If I could only find the words

In the early years of rock and roll, female singers, musicians and songwriters were the exception. Men dominated the picture, just like in most professions at the time.

By the Seventies, it was a new dawn, and women made big inroads into the charts as singers and songwriters, and as musicians as well. By the Eighties, they weren’t just acoustic, they were electric, fronting full rock bands. That progress has continued into the ’90s and beyond.

In honor of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and in honor of talented women everywhere, this edition of “Hack’s Back Pages Lyrics Quiz” centers around lyrics from songs written and/or performed by female artists of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Many of the 20 songs selected make reference to the ongoing battle for women’s rights.

Can you identify the song and/or the artist? Jot down your answers, and then scroll down to see the answers and find if your memory bank still serves you. Feel free to let me know how well you did in the comment section, or via email (bhhack55@gmail.com). Enjoy!


1 “When my soul was in the lost and found, /You came along to claim it…”

2 “Lovers forever, face to face, /My city, your mountains, stay with me, stay…”

3 “We love our lovin’, but not like we love our freedom…”

4 “I’ve packed my bags, I’ve cleaned the floor, /Watch me walkin’, walkin’ out the door…”

5 “Still, I’m glad for what we had, and how I once loved you…”

6 “Well you’re the real tough cookie with the long history of breaking little hearts like the one in me…”

7 “But every night, all the men would come around, /And lay their money down…”

8 “My pretty countryside had been paved down the middle by a government that had no pride…”

9 “Prove that you love me and buy the next round, /Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?…”

10 “But I rehearsed those words just late last night /When I was thinking about how right tonight might be…”

11 “Coast to coast, L.A. to Chicago, western male, /Across the north, and south to Key Largo, love for sale…”

12 “And don’t tell me what to do, /Don’t tell me what to say, /And please, when I go out with you, don’t put me on display…”

13 “I never did believe in miracles, /But I’ve a feeling it’s time to try…”

14 “Go on now, go, walk out the door, /Just turn around now ’cause you’re not welcome anymore…”

15 “When the truth is found to be lies, /And all the joy within you dies…”

16 “They just use your mind and they never give you credit, /It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it…”

17 “A friend who taught me right from wrong, and weak from strong, /That’s a lot to learn…”

18 “Go on, get out, get out of my life, and let me sleep at night…”

19 “And you won’t need no camel, no no, when I take you for a ride..”

20 “You keep playing where you shouldn’t be playing, /And you keep thinking that you’ll never get burned, hah!…”

















1 “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” Aretha Franklin, 1967

Songwriter extraordinaire Carole King wrote this women’s anthem and eventually recorded her own version, but it was the late great Aretha, the Queen of Soul, who made the song a hit, reaching #8, her fourth of five Top Ten hits in 1967. She had been stuck doing torch songs and show tunes on Columbia, but once she switched to Atlantic, the R&B hits came fast and furiously.

2 “Leather and Lace,” Stevie Nicks, 1981

After six years with Fleetwood Mac, helping to transform the former British blues band into a pop music sensation, Nicks took the solo plunge in 1981 with her “Bella Donna” album. It sold many millions, thanks to “Edge of Seventeen,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and this charming duet with Don Henley that reached #6 on the charts. The twosome had an affair, but they weren’t “lovers forever, face to face”

3 “Help Me,” Joni Mitchell, 1974

Generally regarded as the finest female songwriter of her generation, and one of the finest songwriters, period, Mitchell has always been more interested in her artistry than fame and fortune. Consequently, many of her albums and singles charted modestly or poorly despite their high quality. This breezy single from the brilliant “Court and Spark” LP was her only Top Ten hit.

4 “Would I Lie to You?”, Eurythmics (Annie Lennox), 1985

Lennox and partner Dave Stewart formed the Eurythmics as a techno-pop duo but eventually evolved in a more rock/R&B direction. This hard-driving rock tune was a Top Five single for them in the U.S., one of three in 1985 from the album “Be Yourself Tonight.” Lennox sings about catching her man cheating and leaving him for good, which ties in nicely with her duet with Aretha Franklin, “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”

5 “It’s Too Late,” Carole King, 1971

After a brilliant career in the Sixties as a songwriting duo with her husband Gerry Goffin in New York, King divorced and moved to L.A. in 1970, where she teamed up with Toni Stern to write most of her iconic “Tapestry” album. “I Feel the Earth Move” and “So Far Away” were also hits, and her own version of “You’ve Got a Friend” got airplay, but this song about an amicable breakup topped the charts for five weeks in June-July 1971.

