Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Melodious Raconteurs

Rarely does one find songs that tell a story; a good story is even more difficult to find. Around a couple of days ago, my friend Zena forwarded me a song which told a very beautiful story. (The song will be mentioned in the post). I then started thinking about the other songs which recite a story. And though I already knew some, I decided to find a few more. I downloaded the ones which caught my interest. And now I shall name those which I've come to like.
P.S.: For me, a song should have not only good lyrics, but also a good tune. So my favourites list here will have those songs that tell a good story as well as bear a melodious tune, though I will mention the other one of which I did not like the tune but had good lyrics.

1. Song: Cat's In The Cradle, Writers: Harry Chapin, Sandy Chapin, Version I Like: Ugly Kid Joe
And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin home, dad, I don’t know when,
But we'll get together then, Son,
You know we'll have a good time then.
Besides referencing three nursery rhymes in the chorus, Cat's In The Cradle talks about a deteriorating relationship between a father and his son. I'm not going to outline the entire story, for that you can check the lyrics and download the song, but just wanted to point out the way in which Sandy Chapin (Harry's wife) had brought to the fore the problems among parents and children in general. I really liked the cover version by Ugly Kid Joe.

2. Song: Last Kiss, Writer: Wayne Cochran, Version I Like: Pearl Jam (No doubt about that! Never heard of a single person who liked, or for that matter even heard, the original)
Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world. 
This is one of my favourite love songs too. Talks about the idea of undying love in a way no other song speaks of. One of the best stories ever, according to me, the original, I felt, was devoid of the emotion that should accompany it, which Pearl Jam's cover magnificently added to it. Plain magic!

3. Song: Coward Of The County, Writers: Roger Bowling, Billy Ed Wheeler. Version I Like: Kenny Rogers (the original)
"Promise me, son, not to do the things I've done.
Walk away from trouble if you can.
Now it won't mean you're weak if you turn the other cheek.
I hope you're old enough to understand:
Son, you don't have to fight to be a man."
This was the song Zena forwarded to me and even though I'd heard this song many times before I never knew what its name was. The lyrics of this song brought tears to my eyes. Enough said! (Not being melodramatic, and by the way, boys cry too!)

4. Song: Whiskey Lullaby, Writers: Bill Anderson, Jon Randall, Version I Liked: Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss (the original)
We found him with his face down in the pillow
With a note that said I'll love her till I die
And when we buried him beneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullaby
If Last Kiss was about undying love, then Whiskey Lullaby is about broken love and its consequences. Set to a tearful tune, it is also beautifully sung by Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss.

5. Song: Fast Car, Writer: Tracy Chapman, Version I Liked: Tracy Chapman (the original)
You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so we can fly away
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way 
Tracy Chapman has always been hailed as one of the best songwriters ever. This was her first single and it immediately made an impact. A storyteller of class, this song is "not really about a car at all... Basically it's about a relationship that doesn't work out because it's starting from the wrong place." (Chapman's words)

6: Song: Stan, Writer: Eminem, Dido Armstrong, Version I Liked: Eminem & Dido (Duh!!!)
See everything you say is real, and I respect you cause you tell it
My girlfriend's jealous cause I talk about you 24/7
But she don't know you like I know you Slim, no one does
She don't know what it was like for people like us growin up
You gotta call me man, I'll be the biggest fan you'll ever lose
Sincerely yours, Stan -- P.S.
We should be together too
Funny, in your face, hilarious and yet scary, Stan is a gem of a story. And to think rappers otherwise only talk about money, women and sex; Stan stands out among rap songs.

7. Song: Mockingbird, Writer: M. Mathers, L. Resto, Version I Liked: Eminem
Now hush little baby, don't you cry
Everything's gonna be alright
Stiffen that upper lip up little lady, I told ya
Daddy's here to hold ya through the night
I know mommy's not here right now and we don't know why
We feel how we feel inside
It may seem a little crazy, pretty baby
But I promise momma's gon' be alright
I'm not a fan of Eminem, I don't like rap much as a genre, but Eminem is a really good songwriter. If Stan showed his humorous side, Mockingbird shows his serious one. More than a story this was a personal confession though, but a very sincere one at that.

8. Song: Hazard, Writer: Richard Marx, Version I Liked: Richard Marx
We used to walk down by the river
She loved to watch the sun go down
We used to walk along the river
And dream our way out of this town ... 
Hazard tells a depressing story of a lost love, it's a story that can really make one feel sad. Even Richard Marx's voice and the haunting music adds to the entire feel of the song.

And now some songs that did not make the list:
1. Johnny Cash's 'A Boy Named Sue'
2. Billy Joel's 'Scenes From An Italian Restaurant' (This is divided into 3 parts, the 3rd one is the place where the story occurs)
3. Madonna's 'American Pie' (Yes, I know the original is by Don McLean, and people might consider me insane for liking Madonna's version over McLean's. But well, that's my choice. About the lyrics, good storytelling, but somehow didn't feel it good enough to be on my list.)
4. Pat Boone & Trini Lopez's 'Speedy Gonzales' (Could this be counted as a story? That's a question mark, actually. But the song does tell us a story if you read through the lyrics. So I put it in this list.)
5. Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler'
6. Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley's 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light'

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