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Songs That Tell A Story
Every time I come across a song that tells a story, there is something about it but it stays longer in my mind than others that do not. I think the reason for this is the story in and of itself makes the song a whole lot more interesting.
Some songs tell stories about historical incidents that really happened. Others, especially country songs, tell more personal stories, about loved ones, fights, death but they all speak of people and the song contains a tale within it that has a beginning and an end. These songs, especially the ones about history are quite helpful as they are easy to learn and help to remind one of some basic points which then trigger the details you perhaps researched before. They can also be quite funny.
Rasputin by Boney M.
One such song which speaks of a historical figure and is quite funny is Rasputin by the band called Boney M. It is performed quite comically but it tells the story of Rasputin, adviser to the Czar of Russia in quite a detailed way. Of course, some points are embellished a bit as it was written for entertainment purposes as well, but on the whole the lyrics are quite accurate and if one listens to the song and enjoys it, then the chances of one forgetting just who Rasputin was in history are slim to none.
Boney M singing Rasputin
Ballad of Alamo by Marty Robbins
Marty Robbins singing El Paso
As one can see from watching it, the band truly tried to portray the character of Rasputin. It was a huge hit in Russia even though it was a banned song. For sure anyone listening to this song can say that they do know a bit of Russian history.
Ballad of The Alamo by Marty Robbins
This song is a complete history lesson on the Alamo. If you have a problem remembering your facts, names, or years, this tune has it wrapped up in three minutes and fifty-five seconds. Who says learning can't be fun!
El Paso by Marty Robbins
This song tells the story of a young man who falls in love only to die because of it. Most songs that tell a story do end in some sort of tragedy or victory - they are stories after all. But the tune and lyrics are so simple that as pointed out before they do seem to stay on the mind more than other songs. Hearing the song is like a mini movie because one's imagination gets caught up in the Texas gun fight and Felina running out to say goodbye. Even though it is a story, there are things that can be learned from it. For instance, if you didn't know a thing about West Texas before, after listening to this song, you will have learned that there is a town called El Paso there. Geography and a good story all rolled into one.
Redemption Song by Bob Marley
Last Kiss by J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot
Bob Marley's Redemption Song has story as well as message wrapped up in one. The first verse deals with the capturing of African slaves and their transportation to the New World. It speaks of the trials and tribulations that they went through all through the voice of the narrator. So it is in the first person narrative although referring to an entire group of people. The second verse now speaks to those same people encouraging them to emancipate themselves from another type of slavery, mental slavery,which they possibly are not aware of.
Both verses complete the message of Redemption songs and I would say that one cannot do without the other for the first explains the struggle and proves that slavery can be beat, therefore the second verse is boosted by the first and helps to encourage the belief that mental slavery can be abolished as well.
Then there is the song called Last Kiss by J Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers. It was redone by Pearl Jam and became a great hit but it originally came from these guys. A love story written in a song it has a tragic ending but people seem to love it. A boy taking his sweetheart on a date gets into a car accident and he survives but she is badly hurt and he just has enough time to say goodbye to her.
The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot tells the true story of a ship which sank during a hurricane called The Edmund Fitzgerald. It happened on the 10th of November 1975 and some twenty-none people perished when the ship sank. Once again you get not only history from this song but a bit of Geography as places like Wisconsin, Detroit, and the Great lakes are mentioned.
There is many a country song which tells a story for instance the one about Joni and Jimmy. Where Joni loved Jimmy but she was too young for him so he went away. When he came back because he realized he couldn't do without her, she had married his best friend John. Or how about the one where the grandfather is standing outside the church door telling his fifteen year old grandson just how his grandparents met while his wife is at home dying? Then there was the ever popular one called Frankie about a crush a young girl had that she never quite seemed to get over and the one that Theresa Brewer sang called Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry when she went to the pictures alone because her boyfriend at the time said he couldn't make it. Upon arriving whom should he spy but her boyfriend and her best friend.
There are ones with what I call "oompf" at the end like Kenny Rogers' Coward of The County where the young boy after years of being the peacemaker and getting trampled on for it, finally has enough after his wife Becky becomes a victim and he turns psycho on the bullies of the town.
Whether they have a happy ending or sad, there is one thing that songs with stories make us do and that is listen until the end. After that we decide whether we like them or not but the end has to be known.