UPDATED: Story Songs - Here are a few of our favorites


 UPDATED 10:30 a.m. July 25 - See comments - Those songs have been added to the list. | 
 
Songs that tell a story are a staple in every music genre. Operas, be it anything from the Marriage of Figaro to Tommy, are essentially a story put to a complete concert.

But what about a story told in a single song? There are tens of thousands.

For our purposes, it means a song that could tell a true story, a personal story, or most often a fictional story. 

In any case, we compiled 10 story songs, in no particular among many out in the world, that are some of our favorites. Our list is admittedly skewed somewhat by our age, and one genre that lends itself to storytelling, Country Western. 

 Taxi

This song was the first hit in the early 70s by the late singer-songwriter Harry Chapin that has largely been forgotten. Chapin was a extraordinary storyteller in song and his most recognized work that still gets airplay to this day is the sad, but poignant Cats in the Cradle.

If you haven't heard Taxi, the sad story is worth a listen.



A Boy Named Sue

While most of our songs on the list are not what we would call happy, this one is funny and poignant. With humor, Johnny Cash's A Boy Named Sue at its heart is about reconciliation and forgiveness.

The other component in this song was the live San Quentin Prison audience. It is hard to imagine this song without that vibrant interaction.



Ode to Billy Joe

Another Country Western entry on our list is Ode to Billy Joe. Even though the reason behind Billy Joe's death wasn't revealed until a mid-70s Grade-B movie by the same name, the mystery made this a massive crossover hit for Bobby Gentry in 1967.



Harper Valley PTA

Another crossover Country Western hit is Jeannie C Riley's Harper Valley PTA. Even though this was performed in a genre not exactly at the forefront of social movement in the 1960s, it was indicative of the coming 1970s women's liberation.  
 
Furthermore, who can't be down with a song about calling out small-town hypocrites!



Last Kiss

A staple of early Rock n Roll were songs about forlorn teenagers. Nothing captures this angst and tragedy better than Last Kiss.

J. Frank Wilson's 1963 version is the most well know, but Pearl Jam did an excellent cover, so we have included both.





Jungleland

The final track on Bruce Springsteen's 1975 make-it-or-break-it album Born to Run is the longest song on our list. Even though Springsteen has several well known story songs, this multi-layered composition plays like a mini opera about youth, presumably in the 1950s, and the sad tale of the Rat and Barefoot Girl.

Let's say things didn't turn out well for the young couple.



The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Even though the famed Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot has penned dozens of folk standards, he is best known for his tale of the 1975 sinking of the Great Lake Freighter in Lake Superior.



El Paso


Released in 1959, the TV series Breaking Bad renewed interest in Marty Robbins' classic. The series' final episode was called Felina, a nod to the Robbins' black-eyed beauty of El Paso.


Hurricane

Like Lightfoot, Bob Dylan's 1976 Hurricane tells the true story of boxer Ruben "Hurricane" Carter. If anybody can pen a compelling story about social justice, it's Nobel Laureate Dylan. 
 
After listening to this song, you pretty much have the whole story, up to that point at least.


Uneasy Rider

Even though Charlie Daniel's Devil Gone to Georgia is a widely recognized story song with great fiddling, for our money Uneasy Rider tells a hilarious story filled with fun commentary.





What are your favorite story songs? Let us know! Here are a few more songs to consider. See the comments below for reference.

Renegade's List

My list is strictly limited to the greatest American storyteller of the late 20th century and still today, Jimmy Buffett.

Migration - The story of a man reflecting on his life and his choices. I listened to it every morning in 78-79 on my way to work in the oil fields. Got me pumped up for the day, and boy did I need it.



A Pirate Looks at 40 - Another reflective song of a man that, at 40, still hasn't found his true calling in life. A great story.



Havana Daydreamin - Reflections of a drug smuggler in the Fla Keys. Paints a picture that should be a movie.


West Nashville Ballroom Gowns - The story of a forlorn hitchhiking young girl that grew up in Nashville society, but whose mother gave all her love to her sister.


He Went To Paris - A ballad of a man reflecting on his life, touching and poignant.















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Renegade said...

Wow, what a great subject. As a boy growing up in the 6o's much like the EGN founder, I could immediately think of 50 songs that told great stories. Songs like Marty Robbins's Big Iron, the story of an Arizona Ranger coming into a town to have a gunfight with a notorious outlaw, Texas Red. Gave me goose bumps when I was 6 or 7. The Ballad of the Green Berets by Sgt. Barry Sadler, the name says all you need to know about Viet Nam heroes. Springsteen's Born to Run, a song that touched every red-blooded American boy in 1975 as an anthem of deviance, self-awareness and rebelliousness.
But my list is strictly limited to the greatest American storyteller of the late 20th century and still today, Jimmy Buffett.
1) Migration - the story of a man reflecting on his life and his choices, I listened to it every morning in 78-79 on my way to work in the oil fields. Got me pumped up for the day and boy did I need it.
2) A Pirate Looks at 40 - another reflective song of a man that at 40 still hasn't found his true calling in life. A great story.
3) Havana Daydreamin - reflections of a drug smuggler in the Fla Keys. Paints a picture that should be a movie.
4) West Nashville Ballroom Gowns - the story of forlorn hitchhiking young girl that grew up in Nashville society, but whose mother gave all her love to her sister.
5) He Went To Paris - a ballad of a man reflecting on his life, touching and poignant.

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