Steven A. Jent

  Composer and Songwriter









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I began writing music when I was a teenager in a garage band. For years I just wrote songs by ear. All that time I had more elaborate music in my head, but lacked the technical grounding I needed to capture it in a form that would allow anyone but me to hear it.


When personal computers and MIDI arrived in the 1980s, I could compose in “classical” music forms, but I was still working from instinct and trial-and-error. The results sounded good to me at the time, but today when I listen to the MIDI files I created then, I can only shudder. Still, some of the musical themes I recorded have been worth salvaging for later works.


Finally, after I ended my career at IBM, I had time for formal instruction in composition. Now I theoretically know what I’m doing as a composer. Of course, music is a field that one need never finish exploring, and there is always more to learn. But I believe I can avoid the blunders I committed when I started composing on a Commodore 64 in 1983. Listen and judge for yourself.


All the instrumental works are recorded through Finale: notation software that gives me the sound of virtually any instrument, from simple piano to a symphony orchestra, and astonishingly lifelike. I play piano and guitar a little, but nothing like the level I would need to produce what I have here.



If you like what you hear, I can compose custom music for any special occasion.



I’ve made videos of some of my songs. You can watch them on my YouTube channel.



You can skip the instrumental works and go straight to the songs if you like. They appear in chronological order, so my latest song is always at the end of the list.



Here is a cheerful bit of swing that I wrote for one of our musical get-togethers. I have several friends who periodically gather in my living room to play whatever sheet music somebody brings, be it a baroque sonata or a contemporary piece with unorthodox harmonies. Each participant contributes an appetizer and a bottle of wine. Thus these occasions have come to be known as “Music and Munchies” or “Sounds and Snacks”. I don't generally perform because these people are far more proficient than I am. My entrée into the group is that I always compose something new for them to play, and I am happy to be the host .


Swing City


Flute, alto flute, clarinet, and cello

This is a vaguely rag-like bit of swing music. In general the instrumental works here are produced entirely by computer. But the guitar here is actually me playing a big red jazz hollow-body (that I built from a kit, in fact). The music has nothing to do with the Waldorf Hotel. I’m slowing compiling a list of tangos, rags, and waltzes from A to Z, and W was yet unaccounted for.


Waldorf Shuffle


Flute, guitar, and cello

It is a truth universally acknowledged that great music starts out fast, slows down in the middle, and speeds up again at the end. This piece does just the opposite. The trio Suitte Royale performed it at a concert in January, 2017 on baroque instruments.


An eclogue is music with a pastoral tone, quiet and contemplative, though this one has a boisterous, playful interlude.



Eclogue (live performance)


Clarinet, cello, and piano

Recorder, viola da gamba, and harpsichord

I began this melancholy piece years ago and finally completed it in July of 2016. I originally conceived it for glass harmonica or musical glasses. Its first performance, however, was at the hands of a small wind ensemble, as is the case for so much of my music.



Musical glasses



Alto recorder and tenor recorder

Sometimes when I listen to unfamiliar music I’ll hear a phrase and think I know what’s coming next, and then I’m surprised when the composer does something different. Sometimes this prompts me to base a composition of my own on what I was expecting to hear but didn’t. The first theme for this cheerful piece of swing was suggested by the brief ditty that plays when you complete a crossword puzzle on the New York Times website. It’s arranged for a small ensemble because three friends were available to play it that way. But I think it would work better with a big band.


Times After Times


Flute, tenor recorder, and bass clarinet

Four friends here in Denton used to perform as an a capella quartet they called Noted Vocals. They asked me to arrange some Christmas carols for them, and here are the results.


Good Christian Men, Rejoice

Once In Royal David’s City

Il est né, le divin Enfant

Riu Riu Chiu


As the title suggests, this is a light, whimsical bit of fun.




Flute, tenor recorder, and bass clarinet

There is nothing more romantic and charming than a waltz.


Oktoberfest Waltz


Flute, alto flute, and cello

The title explains the subject of this meditative piece.




Flute, alto flute, oboe, and cello

This short work for violin and piano was my submission in Hilary Hahn’s competition for encore pieces in 2012. It didn’t win, but I’m still pleased with it. It’s a stylistic stretch for me, which is not a bad thing.


The title is a portmanteau of indecent and descent. It suggests a descent into madness combined with, or triggered by, outrage at any of the indecent things that go on in the world.




This duet for flute and alto flute is just a light bit of froth with, I hope, some charm.


Flute Duet


This sonata for flute and cello has an Enlightenment feel, but doesn’t imitate any particular composer.







I suppose this is my least serious composition. It’s my notion of what would happen if you crossed a bunch of extremely familiar classical music with the twelve-bar blues. It’s scored for wind quintet.


So, how many of the 35 different works can you identify?


Twelve-Bar Classics


A romance is a composition that expresses especially heartfelt or tender emotions.


Romance in C Minor

Viola and cello


George D’Ascenzo, a cellist friend, mentors some beginning cello students and suggested I write something for a cello ensemble. This was to be the middle movement of a larger work, but it turned out I had made it both too simple (rhythmically) and too complicated (harmonically) for George’s group. So for now it’s just a standalone piece.