6 “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Pat Benatar, 1981

Benatar wasn’t the first woman to front her own rock band, but she was one of the best early successes. She came out of Brooklyn to take the country by storm in 1980 with her second LP, “Crimes of Passion,” which included the Top Ten hit “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” According to the songwriter, Eddie Schwartz, the song title is meant to be metaphorical rather than literal.

7 “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves,” Cher, 1971

A Sixties icon as part of Sonny and Cher, she weathered a fallow period before working with producer Snuffy Garrett to record her first solo #1 single “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves,” with lyrics that covered adult topics like racism, teenage pregnancy and prostitution. Cher has gone on to become the only artist, male or female, to chart a #1 single in six consecutive decades.

8 “My City Was Gone,” The Pretenders (Chrissie Hynde), 1984

A product of Akron, Ohio, Hynde moved to London in the mid-’70s and embraced both punk and New Wave genres. She formed The Pretenders there and began a career as one of the most badass female rockers of all time, writing hard rock and melodic tunes alike. On their third LP, “Learning to Crawl,” you’ll find “My City Was Gone,” an autobiographical song she wrote upon her return visit to Akron after years away.

9 “Mercedes Benz,” Janis Joplin, 1971

Janis came to the forefront at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 when she was singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company. By 1970 she was touring with The Full-Tilt Boogie Band, and recording her third album, “Pearl,” which included Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” her only #1 hit. The a cappella throwaway, “Mercedes Benz,” a spoof on consumerism, would be the last track she ever recorded.

10 “Anticipation,” Carly Simon, 1971

For the longest time, I couldn’t hear this song without thinking of the Heinz ketchup TV commercials that used it. It was Carly’s second big hit, with lyrics she wrote about the excitement she felt as she waited for her date to arrive (who happened to be Cat Stevens that night!). The song reached #13 and was the second of ten Top 20 hits she charted throughout the 1970s, most of which she wrote or co-wrote.

11 “Smooth Operator,” Sade, 1984

Born in Nigeria and raised in England, Sade seemed to come out of nowhere in 1984-85 with her single, “Smooth Operator,” from the album “Diamond Life.” She wrote the lyrics about a fashionable ladies’ man who is actually a devious, jet-setting criminal. Every studio album she has ever released reached the Top Ten in the U.S. and also did well throughout Europe, the UK, Canada and Australia.

12 “You Don’t Own Me,” Lesley Gore, 1964

This early feminist anthem spent three weeks lodged at #2 on the US charts in early 1964, kept from the top spot by The Beatles’ US debut single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Gore had been only 16 when “It’s My Party” had been a chart-topper, and by the time she was 19, she chose to give her career a rest and attend college, a bold move in the finicky world of pop music. Gore died in 2015 at age 68.

13 “You Make Loving Fun,” Fleetwood Mac (Christine McVie), 1977

When Fleetwood Mac was making the multi-platinum “Rumours” LP, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were breaking up, as were Mick Fleetwood and his wife Jenny. John and Christine McVie had just recently divorced, and Christine was already writing songs like “You Make Loving Fun” about her new boyfriend, the band’s lighting director. McVie’s songs have often been the band’s biggest singles, including “You Make Loving Fun” at #9.

14 “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor, 1979

Although it was written by two men, “I Will Survive” came to represent the women’s movement during its battles for equality in the late ’70s and ’80s. It was actually released as the B-side of Gaynor’s single, but disc jockeys discovered it and played it relentlessly, turning it into a #1 song. Unfortunately, Gaynor’s success was short-lived, as the disco era was ending, but you can still hear the song in karaoke bars every night.

15 “Somebody to Love,” Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick), 1967

The San Francisco Sound, as it came to be known, included, most famously, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead. The Airplane had multiple vocalists but founder Marty Balin and especially Grace Slick were at the forefront. On songs like “Somebody to Love,” written by Slick’s brother-in-law, her powerful voice rings out above a solid rock tune about our universal need for love.

16 “9 to 5,” Dolly Parton, 1980

Parton had worked long and hard making a career for herself as a country singer, including one successful foray into the pop charts, “Here You Come Again” in 1977. In 1980, she was tapped to co-star in the working women comedy film “9 to 5,” and she wrote and sang the title song as well, which became a huge #1 hit on pop charts. Parton has established herself as a trailblazer for education and women’s rights in the years since.

