How To Write a Hit Song

Valerie Donati and Jess Henderson

When I first came up with the idea of Klyde Kurkle and his band from the ‘60s I had fallen in love with the Beatles. My mother was pretty sure it was an obsession and forbade me from over-indexing on listening to their music, and voraciously reading books about their reign at the top of the pop charts. That didn’t last long. I soon had all their albums arranged on a bookshelf in my 12-year-old bedroom so I could lovingly gaze on their youthful faces. George was definitely my favorite, and in some ways Asen, the male protagonist of The Color Of Music, is fashioned after his groovy look – that dark tousled hair, those deep brown eyes.


In the story, Kurkle’s band - think Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - wrote a song in the late '60s that became a mega hit. “Seize The Day” was so successful that they made enough money to retire from touring. Well, they didn’t quite make enough to live like kings on their own. Great friends at work and play, the band decided to keep the good vibes going, and purchased a home in Kensington near the Palace, where they all lived together.


“Seize The Day” went on to deliver dividends. It was picked up by several large companies - Cadbury and Palmolive, to name two, as their theme song for advertising campaigns. Decade after decade, “Seize The Day” lived on, while the band (happily) lived on the proceeds.


Here are the lyrics, think ‘60s pop music, bright, cheerful, and full of hope.



Seize The Day”


When I wake in the morning

And I’m feeling kind of blue

Then I know it’s time to get up

And my thoughts go right to you


Life’s worth living that’s no question

‘Tho mostly breathing’s all I do

But I never lose connection

‘Cuz my thoughts go right to you


And that is when I seize the day

I take it with both hands and hear myself say

No matter how I feel, no matter what’s on

With you in my heart, and me head in a song

I can seize the day, I can seize the day


There are times I want to give up

When life feels sad yes, it’s true

But I’m sure to keep my chin up

‘Cuz my thoughts go right to you


So don’t lose yourself to sad days

The sun’s still shining, just look up and see

And if sad days are just your ways

Then find someone to love like me


And that is how I seize the day

I take it with both hands and hear myself say

No matter how I feel, no matter what’s on

With you in my heart, and me head in a song

I can seize the day, I can seize the day


Need some tips for writing a memorable song from our resident musical stylist – writer, producer, and singer? Jess Henderson to the rescue!


Top 5 tips for writing a hit song! 


  1. Practice! 

    My biggest piece of advice for young or new songwriters is simply to write as much and as often as you can. Ed Sheeran talks about this, for every hit he has written, he has 100 or more songs that are definitely NOT hits on the cutting room floor. 
  1. A good rule of thumb for pop songs is - Get to the hook fast.

    Have you heard the saying “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus?”. You get the idea. 
  1. Start with ONE big idea that is universal. 

    What is something everyone can relate to in this situation that you are writing about? Think of Taylor Swift’s new song, ‘Anti Hero’, it centers around a really simple idea that we’ve all felt like WE are the cause of our problems at one point or another. 
  1. Repetition is your friend. 

    Think of any big pop song and what will be the thing that they all have in common? You remember them! Why? Because they repeat the main idea enough that even on first listen, you can hum it back. 
  1. Surprise them!

    Wherever you can, try to surprise the listener. There is so much music out there and so many ideas that it’s hard to create something truly new. But you can use the element of surprise. Do something unexpected in your song and then people will want to hit repeat just to hear that ONE thing again! 

So get writing!