Cello quartet


My friend Debbie was married in November of 2010. She said she didn’t want to hear the same old Mendelssohn and Wagner at her wedding, and graciously invited me to write some organ music for the occasion. This “Wedding Suite” is unified by two melodic fragments that appear, with variations, in each movement.






Like several other pieces here, these two are written for my friends and local musicians George D’Ascenzo and Christie Wood, talented performers on the cello and flute respectively. “Pastorale” uses alternative modes, including Dorian and Phrygian.





A local church has a thoughtful tradition of pausing during a Sunday service in Autumn to commemorate their fellows who have passed on during the year, while a few musicians in the congregation play some suitable music. They offered to let me write something for the occasion, solemn but not too mournful, and this is the result. It was first performed on November 1, 2009.


In Memoriam

Flute, alto flute, clarinet, cello, and contrabass



I love the sound of a wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn). Warm, friendly music seems to be its natural element. A melodic contour of mi-do-re-mi is threaded throughout the four movements of this piece, set to many different rhythms and harmonies. How many do you hear? The Argyle Wind Quintet performed it in a concert of works by regional composers on May 17, 2010 in Denton.


1. Andante


2. Adagio


3. Scherzo


4. Allegro



Local violist Ken Gilleland asked me to write a viola concerto for him to premiere. We both like the result; now we’re looking for an orchestra to add it to a program.


1. Allegro


2. Adagio


3. Perpetuum Mobile



This overture in A minor is the first piece I wrote for orchestra. It premiered at the Rockwall Music Festival in 2004.





These are two fragments that sound to me like the themes for dramatic films. I eventually wrote lyrics for the second one.


Majestic theme


Celtic lament




This tune for winds also sounds like theme music, but for a slick caper movie or a detective story à la Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.


Main Street Mosey




I wrote this waltz for the father–daughter dance at my daughter’s wedding in April 2008.


Cristin’s Waltz



I am a big fan of rags, not just Scott Joplin but James Scott and Joseph Lamb. I also enjoy writing my own. Two of these were performed at a concert in Seattle on July 19, 2009.


Culpeper Rag


Rondo Stomp




Solitary Rag


Rollercoaster Rag


King George Rag




Tangos are fun, too.


Tango Lindo

Flute and cello


Tango Elegante

Flute, oboe, clarinet, and cello


Tango Corazón

Flute, oboe, clarinet, and cello


Tango Bonito

Two flutes, alto flute, and bass flute


Tango Doloroso

Flute, alto flute, and cello


Tango Ardoroso

Three cellos and double bass


Tango Malvado

Flute, alto flute, and cello


Tango de la Plata

Flute, alto flute, and cello


Tango Feliz

Flute, tenor recorder, and bass clarinet


Tango Taimado

Flute, clarinet, and cello


Tango Uberrimo

Flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet


Tango Vibrante

Flute and cello


Tango Glitterato

Flute and cello



Some college out there needs to adopt this sentimental tune. It would also work as a hymn or, with more lyrical instrumentation, as an Irish ballad.


Alma Mater



This is a folky-sounding little thing for a celtic harp (no pedals).


Harp Rondo




This moody number is about missing someone.


Nocturne for Nancy




This is the only expressly imitative piece here. Tombeau is an old name for music written as a memorial to someone. Here I pay my respects to Domenico Scarlatti, one of my favorite composers, with a sonata in his own typical binary form, which I like to imagine he would have enjoyed.


Tombeau de Scarlatti




As I said, I don’t write much in the idiom of the 20th or 21st centuries. This is a perverse attempt to make a piece based on a 12-tone row sound almost tonal. Even at that, it has an unsettled, neurotic feeling to it.


Duet for Flute and Vibraphone



This is a hoppin’ little instrumental that I wrote for no particular reason.


Rock One




Finally, here are some songs. The first thirteen date from the 1970s. In 1975 I bought a Dokorder 7140 reel-to-reel tape deck that allowed me to overdub four tracks. With the rotten job I had then, it cost a month’s pay. As I said before, I was in a band with some friends, and I wanted to record my original material, because I believed in it. My only instruments were a Gibson SG electric guitar and a Yamaha FG-75 acoustic. So I could record a guitar backing and vocals—that was it. I didn’t have a bass or drums, and keep in mind that this was ten years before MIDI.


Fast forward to the present. Now a PC with the right software makes a decent recording studio. I’ve copied my primitive old tapes to WAV files on my hard drive, and I’ve used Finale to add drums, bass, and other instruments, including an orchestra. Sadly there’s nothing I can do now about the balance or noise levels in the original recordings, which I made in a basement efficiency apartment. There’s also no way to fix my voice, about which I have no illusions. Try to imagine these sung by someone who can do them justice.



Conestoga Sunrise

Many of my songs are about the search for purpose and continuity in human experience, though I do my best to keep them from being as dry and pretentious as that may sound. This one is set in, of all places, a wagon train at dawn. Lyrics


Can It Be So Surprising?

