Every generation needs its poets and here's the 23 musical scribes who define 2010.

Meanwhile, you can vote for the best lyricists ever here.

Words: Emily Mackay, Matt Wilkinson, Barry Nicolson, Mark Beaumont, Laura Snapes, Dan Martin, Sam Wolfson, Martin Robinson, Jaimie Hodgson


Born in Maryland, Callahan was known as Smog until the release of his 12th album in 2007, when he began recording under his own name

As Smog, Bill Callahan’s lyrics were a bleak cloud, expressing perverse desires in an uncomfortably close, scathing monotone – fantasising about your lover standing before the mourning congregation to eulogise about how you had sex in “the very graveyard where my body now rests” on ‘Dress Sexy At My Funeral’. Yet by making the decision to write under his own name three years ago, Callahan too was reborn, shedding both the old moniker and grievous atmosphere that went alongside it. “I used to be sorta blind/Now I can sorta see”, he sings on ‘Rococo Zephyr’ from ‘Sometimes…’, dabbling in newfangled happiness, without forsaking his trademark skepticism. LS

Key lyric: So bury me in wood and I will splinter/Bury me in stone and I will quake/Bury me in water and I will geyser/Bury me in fire and I’m gonna phoenix…”
(‘Say Valley Maker’, from ‘A River Ain’t Too Much To Love’, 2005)


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