15 votes

Share a link to a song that tells a story

This time the "iron chef" ingredient is storytelling. What's a song you know that tells a good story?

Ground rules:

  • One song per comment, so we can vote for them individually.
  • One top-level comment per user, so pick your favorite song.
  • If you want to post more than one song, reply to yourself to add more comments.

Previously in this series:

28 comments

  1. [3]
    cfabbro
    Link
    Maritime folk/disaster songs are great for this, and if I had to pick just one to best represent the genre, it would have to be Gordon Lightfoot - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Bonus songs...

    Maritime folk/disaster songs are great for this, and if I had to pick just one to best represent the genre, it would have to be Gordon Lightfoot - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    Bonus songs

    Gordon Lightfoot - Ballad of Yarmouth Castle
    Stan Rogers & Ryan's Fancy - Barrett's Privateers
    Stan Rogers - Northwest Passage
    Stan Rogers - The Mary Ellen Carter

    6 votes
    1. Whom
      Link Parent
      And congratulations, after listening to this you now have a free emotional connection to anyone in the great lakes region. Bring up this song and you'll have a friend on the spot.

      And congratulations, after listening to this you now have a free emotional connection to anyone in the great lakes region. Bring up this song and you'll have a friend on the spot.

      3 votes
    2. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Just thought of another one worth linking to, from an artist that my dad absolutely loves. It isn't a maritime folk song, but it is a "disaster" song, of sorts. :P Harry Chapin - Thirty Thousand...

      Just thought of another one worth linking to, from an artist that my dad absolutely loves. It isn't a maritime folk song, but it is a "disaster" song, of sorts. :P

      Harry Chapin - Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas

      p.s. The album it's from, Greatest Stories - Live, is full of other great storytelling and crowd interaction songs too, and is well worth listening to in full, IMO.

  2. moocow1452
    (edited )
    Link
    Rush - 2112 One of the gold standards in Rock Opera, 2112 paints a picture of the titular year, where mankind is under the domain of the all controlling priests of Syrnix, imagination and...

    Rush - 2112

    One of the gold standards in Rock Opera, 2112 paints a picture of the titular year, where mankind is under the domain of the all controlling priests of Syrnix, imagination and creativity is outlawed, and a man finds a long abandoned musical instrument.

    5 votes
  3. deing
    Link
    Emerson, Lake & Palmer — Karn Evil 9 (1973) (lyrics @ genius) This one's separated into three "impressions" and comes in at about half an hour in total, depending on what version you're hearing....

    Emerson, Lake & Palmer — Karn Evil 9 (1973) (lyrics @ genius)
    This one's separated into three "impressions" and comes in at about half an hour in total, depending on what version you're hearing.
    Its storyline is set in the grim, dark future where there is only war and all traces of humanity's past glory are artifacts of decadence paraded around in a circus-like event. Then it goes downhill from there.
    Despite this fairly depressing outlook, it's one of my favorite pieces of all time. Part of that is definitely the fairly unique instrument organ, which ELP's done wonders with.

    3 votes
  4. Amarok
    Link
    Magna Carta - Lord of the Ages Still my all time fav story song despite being from 1973. Prog-folk-rock. We need to do a 'fav albums that tell a story' thread sometime.

    Magna Carta - Lord of the Ages

    Still my all time fav story song despite being from 1973. Prog-folk-rock.

    We need to do a 'fav albums that tell a story' thread sometime.

    2 votes
  5. [4]
    poopfeast6969
    Link
    Andy Shauf - Quite Like You Most (all those I remember) of Andy's songs could fit in this thread. I just like this one.

    Andy Shauf - Quite Like You
    Most (all those I remember) of Andy's songs could fit in this thread. I just like this one.

    2 votes
    1. unknown user
      Link Parent
      You've inspired me to start listening to more of his albums! I started with The Bearer of Bad News and now I've got to recommend another pair of tracks for this thread: Jerry Was a Clerk and My...

      You've inspired me to start listening to more of his albums! I started with The Bearer of Bad News and now I've got to recommend another pair of tracks for this thread: Jerry Was a Clerk and My Dear Helen, which just have to be listened to together.

      2 votes
    2. [2]
      unknown user
      Link Parent
      I was thinking about Andy, but I stopped myself because I think of him more of an album storyteller than a song storyteller. (I'll happily plug The Neon Skyline while I'm here. The wonderful...

      I was thinking about Andy, but I stopped myself because I think of him more of an album storyteller than a song storyteller. (I'll happily plug The Neon Skyline while I'm here. The wonderful payoff of Try Again can only happen with the emotional build-up from all the songs preceding it.)

      1 vote
      1. poopfeast6969
        Link Parent
        I heard he didn't set out to make The Party a concept album (all based around a party). But whether he meant it or not I'll agree the storytelling is a little more minimal than the others here.

        I heard he didn't set out to make The Party a concept album (all based around a party). But whether he meant it or not I'll agree the storytelling is a little more minimal than the others here.

        2 votes
  6. [3]
    ohyran
    Link
    Historian Himself - Omens The whole album is in itself a wonderful Cthulhu Mythos meets Late 19th / Early 20th Century Americana and Rap.

    Historian Himself - Omens

    The whole album is in itself a wonderful Cthulhu Mythos meets Late 19th / Early 20th Century Americana and Rap.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      ohyran
      Link Parent
      Seriously check out "Hear Chinese" on the same album its a horror story about an old golddigger who lives in Weaverville in San Francisco and decided to give himself one more chance to strike it...