I wrote this for my niece when she was a year old. Now she has three teenage sons. Lyrics


I Cut Out My Baby’s Heart

The ultimate country-western ballad about adultery, murder, and prison was written with a bunch of guys in a dorm room. Lyrics


The Scarlet Pimpernel

One writes songs about hopeless love when one is in one’s twenties. Lyrics



You could call this an anthem of sorts for once young, once idealistic boomers. Lyrics


The Children Who Don’t Speak

I was compelled to write this after seeing a news story about an autistic boy. Lyrics


She’ll Come Upon You

One writes songs about hopeless love when one is in one’s twenties. Lyrics


Madame Soleil

The remarkable Jeanne Jackson, wherever she may be, no doubt still beams sunshine on anyone near her. This is the first song I ever wrote. Lyrics


There Will Be Times

Sometimes, when things are going badly, you need to write a song about holding on anyway. Lyrics


If I Knew You

One writes songs about hopeless love when one is in one’s twenties, but sometimes they find a way to accept something short of love. Lyrics


The Voices From Before

I used to have an aunt who genuinely believed she was a witch—a good witch. Lyrics



One writes lots of songs about hopeless love when one is in one’s twenties. Lyrics



Strangely enough, this song was prompted by browsing a family photo album, not by a tour of France. Lyrics


During my IBM years I didn’t write much at all. The rest of the songs in this list date from the late 1990s and after. At first I had to let MIDI supply all the instruments except the acoustic guitar (my old Yamaha), having sold the SG long before. So some parts, especially electric guitar, don’t sound very lifelike. At last in 2015 I bought an Epiphone ES-339, a Fender Champion 20, and a Yamaha FG730S. Since then I’ve added several other guitars, electric and acoustic. The songs I’ve recorded with these new instruments, beginning with “That’s When You Know You’ve Got the Blues Again", sound dramatically better. My voice isn’t much better, but everything else works at a whole new level.


Come Back to the King

It’s not about Elvis. I wrote this for a friend of mine to show him that I could understand his faith although I didn’t share it. Lyrics


One for the Road

I saw yet another MADD cross by the roadside and wondered what the story behind it might be. Lyrics


Something Good

This is a song about hope. The range is way beyond me, but my friend Christie Wood has been kind enough to fill in the vocals. Thank you, Christie. Lyrics


A Little Romance

This song is for those of you who enjoy Cole Porter, Noel Coward, and the like. This charming performance is by the a capella quartet Noted Vocals. Lyrics



Rich Sons of Bitches

This is my reaction to the recent financial shenanigans. Judging by the response of everyone who has heard this song, I think a lot of people feel the way I do. There is one very strong word in this song, but I think it’s the right word where I used it. Lyrics



That’s When You Know You’ve Got the Blues Again

There is no end to the variations one can make with the twelve-bar blues form. I’ve been tinkering with this one since the 1970s. I added lyrics and recorded it after I finally bought another electric guitar in 2015, having been without one since 1982. Maybe a middle-class child of the suburbs has no business singing the blues, but that’s the way it came out. Lyrics



Only Love

This moody piece is my first venture into slide guitar. For now I’m just playing chords in an open tuning, but I do love that melancholy sound, so there is probably more to come. Lyrics



The Beachéd Margent of the Sea

This song is about walking on the shore at night, losing yourself in the soothing sounds of the surf and the infinite beauty of the stars, and forgetting about all those things that don’t matter. Lyrics



Who Can You Call When You’ve Got the Blues?

The lyrics are a little whimsical, but to me this sounds like the sort of music you’d hear in a noisy, somewhat seedy, but authentic roadhouse where people hang out just to sip longnecks and listen to the blues. Lyrics



No Moon In June

In the summer of 1969 I went to my first real rock ’n’ roll concert, a double bill of Pacific Gas & Electric and Chicago Transit Authority. The program included an interview with PG&E’s guitarist, who described their music as “no moon in June, just real blues”. I can’t say why that phrase has been lodged in my head for nearly 50 years now, but it recently resurfaced as the inspiration for this tune. Ironically the musical style evokes the golden age of corny lyrics, the 1920s and ’30s, with a little flavor of the Hot Club as well. It isn’t difficult to imagine Rudy Vallee singing this through a megaphone, maybe accompanied by a ukulele. Lyrics


Long Stretch of Road

I considered letting this song tell the story of a derelict veteran. But I decided it was pointless to compete with John Prine’s “Sam Stone”. So this is about a less specific homeless man. It doesn’t matter how his world disintegrated around him and he wound up begging by day and sleeping beneath an overpass. So many disparate paths lead there. Which of us can remember a precarious moment that, had the balance tilted just slightly, could have taken our lives in a different, less fortunate direction? Lyrics




Below Zero

Two things I should point out about this song. First, it may initially seem misogynistic. But I made sure that every “she” and “her” could be replaced with “he” and “his”, so a female performer can just as easily sing it about a heartless man. Second, it isn’t autobiographical in any way; I’ve never felt like this about anyone. The key phrase just naturally took the lyrics in that direction. Lyrics


Middle of Nowhere

I almost never collaborate with someone in writing a song. But when John Niebuhr read these lyrics at a meeting of the Denton Songwriters Guild, I immediately thought I could give them the right musical setting. We’re both happy with the result. Lyrics


Hallelujah Anyway

Here’s a cheerful little song about greedy, predatory, hypocritical televangelists. Dedicated to Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, and too many more to list here. Lyrics


