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 The Mark Heard Lyric Project Critical Apparatus
Background | Goals | Method | Credits | Contact

Mark Heard (1951-1992) was a songwriter, artist, producer, performer, weaver, photographer and poet.  He was born and raised in Macon, Georgia, and did most of his significant work in Los Angeles and various parts of Europe.  His work reflects the intellectual and emotional tensions of a man of faith in a world which he took to be good but fallen. Critically acclaimed but commercially negelected, Mark struggled until his death against compromising his art and vision.

A collection of Mark Heard devotees decided in June of 1997 to see his lyrics and other writings published.

The primary goal was to get the lyrics and writing of Mark Heard on the World Wide Web.  We hope to retain the musicality of the words and to give an approximation of the emotional content of the music in a verbal form.

In Mark's mouth poetry and music were remarkably close together.  The musical rhythms, often complex in the later songs, rather than the number of syllables determined "line breaks": consequently the lyrics sometimes look like free verse (e.g., "Lost On Purpose").  Usually they are broken naturally into quatrains determined by the music as well as the lyrical ideas.

Mark was a master of sounds: assonance, slanted rhyme, alliteration and exact rhyme pervade his lyrics, partly as a function of his spontaneous and emotionally energetic style. (e.g. "A Broken Man", "Love Is Not The Only Thing")  In the absence of other stanza- and line-breaking criteria, we tried to frame this gift in particular.

Punctuation has been removed except when it seems to assist in capturing particularly plaintive sounds of the music (e.g. "Look Over Your Shoulder" and "Go Ask the Dead Man" ), a reflective feel to the music, or whatever.  All known spelling errors in either the liner notes or the OCR text-versions have been corrected, but when the liner notes neglected grammatical rules for effect (such as non-capitalization on the Tribal Opera notes) we didn't bother to change them out of healthy laziness. One or two clear mistakes were corrected from various liner notes by various editors: these are marked in brackets.

"Oh"'s and "ah"'s were removed along with other vocal noises which constitute Mark's ability to sound like an animal and angel at the same time, unless they seemed to be exclamatory.  Mark "played" these noises ("Nod Over Coffee" is filled with them) like an instrument, and they don't so much contribute to the lyrical value as the musical value.

The songs were transcribed by a number of people, most notably Mark Mayhle, Matthew Strange, Gregory Simmons, Paula Verhine, Michael Myer, !pang, Miles O'Neal, and various other cheerful, helpful friends of Mark Heard's music on the Orphans of God mailing list, without any of whom this project probably wouldn't have happened. Many thanks to them all.  Mark Mayhle, using OCR software, captured most of the lyrics, the liner notes, poetry and other text. Michael Myer and Mark edited it. Michael Myer also typed the liner notes to Fingerprint as well as several songs.  Paula typed all of the lyrics on Satellite Sky (in one night).  Miles prepared the tables we used to organize the site (his site has additional information and reviews on some of the albums). !pang contributed lyrics and Matthew Strange contributed lyrics from albums nobody else owned and  formatted the Image article, A Musician's Diary.

The photos were made available mainly through the courtesy of Mark's mother, Jean Heard, and Matthew Dickerson.  Gregory Simmons contributed the title graphics.

Any failure, however, whether technical or stylistic, remains my responsibility since everything passed through my pentium on the way to publication on the www.

Suggestions and comments are gratefully received: it is hoped that the Mark Heard Lyric Project will stimulate more people to appreciate the work of this gifted artist.  His works are available almost exclusively from Fingerprint Records: a recommended introduction might be the excellent collection entitled High Noon.

Mark Heard Lyric Project