an Indepth Study
of the Value of Lyrics.
Popular music has a long laundry list of performers who have lived hard and died young because of drugs. They are immortalized in posters and t-shirts that can be seen in the classroom almost everyday: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, etc. However, there are also a number of popular artists who have rebounded to free themselves from the stranglehold of drugs and alcohol. Artists such as Eric Clapton, Elton John, Ringo Starr, David Crosby, Scott Weiland, and Stevie Ray Vaughan have all offered the world positive examples of surviving the hardships of addiction.
This lesson focuses on the strong anti-drug message conveyed in Stevie Ray Vaughan's compelling last album, In Step, and helps students to identify the false mystique of drug use in the world around them.
The student will....
(1) Identify rock and roll artists who have conquered addictions to drugs and alcohol.
(2) Consider the consequences to music fans when an artist's life is ended prematurely due to drugs and alcohol.
(3) Summarize, discuss, and paraphrase the contents of a song's lyrics.
(4) Analyze, evaluate, and paraphrase the message conveyed through a song.
(5) Discuss the inspiration for a song's lyrics.
(6) Compare the content of a song to the content of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
(7) Compose lyrics for a song that support a particular theme and message.
This lesson is designed for use with language arts classes at the high school level. Additionally, it might provide an opportunity for an inter-disciplinary unit with music, health, and/or teen issues classes.
Approximately four 50-minute class periods. If writing assignments are to be completed in class, more time will be necessary.
In Step recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (Epic, 1989)
The Sky Is Crying recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (Epic, 1991)
Copies of song lyrics (link below)
Copies of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (link below)
Stevie Ray Vaughan rode a wave of public and critical acclaim after his 1983 explosion onto the national scene with the album Texas Flood. Subsequent albums Couldn't Stand the Weather (1984), Soul to Soul (1985), and Live Alive (1986) all helped to cement Vaughan as one of the great guitar-gunslingers
of the 20th century, and his work helped to fire the Blues revival of the mid-1980s. However, his success was coming at a great price. Stevie Ray Vaughan was destroying his life with Old Crown whiskey and cocaine. His addictions grew so bad that in the middle of a concert in London in 1986 he collapsed on stage and could not go on.
Vaughan quickly realized that many of the choices he had made in life were ultimately ruining him, and he now understood that the only salvation for his career and his life resided in sobriety. For the next 18 months, Stevie Ray walked away from his career and his music in a focused determination to clean up. He spent several weeks in a Marietta, Georgia, treatment center during October and November of 1986 in order to break the hypnotic trance drugs held over his life. From there he moved home to his birthplace, Dallas, Texas, to escape the temptations that plagued his musical life in Austin. At home in Dallas, with the support and encouragement of his family and friends, Stevie Ray Vaughan continued the long road to recovery.
With help, Vaughan embraced the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and began learning a new philosophy with which to live his life. Although staying the course proved to be difficult, he stuck to his convictions and never touched drugs or alcohol again. In fact, Stevie Ray Vaughan's bass player, Tommy Shannon, was so moved and impressed by his determination and will power that he, too, joined AA and began the journey along the road of recovery.
By 1988, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were on the road again, instruments in hand. Their work had grown in intensity and power, and with a new sense of conviction they re-entered the studio in January of 1989 to create the body of work that would become their fifth album, In Step (a reference to the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous).
The album peaked at No. 33 on the Billboard pop chart and produced the No. 1 radio hit "Crossfire", Stevie Ray Vaughan's first No. 1 single.
Stevie Ray Vaughan's tragic death in a helicopter crash on August 27, 1990, shocked the world. In the months and years following his death, friends, family members, colleagues, and fans all came together in various ways to celebrate the music Stevie Ray left behind. Most notable was the strong message sent through In Step, a message of trust, responsibility, commitment, and the value of human relationships. That message can serve human beings from all walks of life. It can reach out to our students today and help them see the strength and conviction of a man who finally saw through the glitz and glory of the image of a rock and roll star. Tragedy may have robbed us of a tremendous, guitar-slinging Texas hero, but Stevie Ray's music and his anti-drug message carry on for us all to enjoy.