I’ve Got The Twelve-Bar Blues

This song may not mean much to you if you’re unfamiliar with Denton, Texas. It will make more sense when you know that Giuseppe’s, the Abbey, the Loco Cafe, Lone Star Attitude (LSA for short), Audacity, Wine Squared, Fuzzy’s, Hooligans, the Garage, Dusty’s, the Boardwalk, and Dan’s Silverleaf are all watering holes on and around the Denton town square. This song, built on the venerable twelve-bar blues form with a brief detour through the eight-bar blues, is thus an extended pun on “twelve bars”. Lyrics


The Saddest Man In The World

Singer and songwriter Nick Drake died in 1974 at the age of only 26. He overdosed on antidepressants, and it has never been clear whether this was accidental or deliberate. In his life his three LPs were respected by critics, but they were commercial failures largely because Drake was indifferent to the promotional side of a musician’s life. Today his most widely recognized song is “Pink Moon”, a brief, enigmatic track that some interpret as a foreshadowing of his suicide. (You may have seen the classic Volkswagen commercial that played it as the background to a romantic moonlit ride in a convertible.) My song is a meditation on the last days of Drake’s life, the recognition that was tragically denied to him then, and today’s acknowledgment as one of the influential songwriters of his time. Lyrics


You Can Get Used To It

A solemn reflection on the human condition and what’s Important in Life. Lyrics


Just Like This Life

Just Like This Life (cello)

This song, though it has a perky beat, starts out pretty pessimistic about the disappointments that life can be full of. But it ends with a positive thought. If there’s anything clever about it, that would be exploiting the fact that the word like can be a verb or a preposition. This is also my first foray into playing a dobro, on a very rudimentary level. You can also listen to an alternative version with my friend George D’Ascenzo on cello. Lyrics


Ragged Edge Road

Not far from my mother’s house near Chambersburg, PA, there’s a country lane called Ragged Edge Road. The first time I saw a sign for Ragged Edge Road I knew it had to be the title of a song. It sounded like a natural metaphor for desperately hoping for one last chance to change one’s life and make up for past mistakes. Lyrics


All Together Once Again

In the Spring of 2016 I was driving home from a visit to my elderly mother. Her condition kept me thinking about aging and about how we inevitably lose the people we care most about, whether family or friends. I found myself writing the music for this little hymn in my head. It’s clearly in the 19th-century tradition, and there’s even an echo of “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms”. I chose a sound patch that resembles a pump organ to suggest a plain country church as the setting. The words I eventually set to it are deliberately sentimental in keeping with the music. It’s a song of consolation, to say that all the people we loved and now miss aren’t lost forever, and someday we’ll be with them again, and what a happy reunion that will be. It’s an affecting thought whether one believes it or not. Lyrics


This Train

The use of trains as metaphors for all sorts of things goes about as far back as Stephenson’s Rocket. In that tradition, the train in this song symbolizes life, with its opportunities taken or missed. It’s part Bo Diddley, part George Thorogood, part Woody Guthrie, and part carpe diem. Lyrics



The first line of this song is literally true. A few days before Christmas of 2017 I was driving from Texas to Pennsylvania to begin a holiday visit with family and friends. At a rest area on Interstate 40, 20 miles west of Nashville, I discovered that my car was burning oil at such a prodigious rate that I couldn’t be sure of reaching the next town in time to add more. I had to call for a tow to Dickson. There, with luck and help from the good people at the local Goodyear shop, I was able to find a rental and continue my trip. I never saw that car again; I left it there to be donated to the Nashville Public TV station. (They sold it at auction for $200.) Naturally, when your car breaks down near Nashville, you are obligated by the Songwriter’s Code to write a country song about it. (If it had happened in Memphis I would have had to write a blues song instead.) Lyrics


We Were Here First!

The Middle East is always in the news, and one day it put the phrase “We were here first” in my head. Each ethnic or religious group claims that it’s historically their home because they lived there before the others. Sorting that out is complicated enough, but when you really examine the history of that part of the world you find it’s been the territory of Romans, Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians… Well, you get the idea. I decided that a song about all the tenuous claims to precedence in the region would sound too academic. So I’ve applied this idea to North America. Here it isn’t hard to find millions of people who are offended at the presence of some other people if not all other people. This ironic song tells how each set of newcomers has been greeted with hostility and distrust based on bigotry and stereotypes. At the end it fancifully depicts the resentment of the creatures, some now extinct thanks to us, that really were here first long, long before any people. Lyrics


Bone Dry

I mentioned above that I virtually never deliberately imitate another composer. The same applies to my songs. I’ve never set out to write a Gordon Lightfoot song, or a David Crosby song, or a John Prine song. But once in a while when I finish a song it will occur to me that it reminds me of the style of another songwriter. Sometimes it also makes me wish I could hear that person performing it. Anyway, this turned out sounding like something Chris Isaak might have written. At least I think that if you heard him singing it you wouldn’t scratch your head and wonder where that one came from. Lyrics


