A Brief History of Halloween and of Halloween Songs
The Origins of Halloween
Many believe the roots of Halloween date back to over 2,000 years ago in the region of Europe where Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France are now located. November 1st was the Celtic new year. The date also indicated the end of summer and the beginning of winter, a time when more deaths seemed to occur. It was believed that the eve of this new year (October 31st) was a time when the dead were able to come back to the living realm. However, the ghosts that returned to Earth were not necessarily friendly spirits. The Celts believed that these unfriendly spirits wreaked havoc on things the living depended on, such as the crops. They also thought that the presence of ghosts allowed the Druids to make accurate predictions, or prophecies, about what the future held.
During the festivities, the Druids created bonfires where people could burn sacrifices of crops and livestock for their Gods. The Celts wore costumes made of animal skins and animal heads to submit their offerings. After the festival ended, the Celts lit their hearths with the bonfire flames because it was thought to add extra protection through the dark winter months.
After the Romans began conquering other empires, the Celtic traditions began to be incorporated into the traditions of other cultures. In modern times, the celebration of Halloween is not about celebrating the date or about protection from ghosts that have returned to Earth. It has become a commercial holiday made friendly for children and families. It is an excuse for candy, a good scare. And, of course, no party is complete without good music!
The following videos are a compilation of music perfect for Halloween. These songs have just the right amount of creepy to set the mood. And now that you have a brief history of the holiday, you will want the history of the songs as well. So sit back, read about the music, and enjoy the tunes. Then share the information and the music with your friends when you party like a creepy monster!
Dance in the Graveyards - Delta Rae
Delta Rae is a folk band out of Durham, NC comprised of three siblings: Ian, Eric, and Brittany Holljes. The siblings also have three other members included in their band.
"Dance in the Graveyards" is a song about celebrating the life of someone who has died rather than mourning their loss, much like the tradition of the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, which is also honored in the video.
“These past few years have been the first of my life when I’ve lost people who were really close to me” explains Ian Holljes. “The death of one of my closest friends as well as a mentor with whom I lived with left a really strong impression with me and inspired this song. These people were wonderful parts of my life. For me, they’re not resting in peace. They remain vivid, important influences in my life. They still move me, and in so many ways I’m still dancing with their spirits and the memories they left behind. The song reflects both my personal attitude towards dying, but also how I want to remember the people I love who have passed on.”
Bottom of the River - Delta Rae
"The Bottom of the River" is another Delta Rae song that is most definitely spooky from the lyrics to the video. "I Will Never Die" is about as creepy as they get, as far as lyrics go.These songs, like many of their others, helped form a sound all their own. One that is bluesy, folksy, and still somehow distinctly modern and highly unique.
The trio says they grew up hearing folklore and supernatural tales. They also often heard their mother's made up melodies as she read these tales to them. The melodies and the stories obviously had an influence on them. In fact, their name comes from a fictional story their mother intended to write. The main character is a girl named Delta Rae, a girl who can summon the Greek gods down to Earth.
Two Black Cadillacs - Carrie Underwood
As far as "Two Black Cadillacs" goes, the song itself is a little eerie in that we never find out exactly what the two women did to their betrayer, only that it cost him his life somehow. However, what makes this song particularly Halloween worthy is the video. Does that car remind you of a Steven King novel turned movie?
And "Blown Away" is just a twisted tale of revenge. As if a twister isn't terrifying enough, the song reveals even darker undertones within its lyrics. But one thing Carrie does well is bring a story to life in video form.
"When I first heard the song, I just had visions of what I wanted it to be like. And I really wanted it to be a dark Wizard of Oz in 2012 kind of thing," she told CMT Insider about the "Blown Away" video.
The singer also says that it is easier to get into "a dark place" while singing if she is just telling a story. She's grateful she didn't have to use the words "me" or "I" to tell the story.
Goodbye Earl - Dixie Chicks
"Goodbye Earl" is told in a very light-hearted fashion, but let's just say that no one hearing this song ever looks at black-eyed peas the same way again. Not much else to say about this song, really. It is said, though, to be an effort on the part of its writer, Dennis Linde, to kill off the Earl character he had a tendency to use in other songs he wrote.
The Thunder Rolls - Garth Brooks
Unfortunately, HubPages only supports YouTube and one other video format, therefore I cannot provide the actual music video for "The Thunder Rolls." It does add new depth to the song, though. In fact, it adds so much depth that when the video was released in the 90s, it was considered too graphic and banned for suggesting domestic violence to the degree that it did, even though it does not actually show it happening directly.
