Slipknot/Stone Sour's Corey Taylor: The 5 greatest lyricists of all time
Corey Taylor is adamant: when it comes to writing lyrics he’s had plenty of good teachers.
The Slipknot/Stone Sour mainman tells MusicRadar: “I’ve been writing songs since I was 12, even before I could play an instrument. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I think I’ve been guided along the way by some fantastic teachers and I wouldn’t be here without them. Without those writers I wouldn’t have the courage to do my thing.”
And do his thing he most certainly does. As you can conclude from the fact that Stone Sour release the second half of epic double album project House of Gold and Bones in April, this guy is a song- and lyric-writing machine.
With so many beloved influences picked up down the years, when we asked Corey to pick out his favourite five lyricists it quickly became apparent that making his selections wasn't going to be easy. But like a true pro, he picked a handful out of the bag for us: here’s who got the nod…
“Jerry Cantrell, I love his lyrics. There’s something poetic and darkly real about them. It helps being a huge Alice in Chains fan. I’ve followed him pretty closely - his solo album was full of such poignant lines, especially knowing where he was at that point in his life. That is heavy. When you put it in context, it’s like, ‘Woah'.
“Now you can see that re-emergence and you can see some of that hope coming out. That darkness is becoming positive. There are some lines on Black Gives Way To Blue that are phenomenal. Last Of My Kind is fantastic, Looking In View is probably my favourite on that album. It is just a gorgeous song.”
“Bob Dylan is an easy one. He to me represents a man who didn’t let opinion bother him. He wasn’t the best singer, he wasn’t the best player; he took all of that and put it together with his mind.
“His lyrics are a story and yet there is so much that you can hold on to. Simple Twist of Fate, I could listen to that song over and over, whether I’m walking around or sitting in the dark trying to get to sleep.
“There’s just a beautiful lilt to everything. You don’t know if it’s one man’s story or several men and their stories, or if it’s his story or someone else’s. But it’s that juxtaposition between a man and a woman and that different woman.
“There’s something beautiful about that and I just love the way that he puts phrases together and really writes. I think that’s why he’s still one of those artists that is fantastic.”
“I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Axl Rose. He is a fantastic lyricist, he really is. Some of the lyrics on Appetite For Destruction are so fantastic.
“That was one of the reasons that band was so amazing, you could feel where they came from. You could hear it, but you felt it too. There was so much aggression, yet it was so dirty and groovy.
“Those lyrics, man, they really painted such a picture that you couldn’t help but get wrapped up in that. When you take My Michelle, that is a brutal tune and then you listen to it and think it’s just a funny song, but then you really listen, ‘Daddy works in porno now that mommy’s not around,’ holy crap, what is this?! I really love that.”
“A newer guy I am really into is Ray LaMontagne, not just because of his voice and how he plays, but his lyrics are fantastic. Some of the lyrics on his first album, Trouble... there are so many songs on there that I’m mad that I didn’t write. That’s the sign of a wonderful writer.
“There’s songs like Jolene, which you can only imagine where that came from. If you’re anything like I am, you’ve had mornings where you wake up and you’re like, ‘Where the hell am I?’ You don’t know how you’re going to get home, you don’t know where you’re going but you grab on to something.
“It’s got that youthful romanticism that the gypsy in you is trying to travel. You find yourself at your lowest and find yourself looking back to when you were at your highest and that woman that was there and that defined you.
“He wrote a song called Burn, that is one of the all-time saddest songs I’ve ever heard in my life. The first time I heard it I wanted to cry my eyes out. That kind of passion, you have you marry to a wonderful intellect.”
“There’s a tie for number one. At the risk of sounding clichéd, it would have to be between Cobain and Grohl. They’re both such fantastic songwriters.
“With Cobain, you can tell that he was constantly searching for the right words, but he went with the melody first and he would fill in the blanks later and when he did finally fill in those blanks you were blown away by it and would think, ‘Oh my god, that is the perfect one line sentiment with this raging chorus. Wow.’”
“But Grohl is almost the opposite to that. I think with him the lyrics come first and then the melody. Somebody told me, and I think he actually told me, that he begins with the chorus and then writes the song around it.
“I think that’s wonderful, I have a tendency to do that myself. Once you get to that chorus you know that pay off is going to be huge.
“There’s a handful of songs where you can tell his pain, like Friend of a Friend and then you’ve got I Should Have Known, they’re coming from a place that you can’t fake.
“That’s why you instantly react to it and you appreciate it. You almost want to thank him for writing a song like that. Sometimes, especially as a songwriter, you’re constantly trying to find that perfect verse, that perfect line and sometimes you get it, but most of the time you don’t. It seems like Grohl has a f***ing time share on genius like that!”