You Ain’t Never Had The Blues

Mark Twain once told a friend that to write about the injustices that filled him with rage he would need “a pen warmed up in hell”. I don’t have one of those; this is the best I can do. If I were a black American I don’t know that I could contain my fury at the wrongs that continue a century after the Civil War was supposed to have done away with them. I’ve said above that it’s probably presumptuous for someone like me, “a middle-class child of the suburbs”, to write a blues song. That must be even more true of a song like this, which describes firsthand the intolerance that I can never experience. But if it might make someone else re-evaluate their own views of race and privilege, then I’m glad I’ve put it out here. Lyrics


I Hate Goodbyes

A little somber, I know. But an intervention is not called for; I don’t go around feeling this lost and dejected. It’s just a song. Lyrics


Handmade in Heaven

As a rule I don’t write cornball lyrics like these. But I have it on the authority of Sir Paul McCartney himself that there’s nothing wrong with silly love songs. Lyrics


I’ll Be OK Til I’m Not

This song is about someone who has decided that the responsibilities of life are too much trouble and never work out anyway. So now he has devoted himself to enjoying a slow, carefree, decadent decline. Lyrics


If Only

Time is the one commodity no one can buy. When it’s gone it’s gone. This wistful song is about finally running out of time. Some people call it sad, others hear it as a reminder to make the most of the time we have. Lyrics


Life Hurts

Sometimes it’s as if Life is composed of all the things that shouldn’t happen. This song is about those moments. The jaunty, swinging, danceable music is meant to create an ironic contrast with the cynical lyrics. Lyrics


Don’t You Know?

At first this song was going to be about the drought that we endured here in North Texas during the Summer of 2018. Then it evolved into a jeremiad about global warming. In the end it turned positively apocalyptic. It needs a rougher voice than mine, like maybe Barry (“Eve of Destruction”) McGuire. Lyrics


If I Knew You Then

This is something of an anomaly: a love song in which the L-word never appears. I’ve been told that it sounds like something Peter, Paul, & Mary might have sung. I can live with that,I guess. Lyrics


Empty Glass

This is another song about hope. This person’s life has never been what they dreamed it could be, but they’re still holding on and trying to make it better. Lyrics


She Walks Alone

Anyone who remembers the old ballad “Long Black Veil” will immediately know that this song is derived from that one. Here the person who tells the story is the husband of the woman whose lover let himself be hanged, though he was innocent of the crime, rather than reveal his affair with the wife of his best friend. Lyrics


There’s a Lot That You Don’t Know

Yet another variation on the 12-bar blues. This song is about a type of person, not someone specific. But you may be able to think of a VIP (vain imbecilic president) who matches this description pretty closely. Lyrics



To me this blue-collar ballad sounds like something The Boss might have written. It was prompted by memories of the five years I lived in northeastern Pennsylvania. I recall seeing a lot of windows downtown closed up with plywood. I also remember how skewed the age demographics were because so many young people left as soon as they could. I haven’t been there in decades, but I hope they’re doing better these days. Lyrics



Like “No Moon In June”, this is a corny little song that sounds like something you might have heard in an old music hall or on vaudeville. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. Then I remember antibiotics, anesthesia, the Beatles, the Internet, and countless other benefits of my own time, and I don’t feel that way after all. Lyrics


I’m Going To Memphis (’Cause Your Love Gives Me The Blues)

In the Summer of 2018 I was once again driving west across Tennessee back to Denton. Memphis is a significant milestone because that’s where I cross the Mississippi, and that means there’s just one more state between me and Texas. As I was approaching Memphis on Interstate 40 the mile markers were counting down and I was thinking “30 miles to Memphis”, “20 miles to Memphis”… It started to sound like the title of a song, complete with alliteration: “__ Miles To Memphis”. But why am I going to Memphis? Well, it’s a, if not the, home of the blues. So the blues should have something to do with it. And what’s a more common source of the blues than love troubles? Ultimately I dropped the counting-the-miles element, and here we are. As I did with “Below Zero”, I’ve deliberately kept the lyrics gender-neutral, so a woman can sing this song about her faithless man. Lyrics


Mountain Man

A fellow member of the Denton Songwriter’s Guild has a remarkable gift for writing songs that sound like they’ve been sung in the Appalachian backwoods for a century or two. If she didn’t reveal that she’s singing an original, you would take it for granted that it’s an old, traditional ballad that an ethnomusicologist captured on a wire recorder in the 1920s. Listening to her made me want to try to write something similar. But I was sure the only proper instrument to accompany it would be a mandolin, though that may be simply because that’s what she plays. It had been a while since I had built an instrument, so that was all the excuse I needed to buy a DIY mandolin kit. Lyrics


Time Gets Away From Us

The theme of this song is carpe diem. The lyrics may be somewhat somber, but I do particularly like the music. It turns out that with the right harmonic backing a simple descending scale can be an effective melody. You music theorists out there raise your hands when you hear the deceptive cadence. Lyrics


Good To See You Again

This song is only vaguely autobiographical. It’s inspired by memories of someone I knew in college, but our relationship never approached this sort of poetic ideal. Nevertheless, Lyn, it would be good to see you again. Lyrics


I Belong To The Blues

Maybe the title sounds depressing, and maybe the lyrics are about someone who just can’t seem to get a break in life. But this song has an irrepressible eight-to-the-bar rockabilly beat, so I’m hoping it’s such a toe-tapper that it won’t put anyone in a blue mood. Lyrics