      Seriously check out "Hear Chinese" on the same album its a horror story about an old golddigger who lives in Weaverville in San Francisco and decided to give himself one more chance to strike it rich by "Digging until I find gold or hear Chinese" and then down in the darkness he meets the ghosts of abandoned Chinese miners. The line "I hollered a hearty 'howdy' but a bunch of 'ni hao' echoed up around me" is just chef kiss

      2 votes
      1. ohyran
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Also the folk song/poem "BlueBird av Hull" - sung by Sofia Karlsson needs to be added, although it makes ZERO sense if you're not Swedish/Nordic or for that matter know the role of Swedes/Nordics...

        Also the folk song/poem "BlueBird av Hull" - sung by Sofia Karlsson needs to be added, although it makes ZERO sense if you're not Swedish/Nordic or for that matter know the role of Swedes/Nordics in European/American seafearing in the 19th century where many considered us expendable but incredibly skilled seafarers.

        Basically its about a young Swedish boy working as a sailor on a English boat named Blue Bird and it is set to go towards his home town where they meet a storm. So the order is set "tie the swede to the helm" (to ride out the storm). The boy sees lights from the harbour and tells his shipmates to abandon ship because he thinks his father is setting out to save them.

        Then there is a cut in the lyrics where the shipwrecked, salvaged are in the cabin of the boy Karl Stranne's fathers boat.

        Starting from here in the song
        "It was Stranne the elder, a viking an eagle
        Who during christmas 1872 took vodka out of his liqour cabinet to give to the shipwrecked
        "How was the name of the boat?", he asked and poured nine shots of vodka in pointy glasses.
        "The Brigg Blue Bird" the tenth glass he took and he smashed it to the floor
        "Did you say Blue Bird, captain? The Brigg BlueBird out of Hull? God in heaven, where is my son?"

        It ends where Stranne the elder begs the captain to spare the boys mother this christmas and never divulge the name of the boat when they get to harbour and the captain explains "Karl was tied to the helm, and abandoned on board".

        Its sort of one those "it doesn't matter how burly of a mans-man you are, if you don't cry you're not a man enough" kind of songs :)

        The fact that it starts with "Karl Stranne was tied to the helm of Blue Bird who was fated to wreck" - ooooof.

        EDIT: and now I'm crying.

        EDIT: found the English Translation of the Lyrics

        EDIT 3: the translation in the link isn't very exact and more goes for some rhytmic poetry - so it loses some nuances which of course is to be expected. Also side note "To give a guest something for free" doesn't have an English equivalent as a word I noticed just now. Karl Stranne doesn't give the shipwrecked men booze, he "gives them it for free as a host" implied that they are on his boat.
        Also the younger Karl Stranne is also very very explicit about where they are and he doesn't ask them to set out boats, but to "blossa" and that he spots a boat at leeward ("båt i lä") so that they can jump ship and get salvaged without the boats.
        The song is filled with boat references combined with Swenglish styled English to represent the English Captain. ("Allright Boys, lös av" "lös av" being "swap positions" ish)

        EDIT 2000: This is where they are at, Smögen in an area of Sweden which is sort of Sweden/Norway at the shores of Skagerrak/Kattegatt a notoriously stormy sea.

        3 votes
  7. bkimmel
    (edited )
    Link
    Pancho and Lefty Never was quite sure if: They were brothers The same person Something else I usually think #2. "Pancho and Lefty" written by Townes van Zandt:

    Pancho and Lefty
    Never was quite sure if:

    1. They were brothers
    2. The same person
    3. Something else

    I usually think #2.
    "Pancho and Lefty" written by Townes van Zandt:

    2 votes
  8. MonkeyPants
    Link
    Escape (the Pina Colada song) by Rupert Holmes You've heard it on the radio, but have you listened to it? Tells the story of a no good stinking rotten cheater who finds out his perfect match is...

    Escape (the Pina Colada song) by Rupert Holmes

    You've heard it on the radio, but have you listened to it? Tells the story of a no good stinking rotten cheater who finds out his perfect match is his no good stinking rotten cheater spouse/girlfriend. Romance ensues.

    2 votes
  9. daltonlp
    Link
    Cold Missouri Waters - Cry Cry Cry My favorite story song. The story is complicated, and tragic, and true.

    Cold Missouri Waters - Cry Cry Cry

    My favorite story song. The story is complicated, and tragic, and true.

    1 vote
  10. [3]
    tomf
    Link
    mewithoutYou - Bear's Vision of St. Agnes (lyrics / Genius) My favorite song off of one of my favorite records.

    mewithoutYou - Bear's Vision of St. Agnes (lyrics / Genius)

    My favorite song off of one of my favorite records.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      unknown user
      Link Parent
      Oh! mewithoutYou are a goldmine for this topic. I adore The Fox, The Crow, and the Cookie, too.

      Oh! mewithoutYou are a goldmine for this topic. I adore The Fox, The Crow, and the Cookie, too.

      🎵 Every rook and jay in the corvidae's been ravin' about me too~ 🎶

      2 votes
      1. tomf
        Link Parent
        I'm not sure if there's anyone who can compete with his wordplay. He went heavy with Julian the Onion (lyrics).. I love it all. :)

        I'm not sure if there's anyone who can compete with his wordplay. He went heavy with Julian the Onion (lyrics).. I love it all. :)

  11. onyxleopard
    Link
    Whenever I think of songs that tell a story, I always think of the absurd ballad of Charlie and the "MTA". And I always think of the Kingston Trio rendition. I also like this version by Tracy...

    Whenever I think of songs that tell a story, I always think of the absurd ballad of Charlie and the "MTA". And I always think of the Kingston Trio rendition. I also like this version by Tracy Newman (which is nice since she gives some history of the song). As that video mentions, like many folk songs, the tune of "MTA" was taken from "Wreck of the Old ’97". "MTA" is so ingrained in Massachusetts culture that we call T pass cards CharlieCards in tribute to the fictional protagonist.

    1 vote