Songs That Tell Good Stories

There are few songs out there that actually tell good stories when the market is saturated with mindless pop songs with lyrics like: “I really, really, really, really, really, really, like you.” There was a time when music was actually used to tell a tale about love, heartbreak, or a life journey. Here are some of the best.

Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue.”

It is a fun, witty song about a boy who is trying to find his deadbeat dad and figure out why he was given such an awful fitting name, and why he was abandoned. In the end, it turns out that the was a method to the fathers madness, and Sue accepts it in the end.

SimonGarfunkel.4977.C1.1Simon & Garfunkel, “Save The Life of My Child.”

Not many songs are as satisfying as this ballad. It is much a metaphor as a story. A boy is perched at the ledge of a building, when a crowd gathers around him. The mother of the boy panics, but the police see him (and deem all youth) as disrespectful, irresponsible druggies. They think kids today aren’t cut out to survive, but the boy proves them all wrong.

Al Stewart, “Roads To Moscow.”

The brilliant lyrics i this 8 minute song about WWII tell a better history lesson than most history lessons in school. One of the few songs where the lyrics are actual poetry:

Two broken Tigers on fire in the night,

Flicker their souls to the wind…”

neil-youngNeil Young, “Cortez The Killer.”

Young tells the story of Hernan Cortes, who conquered Mexico for Spain in the 1500s. It is a song for the lost people, and for the lost world. He describes the Aztecs world as a place where “the women all were beautiful and the men stood straight and tall.” While he describes Cortes as “dancing across the water with his galleons and guns, looking for the New World in that palace in the sun.” In the end, he has this to say about Cortes: “What a killer.”

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