No Means No

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The Denton office of Friends of the Family invited local songwriters to share a song on that theme at an open mic night in April 2019. This is my contribution. It isn’t exactly about an assault. It’s about what could be the precursor to one—a guy who doesn’t understand how to take no for an answer. Of course this sort of aggression can occur between any two sexes. But a male pressuring a female is surely the most common case, so that’s the story I tell here. And of course it needs to be sung by a woman. Lyrics


The Robots Are Coming

This is just a bit of frivolity. But it was fun playing with a theremin that I built from a very basic kit. (The theremin break in the middle is of course inspired by “2000 Light Years from Home” from the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request.) This song aims to evoke the late 1950s and early 1960s, the golden age of cheezy movies that combined two genres: science fiction and beach parties. So many alien invaders landed on the southern California coast. It’s strange, isn’t it? Lyrics



Quakertown used to be a prosperous, largely self-reliant black neighborhood of Denton, Texas. It lay three blocks northeast of the town square and bordered the campus of the College of Industrial Arts (today Texas Woman’s University), then open only to young white women. In the early 1920s the city government wanted to establish its first public park and selected Quakertown for the site. Abundant evidence shows that this choice also served a secondary purpose: many influential white townspeople didn’t want so many black people living near the city center or the girls’ school. Though 40% of the white-only votes cast were against it, the referendum to vacate Quakertown passed. The residents were legally coerced to sell their homes and move to a remote, undesirable part of town, which still lacked utilities. Some of their homes were moved with them, the rest were demolished. This song conflates two historical Quakertown figures—William Hill and Henry Taylor. Hill sued the city to stop the forcible relocation of himself and his neighbors, but he abandoned the suit to spare his family threats of violence from the KKK. Taylor was noted for the distinctive white lilacs in his yard; he did successfully transplant them to his new home. This song tells the story from the viewpoint of one of the 40%. Lyrics


Just A Simple Song

My older sister Linda surprised me by showing me the lyrics and the melody of an original song she’d just written, something new for her. It’s a pretty good first effort, with a catchy tune that uses a melodic sequence to good effect. So I’ve worked out a chord progression that sounds right. The big red jazz guitar that I built from a kit, along with a standup bass and brushes on a drum kit, give it a suitably smooth, mellow feel. Lyrics


Always You

There’s always a place for another sad love song. Lyrics


Whiskey And Woe

Honestly this is nothing more than a predictable song about the perils of abusing strong spirits. What I really do like about it is the gritty, grinding sound that is coming from a bargain ES-175-style kit guitar. It’s pretty amazing that this is the same instrument that plays those mellow chords in “Just A Simple Song”. This song’s got a good beat, and the kids seem to like to dance to it. I give it a 75. Lyrics


Happy Birthday, Jesus

This is my first holiday song. For many years I’ve told myself I was going to write a song or a poem about the paradox of Christmas in a ghetto, or more generally about the promises made in the Gospels but never fulfilled. Understandably this has always been most on my mind in December. I’ve finally fulfilled my promise anyway. Lyrics


There’s Nothing Else I’d Rather Do

Another of my retro—very retro—songs, with highly sentimental lyrics in keeping with the period form. I don’t know about you, but I can picture Fred and Ginger gliding across an RKO soundstage while this plays in the background. One other note, as it were, about the music; the harmony in this tune is completely chromatic, in that it includes all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. Lyrics


Tear It Down

I’m one of the many, many people in this country and abroad who find the political and cultural atmosphere in the United States of 2020 disgusting, disturbing, and disheartening. This song is intended to explain why and to describe the hopeless fury it too often makes me feel. Lyrics


The Mighty Eighth

During the Second World War my father flew 35 missions over Europe in a B-17 Flying Fortress, America’s first four-engine long-range bomber and one of the iconic aircraft of its time. This could have been his story, but if it were I wouldn’t be here to tell it. I’ve borrowed the music from “Two Soldiers”, a melancholy ballad that dates from the Civil War. It tells of two Union cavalrymen who are about to make what they know is a hopeless charge. They agree that whichever of them survives will write to the other’s loved ones. But they’re both killed, and their families will never know what became of them. The final verse of my song echoes this theme from the original. Lyrics


Didn’t You Know That About Me?

I suppose this is one of my more cynical songs. The lyrics may remind you of Gordon Lightfoot’s old tune “[That’s What You Get] For Lovin’ Me”. But I would say the protagonist isn’t as heartless as he (or she—as before, I’ve deliberately made this song androgynous) is helpless. This is someone who doesn’t know how to put down roots and doesn’t trust the impulse to do so. But unlike Lightfoot’s character he isn’t determined to leave a trail of all the broken hearts he can. Lyrics


Back To Work

I wouldn’t ordinarily hope that a song of mine will soon become irrelevant. But someday I will be happy knowing that the situation this song describes is only an unpleasant memory. It expresses my low opinion of a notion popular in some circles: If prematurely ending the COVID-19 quarantine in order to recharge the U.S. economy would cost many thousands of additional lives, well, it would be worth it, and real Americans wouldn’t hesitate to accept that risk, especially since the most likely victims are elderly or minorities and wouldn’t be missed. Lyrics


