Fire is one the natural elements along with earth, air, and water. Though we crave to control it and box it up in stoves and fireplaces (like the ones reviewed at finestfires.com), fire is naturally wild. No doubt this is why there are so many songs about it. It’s a great topic for music with all its metaphorical references about love and romance, not to mention nostalgic memories of times past (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”). Ditties like “Great Ball of Fire” evoke the old days of rock and the hot emotions it produced.
I personally like “Light My Fire” by Jose Feliciano. Nothing better about the sensual subject than that. Okay, the Doors also did a good job with less vocal intensity on their debut album. The word “fire” is hard to sing and rhyme. There is “pyre” and “dire.” Not great topics. If you delve deep, however, you will find gems like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the Cult’s “Fire Woman,” and Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire.” Some might remember Bob Seger’s “The Fire Down Below” or the Rolling Stones “Play with Fire.”
Need I say more? This turns out to be a common topic! A classic has to be Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” while “Fire and Rain” by James Tailor is a sentimental favorite. These two are real standouts. They make you want to get in front of the fireplace and bask in the warmth and brilliance of the flames evoked by the lyrics. Fire can denote many things other than its literal presence. James Tailor was describing his experience in a mental institution after battling depression and the suicide of a friend. You feel it in your gut. “I’m on fire” has a different twist as Springsteen embraces mental consumption. Abstract or not, this element can express an array of sentiments from hope to devastation.
A songwriter would do well to sit in front of a fireplace now and then for inspiration. We don’t often see, touch, and feel it to any extent. Perhaps an allusive flame from a match or a gas stove at best. Some people have it down there internally and can draw it out at will. Fire will fuel creativity, ambition, and success. It will also destroy when at its extreme.
With all this baggage behind it, fire is a staple of music with references galore. Think about its connotations:
- Raw energy
- Burning love
- Power of the sun
Think about phrases like “a moth drawn to a flame” or “if you play with fire, you get burned.” Incendiary themes are evocative, mystical, thrilling, and terrifying. There is often a double-edged sword involving mental and physical repercussions. I was trying to set down some ideas for a song to go along with this blog using phrases like “hold your feet to the fire,” “fire in your belly,” or “fight fire with fire.” Those like “keep the home fires burning,” “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and “set the world on fire” are well-known clichés. The trick is to use them in novel ways or invent some new ones. I leave it to you to find out how. If music history is any indication, you may come up with a new hit.