Here is the link if curiosity has you by the toe: http://en.musicplayon.com/play?v=102875. Otherwise, you can hear the song by listening to the one I did post.
Riding with Private Malone - David Ball
"Riding with Private Malone" is definitely not your typical Halloween song. It has a message that is anything but scary, albeit a bit creepy perhaps. It's not a typical ghost story, though, that's for sure. And what makes this song a bit more haunting is that songwriters Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd were inspired by true stories.
"We got together and he threw this idea out," Shepherd said of the day they wrote the song. "I’m from that era of the Vietnam war, I was in college during those years. It was one of the most emotional and traumatic things that happened to our whole generation, so I related to it. Thom had the name of Malone, because it rhymed with home. He had seen a story about a guy who had restored a 1966 Corvette and put up a website about it. And he had seen another story about this guy who restored a car and he would tune the radio to one channel but it would always change back to a different station, so he thought the car was haunted. This song had it all, including the excitement of finding a classic car and getting a bargain on it and restoring it; that is an American story."
Beaches of Cheyenne - Garth Brooks
No one does this song justice like Garth Brooks himself, but I could not find the official video of "Beaches of Cheyenne" on YouTube. Nor could I find one of him singing it live. Instead, I found someone doing a cover of it.
If you take the time to listen to the cover version, you will notice that there are several things that are just plain haunting about the song. One, it is a song about a man killed while riding a bull and the heartbreak his wife carries after the fact. Apparently, the two of them parted for his last rodeo trip with angry words in which she claimed she didn't give a damn if he ever returned from Cheyenne. So, as the story goes, she goes crazy upon receiving the news. Now, she haunts the beaches of Cheyenne. Which, by the way, brings me to my second point. Beaches in Cheyenne? Well, wherever they are, she leaves her footprints there every night.
Whiskey Lullaby - Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss
"Whiskey Lullaby" is a haunting song about haunting memories that end up being too much. However, the video includes literal ghosts that are finally able to reconcile. Ghostly, but at least it implies some comforting closure, unlike the lyrics do.
The song is loosely based on a true account of an experience had by one of the co-writers, Jon Randall, who after going through a divorce from singer Lorrie Morgan, began drinking whiskey constantly and pursing sexual desires rather recklessly. His manager finally told him that sometimes you just have to put that bottle to your head and pull the trigger. Randall knew then he had to write that line down to use in a song.
Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn
Who can resist a classic? And musically, what could be a better Halloween choice than a song that tells about seeing the ghost of Elvis in Memphis? The song supposedly recounts a visit Cohn actually had to Memphis in 1986. Do you suppose he actually saw the ghost of Elvis?
Come Next Monday - K. T. Oslin
This song is most definitely not a Halloween song on its own.The lyrics, after all, are just about giving up on loving someone that doesn't want to come around. The video, however, is an old-fashioned horror tale all its own, featuring the Bride of Frankenstein or some likeness of her.
I Can Still Feel You - Collin Raye
Again with the darn ghostly memories. Some people just seem to haunt the heart. Plus, this ghostly video pays tribute to those kind of hauntings. Enough said.
Night Terror - Laura Marlng
I'm not exactly sure what this song is supposed to be about other than maybe what the title suggests. However, the video certainly has some creepiness to it. Are those clowns? Clowns are just scary in general, aren't they? No? Okay, well these clowns could certainly cause a few nightmares.
Midnight in Montgomery - Alan Jackson
The ghost of Hank Williams is a popular theme in country music, but Alan Jackson's account has a particularly haunting quality to it. It tells the story of visiting Hank's grave while passing through Montgomery one New Year's Eve night. (Hank Williams died on New Year's Day in 1953 due to heart failure, likely brought on by his alcohol and drug abuse.) The ghost himself does not seem to be particularly spooky, but the song and the video are enough to produce a chill.
Better Dig Two - The Band Perry
The Band Perry, composed of three siblings, has a knack for picking songs that stand out lyrically and that set them apart from the rest of the crowd. "Better Dig Two," written by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally is no disappointment. Upon first listen, the song is merely a declaration of how much the main singer loves her husband. Yet, it is a bit backwards as it goes a step further than that.
