That means that every line of a song should refer back to the title of the song. This helps make sure the writer doesn’t stray from the theme and helps the writer and listener focus on the message the song is trying to convey.
It’s good advice that I try to follow, but there are some well-known exceptions.
Many people don’t even know the names of some of their favorite tunes. That may be because the title never appears in the song. Here are just a few examples that come to mind:
“For What It’s Worth.” This is the Buffalo Springfield hit written by Stephen Stills that begins with the lyrics: There’s something happening here,” and has the chorus “Stop, children what’s that sound. Everybody look what’s going down.”
The song was reportedly inspired by a street protest Stills encountered. When he presented the song he supposedly said, “Here’s the song, for what it’s worth.” A hit decades ago, it is so iconic that almost any documentary or movie about the ‘60s or ‘70s still includes it in the soundtrack.
“Danny’s Song.” Kenny Loggins’ brother, Dan, no doubt knows the title of the song written about his son’s impending birth. Many others may not, but they undoubtedly do recognize the chorus that begins with, “Even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you, honey.”
“Annie’s Song.” This number one hit tune was apparently Bob Denver’s love letter to his wife. While it contains some beautiful imagery, “ You fill up my senses like a night in the forest,” it doesn’t contain the title in the lyrics.
“Pretzel Logic.” The title song to Steely Dan’s third album defies logic by including a lot of obscure situations. A bluesy shuffle, it’s open to a lot of interpretations from time travel to a criticism of touring. Neither the words “pretzel” nor “logic” appear in the charting tune.
I know these are rare exceptions to the rule, but they do prove that you don’t always have to follow the advice of “experts” when it comes to creating popular music.