I used to keep a notebook in high school filled with ideas for song lyrics and poems. None of them were very good. I think many of us had such a notebook, either in the back of our trapper keepers or tucked away under our mattresses. While I didn’t hold my writing in high regard I do remember one lyric that I thought had potential. “Diamonds toward you and rubies away.” It was a poetic way (I thought) to describe the lights of the cars on the highway at night. Someday, I thought, that’ll make a great line in a song.
Evidently at least one other English-speaking person on the planet has had the same thought.
It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado that I first heard David Wilcox. Eye of the Hurricane is probably his best known song and it’s had some decent radio play. I discovered Wilcox’ music in the early 2000’s and eventually bought his “Very Best of David Wilcox” collection. That’s where I discovered those lyrics I’d written back in high school – except here they were in someone else’s song! The song is called Johnny’s Camaro (ironic title) and in this live version you can hear the lyrics around the 1:45 mark:
“She was looking down at the lights.
You could see them crossing the bridges,
And through the little canyon streets.
Little tiny, diamond toward you and ruby away.”
Incredible! On one hand I felt robbed. I had created those lyrics, had done so 15 years ago (and somehow still remembered) and in fact was clinging to vague plans to use them. On the other hand I felt oddly proud. Someone else had found the same lyrics and thought of them highly enough they had used them in their song. In a way, it validated my effort to hold on to them for so long – even if it meant I could no longer use them.
Here in 2019, another 15 years have passed. I have no plans to use those lyrics ever again because at this point it would look like plagiarism. (Plus I don’t think I stand a chance of doing them the kind of justice Wilcox did.) But I have wondered from time to time: What’s the likelihood of two people writing the same song lyrics? Maybe it’s more likely with pop love songs or country songs about trucks. But car headlights and taillights? There are over 7.5 billion people on the planet and 1.5 billion of them speak English. I’m not sure what the probability is of such a coincidence, but I can vouch that it’s happened.