"Backwards in the sense that it’s a love song, but it’s also put over a really aggressive bed of music,” Kimberly Perry says. “‘Better Dig Two’ is kind of like the ultimate commitment song, Anybody who has experienced true, committed and OK somewhat crazy love for someone else — you say, I would die if something ever happened to you! This particular character in our song just will not live life without her significant other.”
Marie Laveau - Bobby Bare
This spooky song about voodoo queen Marie Laveau is based a woman that became an infamous part of folklore. Born in New Orleans in September of 1801, she eventually is said to have become the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans from at least 1820 to 1860, though there is no evidence that she practiced voodoo in her earlier life and little physical evidence to suggest that she was indeed all that folklore chalks her up to be. Either way, this song is loosely based on tales of her infamy.
Delia's Gone - Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was not the first to record this song, but the video to his version sure makes the song feel like something out of a horror novel. Additionally, this song is about a real life murder that took place on Christmas Eve of 1900. It was that night that Cooney Houston killed Delia Green in Savannah, Georgia. Tragically, they were both mere children, only fourteen years of age. Somehow the event became immortalized in a folk song that made its way to the Bahamas for some time before coming back to the United States again in the 1950s when folk music was gaining in popularity. No doubt facts about the murder itself have been changed over the years, but the song has nonetheless been sung by many famous singers, including Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.
Sitting Up With the Dead - Ray Stevens
Ray Stevens is known for his comedic approach to everyday life. While sitting up with the dead is not something that is often practiced today, the song and video make light of a somber occasion as the narrator in the story explains that he ain't sittin' up with the dead no more since the dead started sitting up too.
Jeanie's Afraid of the Dark - Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner
This story told in a song is about as creepy as they come. Thank goodness Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner were not a couple and did not have any actual children together. The chilling story of Jeannie's fear of the dark is complete fiction. Whew! Otherwise, one does not know whether or not to feel the heartbreak for Jeannie's parents or utter horror.
Tornado - Little Big Town
Because tornadoes are still terrifying and apparently fit in with a revengeful theme, which is very Halloweenish. Plus, the entire video has a very sinister quality to it that might actually be a bit of a let down once the end is reached. Unlike the song, it is sort of anti-climatic. Oh well. It's still sinister enough to rate watching as a Halloween pick.
Ghost Town - Jake Owen
This is yet another song about a haunting memory. The concept as a whole is a more unique, though. It is not simply about a memory as a ghost in the heart and mind, but rather a memory turning the entire town into a ghost town. It almost takes seeing someone everywhere because of being missed so much a step further. And then there is the video, which, in part, does give more of a haunting quality to the song
The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia - Reba McEntire
"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" was recorded before Reba ever recorded it, but she is the master of telling a story visually as well as she sings it. A classic country tale of murder, the video eerily recalls the night the murder happened through vivid memories of the sister that actually committed the murder of her brother's best friend and wife. However, it goes a step further in explaining why it is the judge really blew past the truth in a heated trial of wrongful conviction.
Gravedigger - Willie Nelson
As if the song wasn't morbid enough, Willie Nelson is quite creepy in this video. All of the characters he takes on. It's just downright creepy.
Dave Matthews, who originally recorded the song, had this to say about it:
"It's kind of these different stories that are brought together by walking through a graveyard with their names and the dates of their births and their deaths, and the stories that came out of their lives. It's sort of just telling those stories and some others as you wander through a graveyard and what you might think if you could walk into the graves and find out what people went through to get there."
Ghost - Katy Perry
This song is said to be about Katy Perry's divorce from Russell Brand. The piercing lyrics in this song make the idea of a ghost seem less haunting, but rather more like an angry spirit. Or maybe it's the way in which the words are set to music that does that. Either way, it works well for Halloween.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia - The Charlie Daniels Band
This popular Charlie Daniels classic is heard year round, of course, but a song about the devil attempting to steal a sou is most definitely. ..well, devilish. . .and it deserves to be on the list of Halloween songs. Besides, who can resist watching Charlie tear up is bow as he gets so into the performance? He doesn't do that in this particular performance, it seems, but there are videos in which he does.
Hotel California - The Eagles
"Hotel California" is another classic song that one would likely not think of for Halloween. However, the lyrics do speak of things like a hotel in which people can check out at any time, but never leave. Don Hensey said, "It's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about." But, it sounds almost more like a song about a mental asylum.