17 “To Sir With Love,” Lulu, 1967

Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, better known as Lulu, enjoyed a successful career as a singer and an actress in her native Great Britain, but in the U.S., her fame is mostly limited to her work on the Sidney Poitier film “To Sir With Love.” In addition to playing a part as a high school student, she sang the title tune, which rocketed to #1 and was the best-selling song of the year in the U.S. in 1967.

18 “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” The Supremes (Diana Ross), 1966

This Motown track by the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting/producing team is one of the best of The Supremes’ catalog, and rivals “Respect” as a song about women needing to rid themselves of the problematic men in their lives. As always, Diana Ross sang lead vocals, and within a year, she would have lead billing as well, which translated into a huge solo career a few years after that.

19 “Midnight at the Oasis,” Maria Muldaur, 1974

In the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early ’60s, Maria D’Amato was a regular, and sang with a jug band that included her eventual husband Geoff Muldaur. By 1972, she was on her own and recorded her first solo LP, which included “Midnight at the Oasis,” the track many fans have told her was responsible for their pregnancies because of the slyly suggestive lyrics about a love affair in the desert.

20 “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” Nancy Sinatra, 1966

Frank’s daughter surely had connections to score a record deal, but her biggest hit came from her friendship with country/pop singer Lee Hazlewood. He wanted to record his song himself, but Nancy convinced him it would be less harsh coming from a woman. “Boots” became her signature song, and took on a new life as a song about women fighting back against male oppression.


That was just a dream, just a dream

The subject of dreams has come up fairly often in recent conversations I’ve had with friends and family.

Unknown-526My wife is always relating her sleeping dreams to me (I even show up in a few of them), and she loves to try to speculate what might be the hidden meaning behind her dreams.

My grown daughters do this, too, but they also like to talk about the other kind of dreams — their goals, their hopes, their images-293aspirations.  They’re both in the process of pursuing their professional dreams, and their personal dreams as well.

Both definitions of dreams have proven to be fertile ground for songwriters over the years.  Indeed, there are at least three songwriters I know (hint, hint) who are patiently pursuing their own dreams of fame and fortune, however long that might take.  As Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler sang, “Dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come true.”

My research into the rock music catalog of the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties has turned up several dozen songs about dreams and dreaming.  I’ve selected a dozen to discuss here, and my Spotify list includes those 12 tunes but also there “honorable mentions” that didn’t quite make the cut.  All are worthy of your attention.

Pleasant dreams to you all.


“Dreams,” Fleetwood Mac, 1977

Unknown-517I couldn’t very well leave this mega-platinum hit off my list, even if mostly because of its title.  In the writing of this tune, Stevie Nicks was doing what she does best — revealing her thoughts and feelings about her relationships, which, in this case, was the tempestuous back-and-forth she had with band guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.  Truth be told, I think “Dreams” has been overplayed.  She has better tracks with the band that deserve more attention (“Silver Springs” comes immediately to mind).  But the lyrics to deftly offer a gentle reminder that dreams can sometimes haunt the sleep of those who are unkind in how they end relationships:  “It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams, and… /Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?  Dreams of loneliness…like a heartbeat… drives you mad… /In the stillness of remembering what you had, and what you lost….”

“A Dream Goes On Forever,” Todd Rundgren, 1974

images-291It’s not an exaggeration to call Rundgren one of the real revolutionaries of rock music.  Beginning with his bands Nazz and Runt in the late ’60s, he has always been keen on experimentation.  At only 24, he released “Something/Anything?,” the astounding double album which yielded two pop hits (“Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light”), then followed it with a far more challenging LP, “A Wizard/A True Star,” inspired by his use of psychedelics at the time.  By 1974, he would release yet another double album, titled simply “Todd,” including “A Dream Goes on Forever” as the single that died on the vine at #69.  To me, it seemed an unfinished work, lasting only 2:21, but its lyrics took a look at both kinds of dreams:  “A thousand true loves will live and die, but a dream goes on forever, /The days and the years all go streaking by, but the time is stopped within my dream…”

