High Five

Bonnie Hayes and miss opportunities

Even before she took the job as the new chair of Berklee College of Music’s songwriting department, Bonnie Hayes had an already sterling resumé. A performer in her own right, she’s toured with the likes of Billy Idol and written a number of hit songs for others, including Bonnie Raitt’s “Have a Heart” and “Love Letter.”

It got us to thinking: What are five songs Hayes wishes she had written?

“There’s a tendency to want to answer that question as a tour through your tastes,” Hayes says from her apartment in the South End, where she’s adjusting to New England life after living for many years in California. “There are so many songs that I wish I had written. It happens to me all the time: I hear a song and think, damn it, why didn’t I write that?”


Ruling out Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which she admits is a guilty pleasure, Hayes still managed to surprise us with her selections.

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1. “Powa,” Tuneyards. “It’s more of a song that I wish I had produced. Or maybe it’s that I wish I had sung it. Merrill Garbus is not a great singer, but she’s a brave singer. I’m not sure what that song is about. I can teach lyric writing, but as a lyricist what attracts me is always musical ideas and singing more than lyrics. That’s just who I am.”

2. “Fake Plastic Trees,” Radiohead. “It’s about something. It’s about wanting something that’s not real to be real. Every single thing that’s wrong in the world is traceable to that, the denial of reality. And I love that it’s not about love. I’m sorry, but I’m sick of love.”

3. “Sign o’ the Times,” Prince. “I’m a huge Prince fan. It’s so easy to marginalize his contributions to music, but to me, he had such a creative way of putting together of all these beautiful influences.”

4. “Precious,” The Pretenders. “That girl [Chrissie Hynde] is a radical influence. She’s really something.”


5. “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” Joni Mitchell. “It’s one of those songs I use all the time as a demonstration of how great a lyric can be if you know how to write. The whole song is sung as a memory.”

James Reed