On Songwriting | Musings On How To Write a Song

New Song… Key of D

New Song… Key of D

As I was laying around last weekend working on a Sunday crossword puzzle, I encountered a clue that said Hired Gun. Sometimes a simple word or phrase is all it takes to set the mind awanderin’.

I’ve always enjoyed a good western. Lonesome Dove. Silverado. Unforgiven.
The Wild Bunch. The Long Riders.

As I closed my eyes and tried to think of a six-letter word for Hired Gun, I wondered how and why someone would want to become one of those, and I thought about westerns and origins and unintended consequences, and then I came up with this…

Jack McGee was a ringer
A wannabe gunslinger
Audacious for a boy of seventeen
He was good at shootin’ tin cans
Quite accurate with both hands
He saw himself as able, fast and mean

Young Jack thought he was ready
His hands were calm and steady
The time had come to greet his destiny
In his mind he looked amazing
Standing tall with guns ablazing
A legend of the West named Jack McGee


Jack McGee wanted to be
A legendary outlaw ridin’ free
His downfall was the thing he couldn’t see
Be careful what you ask for, Jack McGee

So trouble he went courtin’
With the six-guns he was sportin’
Looking for a shooter bold as he
A fight he soon created
Got a hothead agitated
That legend in the making, Jack McGee

His foe was mad and surly
Drew his gun prematurely
But his aim was straight and true as it could be
Jack said, “Wait, I wasn’t ready”
On legs no longer steady
No glory — just the end of Jack McGee


Rest in peace, Jack McGee
Too bad you couldn’t see
Tin cans are slow and their aim ain’t up to snuff
When a boy’s imagination
Leads to real-life confrontation
A wannabe ain’t the same as good enough

It turns out that the answer to the Hired Gun clue had nothing at all to do with westerns or origins or unintended consequences.

But though the actual answer was HITMAN, the clue took me somewhere else altogether — and that’s one of my favorite parts of coming up with a new song.