March/April 2020 Lyric Contest Winner Joe Black Details “Aphrodite Wire and Wood”

Joe Black (March/April 2020 Lyric Contest Winner)

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Denver, Colorado-based Joe Black took home the top prize for the March/April 2020 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for his song “Aphrodite Wire and Wood.” American Songwriter caught up with Joe to get the scoop on the lyric’s inspiration and see what he’s been up to lately.

What was the inspiration for “Aphrodite Wire and Wood”?

Last summer, I was visiting an old friend, a dear friend named Eddie who lives in Israel. Because of distance, we see each other very infrequently. He and his wife, Noa, and my wife, Sue, are still close friends. During our last visit, he pulled out a faded photograph of the two of us that was taken in 1983 during a camping trip on Taba Beach—which is now in Egypt—at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. We used to play music together in clubs so we had a pretty good set list. Every night we sat around the campfire with everyone else who was sleeping on that beach. Seeing that picture brought back all kinds of wonderful memories of a simpler, sweeter time. I wrote the lyrics on the plane back to the States. The title is evocative of the ease, groove and feeling of those amazing seven days when we had no cares in the world and the night was filled with music. 

Have you written music for this lyric? If so, how would you describe it?

Fun with a folky groove. 

Does it take you a long time to finish songs? How long did this one take?

Each song is different. This one kind of wrote itself. 

What keeps you motivated as a songwriter?

The ability to share a message through the gift of music.

Are there any songwriters, artists or events that have especially inspired you lately?

I grew up in Chicago listening to Steve Goodman and John Prine. Last summer I saw Prine perform at Red Rocks and I was blown away by the power of his simple lyrics. I love going to festivals like Telluride Bluegrass and the Lyons, CO Folk Fest. This summer, I’m signed up to go to The Song School at Lyons where I’ll be immersed in songwriting with other musicians and amazing faculty. 

How long have you been writing songs, and what are your songwriting goals?

I’ve been writing songs for over 50 years. My goals are to use the gift of music to make a difference in people’s lives. I serve as a Rabbi to a large congregation. My music is an extension of my rabbinate. 

How do you find time to write amid life’s many demands?

I work hard to find the time—sometimes it’s in airplanes when I’m traveling. Sometimes it’s late at night when I have a song that needs to come out. 

What is your idea of a perfect song?

One that takes you on a journey and paints a picture with words and music. 

Who are your all-time favorite songwriters? 

Steve Goodman, John Prine, John McCutcheon, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.


“Aphrodite Wire and Wood”

By Joe Black

Old pictures full of long hair and longing

Spindly legs and dark tanned skin

Not concerned ‘bout right or wronging

Just sea and sand and jumping in

6 strings they cut your fingers

But open up a world of good

A brothers’ bond that grows and lingers

Aphrodite, wire and wood

Aphrodite, wire and wood

The days were long and filled with singing

Circle sitting, seeking shade

Our hearts were full, our ears were ringing

Like kings and queens, we had it made

And late at night we played together

‘Round campfires crackling like they should

Pass the wine skin made from leather

Aphrodite, wire and wood

Aphrodite, wire and wood

So young, so fresh so eager

We want to please and to be fed

Our provisions, small and meager

But no empty plates or empty beds

Time moves fast, it keeps me guessing

I wouldn’t change things if I could

I give thanks for all the blessing

Aphrodite, wire and wood

Aphrodite, wire and wood

Aphrodite, wire and wood

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