A line from Stan Freberg’s “Elderly Man River”: “He must know something, but he doesn’t say anything.”
If that brings out your inner Tweedly, you’re on stage, doing Grammarian’s Karaoke:
We expect (and even demand) that poets will stretch and bend the language we call it poetic license, and we issue those licenses right and left… So why don’t we extend the same privilege to song lyrics?
Perhaps it’s because poems, unlike popular songs, aren’t in heavy rotation: you may be disturbed by the words of the poem, but you’re not going to hear them once every other hour for the next three weeks. Song lyrics, however, tend to drill themselves into your head.
Or it may simply be this:
[T]hese days, we expect our popular entertainment (unlike poetry, which we no longer consider popular) to be smooth and easily digestible, and any lump in the lyrical oatmeal sticks in our craws. The wrong word sounds a wrong note, if you will; to some listeners, it’s just as jarring.
Sometimes it gives us a chance to free-associate. For years my head has been playing a mashup of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges…”