How I Wrote “Wearin’ Blue”

I thought I’d share the influences that came together one day in September, 1990 when I wrote “Wearin’ Blue”, my most successful song. First off, it was the first day of autumn and there was a tree in the courtyard of the townhouse I was living in in Toronto, and the wind was gently blowing the leaves around in the air and on the ground. That gave me the idea that somethings pass like autumn leaves, and some things remain constant, like the tree trunk and branches. I had just seen a video of Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”, and as I wanted the song to express melancholy and sadness, I tried to come up with a title using the word “Blue”. Musically, I started in A Minor and built up a chord pattern with a strong dominant 7 (E dom7) and a repeated minor to relative major change. The lyrics for the first verse were inspired by some stale relationships I had experienced and seen in other people.  “The wind blows the wasted words that were thrown, Down to the lovers who lie on their own, Wearin’ Blue” was inspired by the wind rustling the autumn leaves in the courtyard.

Then I thought I’d zoom back and express some aspects of society that make people sad, and wrote the lyrics for the second verse. “The wind blows the wasted words that were tried, Down to the poets who fought as they died, Wearin’ Blue” was based on the work of some of my favourite poets, including Walt Whitman and Goethe, and how so many people make the same mistakes they always do, in spite of the words of the great poets.

I then decided that with all the sadness I’d like to express some simple hope, and went from A minor to the relative major C major and tried to write a simple melody that expressed hope. That became the bridge.

Finally, for the third verse, I decided to reread some favourite passages from Goethe’s autobiography “Poetry and Truth”, which was rich in evocative autumn imagery. After reading this, I came up with my own autumn imagery, where I tried to express the melancholy and sadness a lot of people feel in the fall. The end of the third verse,” Autumn of sorrow, you stole my tommorrow, and left me to sweep up the ruins” was inspired by my knowledge of Seasonal Affective Disorder as a physician, where people suffer major depressive episodes in the dark, cold autumn and winter months.

This song won the 2007 MusicAid Award for Best Canadian Songwriter. I have a music video for it and some other songs, and if you have a moment, I would appreciate you checking them out on YouTube and leaving your comments. The link is