It Seems So Long Ago

Ordinarily I compose the music for a song first; that suggests a subject or theme; and then I write the lyrics. It took longer than usual to come up with words for this song because it’s such a catchy, insistent rhythm that at first it seemed as if it might be one of those songs about dancing. That wasn’t a song I wanted to write. But many highly danceable songs are about love, often the end of love, so I took it in that direction instead. In its structure this is simply another variation on the 12-bar blues, but it’s definitely the most intricate percussion backing I’ve given any of my songs. Lyrics


The Clock

I wrote this song shortly after I bought a grandfather clock, something I had wanted for decades. Calibrating it to keep accurate time was a lengthy process, so for a while clocks and time were much on my mind. But I boxed myself into a challenging lyrical structure. It’s hard to write meaningful stanzas of four rhyming lines when each line has only a handful of words. It’s much easier to express yourself at length than in brief; Pascal, apologizing for writing a long letter, said he hadn’t had time to make it shorter. In general it isn’t like me to use don’t in the third person singular. But doesn’t would spoil the meter. Lyrics


That Was A Good Day

I suppose you could sing this as a gospel song. I didn’t write it with that meaning in mind, but the music fits that style, especially the “good day” chorus. For me it’s about that person who comes along just when you need them the most, but for others that person could be Him. The chorus just popped into my head one afternoon, and it was months before I found a use for it. Lyrics


Fifty Ways to Leave This Loser

This is actually my second parody of Paul Simon's “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”. I wrote the first one in my sleep. No, really. As Dave Barry likes to say, I am not making this up. Way back in 1976, when “Fifty Ways” was getting a lot of airplay, I woke one morning with a fragment of an imaginary McDonald’s jingle in my head. I do not know why. It was set to that tune, with the curious lyrics “Have a Big Mac, Jack. Who needs La Choy, Roy?” There may have been more in my dream, but that was all I could remember. Lyrics


I Should Know

When you’ve lost hope, you may need someone to reassure you that if you just hold on things truly will get better. It isn’t merely a cliché, because others have faced the same despair and been glad later that they didn’t give up. Lyrics


Peace and Good Will

This is my second Christmas song in two years, so maybe it’s become an annual thing. This one isn’t exactly cheerful, but I’ve long been struck by the paradox of celebrating Christmas, with all it implies, when so many people live in hopeless conditions. I’ve often pictured this contrast as a shabby, outcast person shivering in the cold and peering in the window of a snug home filled with colorful Christmas decorations. Lyrics


Hold On

I began writing this song November 4, 2020. The previous evening I had gone to bed deeply discouraged by the count in the presidential election, but the next day it was clear that the momentum had shifted. That put me in the mood to write a song about never giving up. But I had a hard time with some of the lyrics and didn't finish it until the following February. In the meantime I had written two other songs. Lyrics


Old House

I’d been reflecting on my aging mother’s condition and what the last years of life can be like. It occurred to me that a deteriorating body may be like a worn-out old house. When it’s so decrepit that no one would still want to live there, we don’t ordinarily leave it to collapse on its own. Instead we go ahead and knock it down. I think you can reach a similar point with your own life and decide your body isn’t worth living in any more and you don’t care to wait until it finally quits on you. This is especially true if your mind is also failing and its wires are too often crossed. I’ve said before that I don’t consciously write songs in imitation of other artists. But this refrain does make me think of John Prine’s often quirky lyrics. It paraphrases several old sayings, like “Happy the bride the sun shines on, happy the corpse the rain falls on.” There can’t be too many songs that cite the ancient Greek Heraclitus, who wrote “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” Lyrics


The Same Old Way It’s Always Been

I never intended to be a “protest singer”. I started out writing songs about Love and Life and my own personal experiences therewith. Maybe as I grew older I began to notice more of what goes on in the world, or maybe I became less tolerant of injustice, or maybe I just turned into a grouch. “Rich Sons of Bitches” was my first musical complaint about social issues and politics. Since then it seems about one in four of my songs describes something that I think isn’t right. It may be racial prejudice, sexism, economic inequities, religious intolerance, or the political policies that foster wrongs in all those forms. Honestly, these days the United States is a “target-rich environment”. Lyrics


You May Be Right

Robert Herrick encouraged the young people of his day to “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”. Cole Porter sang “Let’s Misbehave”. This tune carries on that mildly racy tradition. The singer here hopes to persuade someone to relax their rigid moral standards a little, just for tonight. What the singer has in mind I’ve left for you to imagine. It may be a little innocent fun, or it may be something more risqué. Lyrics


Because It Hurts

Lately my lyrics seem to be going through a Classical phase. “Old House” included a paraphrase of Heraclitus. Now this song refers to the myth of Sisyphus, condemned by Zeus to push a boulder up a hill for eternity; whenever Sisyphus reached the top, the boulder rolled back to the bottom and he could only start over. A few years back another song of mine, “If I Knew You Then”, was about an unanticipated reunion that ended happily ever after. This one didn’t work out that well. I don’t ordinarily write songs with this much gut-busting emotion. But as novelists sometimes find their characters choosing their own actions that the author didn’t intend, a song may turn in a different direction than the songwriter originally had in mind. Lyrics


