Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting – Ralph Murphy Releases New Book

Ralph Murphy

By Don Graham


The reason I was asked to review this book is that as a songwriter I would have a perspective on its contents unique to the Cashbox Canada staff. There are course countless books on songwriting but most of them state the obvious and at the end of the day nothing really is gained from reading them. I had a feeling from knowing Ralph Murphy, mostly by reputation and track record, no pun intended, but also having met him through my longtime publisher Brian Chater that this would be an important book to read and digest. That coupled with some of the great testimonials from established songwriters like Paul Williams and Donnie Schlitz and a  direction from Canadian songsmith Randy Bachman to “read it, learn it and burn it!” furthered intrigued me. Randy’s suggestion of course was a compliment of the highest degree, meaning once you read this ALL the secrets to writing a hit will be revealed so keep it to yourself!!! I wonder if that’s why the cover features the title in flames??


As Ralph states at the beginning of the book this isn’t to teach HOW to write songs because most likely if you’re reading it you already are a song writer. This is more aimed at how to hone your craft and the “do’s and don’ts “as seen through the eyes of a seasoned professional songwriter/publisher/ music professional.


The book will teach you how to correct some of your ingrained bad habits, how to craft your songs to appeal to your target market, which by the way is a very important part of your approach to writing. One of the best quotes in the book is one by the songwriting giant Harland Howard who said that “ women buy 50% of the records sold and make men buy the other 50%”. You will learn to construct your songs in such a way that will not guarantee you a ‘hit” but will increase your chances of writing something that will appeal to the listening public. It is full of little, short gems that will resonate with you as a writer and be reflected in your work. “ Melody will lure the listener in, lyrics will keep their attention” “ DO NOT preach, whine or vent, nobody wants to hear that” “ Don’t bring a loaded gun into the scenario and then not fire it” In other words don’t leave unexplained things in your song  and “ Let the listener see him/herself in your song”.

There is also an explanation of something that Murphy calls “second verse hell”. You’ve created a great first verse and said what you want to say. Now what?. The interesting thing to me was I was in “second verse hell” when I read that section. Not my first visit there and my remedy was EXACTLY what Ralph recommended. Make that verse your second verse and write a first verse leading into the now “second” verse. I felt validated but also a little sheepish because I didn’t know anyone else was aware of what I perceived as ‘cheating”! Needless to say I did that on the song I was working on and was quite pleased with the result. Thanks Ralph for making me aware that it’s okay to do that.


I highly recommend ANYONE who is considering songwriting as a life’s work to get a copy  of MURPHY’S LAWS OF SONGWRITING as quickly as possible and read it inone sitting!!! You’ll be glad you did!

I’m going to get some matches to follow Randy Bachman’s advice!! I’ve read it learned it, now it’s time to burn it!