1. Discuss the litany of rock and roll stars who fell into drug and alcohol addiction. Brainstorm possible reasons for why the artists would allow this happen. Did they perceive benefits to alcohol and drugs? What were the consequences of their addictions to the fans who enjoyed their music? What might have happened with their careers if they had found a way to become clean and sober?
2. Discuss the rock and roll artists who fought battles with their addictions to drugs and alcohol and have managed to come through them and continue on with their careers. Ask students to consider the songs and work that the world might not have been blessed with had these artists not found the courage and determination to conquer their addictions.
3. Hand out copies of the lyrics to Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Crossfire" and "Tightrope" and play the two songs for students. Explain that Double Trouble penned "Crossfire" and Stevie Ray Vaughan wrote "Tightrope". Have students discuss the lyrics and brainstorm reasons why two groups of songwriters might come up with such similar songs. (Several members of this band were fighting their addictions at this point and striving to become clean and sober.)
4. Ask students to select one of the two songs and re-write the lyrics in their own words to capture the mood and meaning contained in the lyrics.
5. Hand out copies of the lyrics for "Wall of Denial" and play the song for students. After the song is over and without discussion, have students write a reaction to the song. Specifically, ask them to identify the message that Stevie Ray Vaughn is attempting to convey and discuss why he felt the need to write this song. Ask students to share their interpretations once they have finished writing.
6. Distribute copies of the lyrics to "Life by the Drop", a song written by Doyle Bramhall and inspired by the struggles with addiction of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Discuss the meaning of the lyrics of the song and the possible reasons Vaughan felt the need to record it during the sessions for In Step, although it was not released until after his death.
7. Distribute copies of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and ask students to compare the text to both "Wall of Denial" and "Life by the Drop". Have students write a comparison paragraph between the Twelve Steps and one of the two songs.
8. Hand out the lyrics and spoken word section of "Life Without You" from the November 29, 1989, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble concert in Denver, Colorado. Ask students to summarize the message that Vaughan attempts to convey in the spoken word section of the song and ask students to discuss that message's relevance to the life of Stevie Ray Vaughan and to their own lives. Do students agree with the message? Why or why not?
9. Ask students to select a song from any artist who holds special meaning to them personally. Have students imagine that they were performing this song and that in the middle they stopped to address the crowd in spoken word just as Vaughan did in "Life Without You." Have them write out the words they would address to the crowd and explain in a paragraph why that message is important to them.
10. Play the two instrumental pieces from In Step, "Travis Walk" and "Riviera Paradise". Ask students to select one of the two songs and compose lyrics for the piece that would fit in with the other songs on the album and capture the feeling and tone of the instrumentals. Remind students to consider the message Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were attempting to convey through this album and to try to mirror that message in their lyrics as much as possible.
The evaluation and assessment of this short unit will take place in two forms. First, the teacher's observation of the quality of discussion that takes place over the various songs and their lyrics. And second, in the teacher's evaluation of the five written assignments described above.
"Crossfire" recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (In Step, Epic, 1989)
"Life by the Drop" recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (The Sky Is Crying, Epic, 1991)
"Life Without You" recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (In Step, Epic, 1989)
"Riviera Paradise" recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (In Step, Epic, 1989)
"Tightrope" recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (In Step, Epic, 1989)
"Travis Walk" recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (In Step, Epic, 1989)
"Wall of Denial" recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (In Step, Epic, 1989)
Patoski, Joe Nick and Bill Crawford. Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Music video of Stevie Ray Vaughan performing "Crossfire"
Stevie Ray Vaughan performing "Crossfire" on the Arsenio Hall tv show
01 / 23 / 08
Printer Friendly Lesson Plan:
CLICK the Mercury Records logo below for a printer friendly version of the Lesson Plan.
Printer Friendly Student Handout:
CLICK the Atlantic Records logo below for a printer friendly version of The 12 Steps of Alcholics Anonymous.
Stevie Ray lyrics:
CLICK the musical note below for a printer friendly version of the lyrics to songs mentioned in this lesson plan.
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