Making A Change

Yet another world-weary blues. Not only does nothing last forever, nothing lasts as long as you think it will or anyway it ought to. Lyrics


If We’d Only Known

While this doesn’t sound like a specific Jimmy Buffett song, to me the music sounds like something he might write. I guess it’s the island/Latin sort of rhythm that makes me think that. Curiously enough, the melody dates from the mid-1980s, when it popped unsought into my head while I was driving somewhere. That happens to me sometimes; I’m thinking of something else when I realize that I’ve been semi-consciously turning over some new music in the background of my mind, and I bring it to the foreground and hope I don’t forget it before I can capture it permanently. Anyway, I’ve finally given this tune some words after nearly 40 years. Lyrics


If I Never See You Again

Two “if” songs in a row. I don’t know how that happened. This tune began life in my head as an instrumental with a 1930s Hot Club sort of sound. Then the Denton Songwriters Guild picked “if ever I see you again” as the theme for the October challenge, and I realized that a recurring phrase in this melody would perfectly fit “if I ever see you again”. But I imagined that everybody else was going to write a longing, wistful song, and I wanted to do something different. So I inserted an “n” at a strategic place, and that sent the lyrics in another direction altogether. There can’t be many kiss-off songs as cheerful as this one. At first I wondered if the lyrics were a bit mean. But then I thought of the harsh fates Eliza Doolittle wishes on Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, to include a fatal illness, drowning, and execution by a firing squad. By comparison this seems quite mild. Lyrics


Nature’s Plan

Three literary encounters inspired this song, although it was a long time before I acted on the inspiration and finally wrote it. One is the sonnet “Design” by Robert Frost, in which a beautiful, innocent white spider, hidden in an innocent white flower, has just killed an innocent white moth. Another is a moment early in Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth. God has just created the world and animals to populate it, and invites the angels to observe them. A perplexed Satan points out, “The spider kills the fly, and eats it; the bird kills the spider and eats it; the wildcat kills the goose; the—well, they all kill each other. It is murder all along the line”. God then explains that every animal is obeying the law of its nature, the Law of God. The third is a passage in an essay by Richard Dawkins. In response to the notion that an animal about to be killed by a predator might automatically secrete endorphins that take away the pain, he points out that this would have no survival advantage, and thus natural selection would never favor the inheritance of such a trait. Instead, he writes, the continual suffering of creatures in the wild is “beyond all decent contemplation”, a phrase I have never forgotten. Lyrics


Enough Is Never Enough

According to some conservative broadcasters and bloggers Christmas is under attack. It seems too many people are saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Too many towns have replaced their Nativity displays with something secular or at least non-sectarian. Too many Starbucks coffee cups are decorated with snowflakes and candy canes instead of shepherds and wise men. This song is my way of saying how silly, not to say narrow-minded and prejudiced, I think these people are. Lyrics


I’m A Summer Sun In A Winter Sky

I wrote the lyrics of this song long ago in the form of a poem. For years I’ve contemplated setting them to music. The January 2022 theme for the Denton Songwriters Guild was “Winter Sun”, and that was close enough to make me finally follow through. There are a couple of elements perhaps worth pointing out: The melody of the verses is a pentatonic scale, and the time signature is 7/4 or 3/4+4/4, however you choose to hear it. Lyrics


The Flags Are At Half-Staff Again

Sometimes it seems as if this country spends most of its time officially mourning someone’s death. And it’s rarely the passing of a venerable public figure who has died at a respectable old age. Instead it’s usually the shooting of several people, sometimes dozens, in another ghastly act of violence. Recently I saw yet another flag lowered and thought, “the flags are at half-staff again.” In that moment I was so weary of the nearly perpetual violence that I was driven to turn that phrase into a song. Lyrics


Champagne Tango

After those somber lyrics we need something more light-hearted. Nothing is better at bringing life to an occasion than Champagne, which truly is my favorite medium for the introduction of ethanol into the bloodstream. This song paraphrases Madame Clicquot, the matriarch of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, who reportedly said that when she was happy she drank Champagne to celebrate and when she was sad she drank Champagne to cheer herself up. Lyrics


Clean Slate

This is another song written in response to a Denton Songwriters Guild challenge. The phrase, you’ll no doubt be surprised to learn, was “clean slate”. I don’t usually write lyrics this conventional, but I thought they fit the musical style: a little jazzy, a little swingy. Lyrics


Famous Last Words

This is yet another song prompted by the Denton Songwriters Guild challenge of the month. This time the phrase was “famous last words”. It was impossible to treat a theme like that at all seriously. Lyrics


It Must Be Nice

When the Denton Songwriters Guild challenge phrase was “it must be nice”, my first impulse was to harangue against the super-rich and the absurd style in which they live, while ordinary people struggle to earn a decent living. But then one of the images I considered was the endless party at one tropical island resort after another, and I decided I would rather write about how one might enjoy that locale and not necessarily be wealthy. Watching the BBC program “Death in Paradise” has occasionally given me a transitory urge to drop everything and move to the Virgin Islands. It looks like such a peaceful way to live when you aren’t being murdered. Lyrics


All words and music copyright © 1975–2024 Steven A. Jent