“These Dreams,” Heart, 1985 

220px-Heart_(Heart_album)Pretty yet powerful, Heart’s 1976 debut single “Crazy on You” became a template of sorts for the band’s catalog, which struck a balance between heavy and light.  Lead vocalist Ann Wilson, on her own and in tandem with her sister Nancy on harmonies, struck a distinctive sound that brought them much success throughout the late ’70s and ’80s.  On the 1985 LP simply titled “Heart,” they struck gold with the irresistible ballad “These Dreams,” the band’s first #1 hit, with Nancy Wilson singing lead.  I was surprised to learn that the tune was written by lyricist Bernie Taupin in collaboration with songwriter Martin Page.  They wrote it about a woman who enters a fantasy world when she falls asleep, hoping to forget whatever difficulty she’s having in real life:  “These dreams go on when I close my eyes, /Every second of the night I live another life, /These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside, /Every moment I’m awake, the further I’m away…”

“Daydream,” The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966

Unknown-515During his tenure with the New York City band he formed, John Sebastian was among the hottest singer-songwriters in the business.  “Do You Believe in Magic,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Younger Girl,” “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” and “Summer in the City” beautifully captured that wildly creative 1965-1969 period, and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ubiquitous appearance at or near the top of the charts proved their widespread appeal.  Their huge hit “Daydream” uses a sing-song melody, whimsical lyrics and funky instrumentation in its spot-on exploration of what we feel and think when we sit back and let our minds wander in the afternoon:  “I’ve been having a sweet dream, /I been dreaming since I woke up today, /It’s starring me and my sweet thing, ’cause she’s the one makes me feel this way…”

“Runnin’ Down a Dream,” Tom Petty, 1989 

Unknown-516Petty and his early band Mudcrutch hailed from Gainesville, Florida, where they played small clubs and struggled for more than just regional recognition.  They concluded that they should move to music hot spot Los Angeles where they secured their first record deal, but still no chart success.  Mudcrutch disbanded, but Petty pursued a “solo” career with a new band of accomplished musicians who became The Heartbreakers.  From the late ’70s until Petty’s death in 2017, they were one of America’s most successful groups, with eight Top Ten albums and a ton of classic rock singles.  In 1989, when he belatedly released his first actual solo album, “Full Moon Fever,” he got around to writing “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” inspired by his 1974 drive from Florida to California in search of fame.  “Yeah, runnin’ down a dream that never would come to me, /Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads…”

“All I Have to Do is Dream,” The Everly Brothers, 1958

Unknown-519In rock and roll’s earliest years, recording artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis were keeping the nation’s dance floors hopping, but the dancers needed a slow number now and then so they had the chance for a little cheek-to-cheek romance to develop.  That’s where acts like The Everly Brothers came in.  Their impeccable harmonies gave them the credibility they needed to pull off doing cheeseball songs like “All I Have to Do is Dream” (which may have been cheesy but went to #1 nevertheless).  Successful songwriter Boudleaux Bryant, writing alone or with wife Felice, composed lyrics that struck a nerve in every teenager who hoped real romance might come true if they just kept dreaming about it:  “When I want you in my arms, /When I want you and all your charms, /Whenever I want you, /All I have to do is dream, /Dream, dream, dream…” 

“Impossible Dreamer,” Joni Mitchell, 1985

Unknown-527Mitchell spent the first third of her remarkable career creating confessional music and lyrics, writing vignettes that borrowed from her own upbringing, her own love life, her own experiences in the music business.  That kind of songwriting served her very well, but when she branched out into jazz stylings in the late ’70s, she was abandoned by some of her audience, and betrayed by her record label.  In the ’80s and beyond, she grew bitter about the industry, and about society in general.  On her angry 1985 LP “Dog Eat Dog,” there’s a lovely track with callous lyrics called “Impossible Dreamer” that mocks those who continue to dream of utopian ideals:  “Land of the free, no hungry bellies, /Impossible dreamer…  No acid rain, love without pain, /Impossible dreamer…  Give peace a chance, don’t think, just dance, /Impossible dreamer…”

“Dream a Little Dream of Me,” The Mamas and The Papas, 1968

Unknown-514A trio of relatively unknown songwriters came up with the romantic song “Dream a Little Dream of Me” way back in 1931, and it became a standard recorded by many dozens of artists since then, from Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra to Doris Day, from Dean Martin to Barry Manilow, from Louis Armstrong to Diana Krall.  In 1968, Mama Cass Elliot suggested The Mamas and The Papas record the old chestnut, which they’d been toying with in rehearsals and soundchecks for a while.  On second thought, Elliot found the song a bit too campy and dated, but she treated it as if it were a brand new song, giving it just the right amount of charm to gain broad appeal during a tempestuous summer:  “Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you, /Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you, /But in your dreams, whatever they be, /Dream a little dream of me…”

