back into infinity. Each and every song is a gift — a moment of divine transcendence which will then continue to be shared and experienced by all who are touched by its creation.

From universal mind to the songwriters who channel the work to everyone who is touched by these creations, it is an eternal connection that transforms all of us. Think of the first time you heard a song that just blew you away: it could have been the Beatles, Elvis, or a one-hit wonder. I recall a friend of mine, a great blues guitarist and photographer named Keith Boyan who had been afflicted with polio before there was a vaccine. When we first met around 1975, I remember him telling me how he started spinning uncontrollably on the floor the first time he heard Little Richard and couldn’t stop. The power of Little Richard made someone who had polio move – and in that moment he felt healed.

When any of us have been touched by the utter magic of music (which is all of us), it lifts us above and beyond our five mundane, stuck, heavy and weighted down senses into the world far beyond. Just like the eagle that soars high into the heavens above the clouds: music is cathartic, joining, challenging, healing, connecting, freeing, empowering and more. Whether it’s death metal, a sweaty blues riff, a protest song, a gospel hymn or anything else, it is exactly the same as it all comes from the same spiritual source.

That is what songs are all about as they “plug you in” and get you outside of yourself. They take you above to where you’ve never been before to somewhere magical, other-worldy and transcendent: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. You’re entire being gets lit up! Whether it’s Keith Boyan spinning on the floor to the great Little Richard, a teenager in their room pretending to be Mick Jagger, a young girl crying to a love song that touches her deeply, or a stadium of people at a concert unified joyously, songs are the one thing that cross all social, cultural, religious and racial barriers — all divides, and every sense of primitive tribal human prejudice there is. The “song” forever unlocks every single door – and sets us free.

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