“Gemini Dream,” The Moody Blues, 1981

Unknown-528Beginning with the arrival of singer/songwriter Justin Hayward to the band’s lineup, The Moody Blues emerged as pioneers in Britain’s progressive rock movement.  The music of The Moodies, with lyrical themes of fantasy and dreamscapes, became a soundtrack for listeners experimenting with recreational drugs.  Following some time off, the group reunited in the Eighties with a more commercial sound.  On the 1981 LP “Long Distance Voyager,” the first single was “Gemini Dream,” in which Hayward and bassist John Lodge merged two unfinished tunes to make a finished whole that went Top Ten in the US.  Hayward’s main theme was about a couple who share twin (Gemini) dreams of lasting love:   “There’s no escaping from the love we have seen, /So come with me, turn night to day, you’re gonna wake up, /You know you’re gonna wake up in a Gemini dream…”

“I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” The Electric Prunes, 1968

Unknown-522I remember, when this song came out, thinking, “What a great line!”  I admired the way the lyrics correlate the physical hangover you get from drinking too much with the emotional hangover you might get from dreaming too much.  I’ve had nights when I had three different dreams going in one night’s sleep, or dreams that went on too long, or were just too intense.  In each case, you wake up dazed, confused and not at all rested.  Songwriting duo Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz came up with “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” and saw it as a ballad, but once L.A.-based psychedelic band The Electric Prunes got a hold of it, it became a trailblazing Top 40 freakout, reaching #11 in early 1967.  The lyrics speak of the disappointment of dreaming about being with the one you love and waking to find it wasn’t real:  “Your gentle hand reached out to comfort me, /Then came the dawn, and you were gone, /You were gone, gone, gone, /I had too much to dream last night, too much to dream…”

“Poor Man’s Dream,” Batdorf and Rodney, 1972

Unknown-523My very favorite “shoulda been stars” of all time is this talented duo of acoustic guitarists/singers who released two of the most amazing records of the early ’70s, “Off the Shelf” (1971) and “Batdorf and Rodney” (1972).  John Batdorf showed an uncommon gift for writing thoughtful, optimistic songs that were perfect structures on which to place impressive guitar work and gorgeous harmonies.  Tunes like “Can You See Him,” “All I Need,” “You Are the One,” “Home Again” and “Oh My Surprise” have been indelibly etched in my mind since I first heard them nearly fifty years ago.  “Poor Man’s Dream,” the leadoff track on the second LP, talks of the wisdom in keeping one’s dreams simple and positive:  “Have no fears of growing old, /Have no need or use for gold, /In my life I’ve gone both ways and in between, /I know my day is coming, am I in a poor man’s dream?…”

“Dreams,” The Allman Brothers Band, 1969

Unknown-518Before the birth of The Allman Brothers Band, Duane and Gregg Allman marketed themselves as The Allman Joys, moving to California to in their late teens to pursue their dreams of musical careers.  Duane became disillusioned and returned to Florida and Georgia, where he built a reputation as a brilliant session guitarist.  Gregg felt bound by the contract they’d signed in L.A., and stayed busy by writing some incredible blues songs that captured his depressed mood, including “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” and “Whipping Post.”  He too eventually went home, where he hooked up with Duane’s band and brought them the songs he’d written.  One of them, originally called “Dreams I’ll Never See” but shortened to “Dreams,” described how hard it is to chase dreams:  “Went up on the mountain to see what I could see, /The whole world was fallin’ right down in front of me, /’Cause I’m hung up on dreams I’ll never see…”


Honorable Mention:

Dream On,” Aerosmith, 1974;  “In My Dreams,” Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1977;  “I Can Dream About You,” Dan Hartman, 1984;  “In Dreams,” Roy Orbison, 1963;  “One Summer Dream,” Electric Light Orchestra, 1975;  “Music in Dreamland,” BeBop Deluxe, 1975;  “Dreaming,” Cream, 1966;  “Dream Weaver,” Gary Wright, 1975;  “#9 Dream,” John Lennon, 1974;  “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” Eurythmics, 1983;  “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” Billy Ocean, 1988;  “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Crowded House, 1987;  “Dreamer,” Supertramp, 1974;  “You Make My Dreams (Come True),” Hall and Oates, 1980;  “Dream Police,” Cheap Trick, 1979;  “These Dreams,” Jim Croce, 1973.