Music with a message

“Now every one of us was made to suffer.
Every one of us was made to weep.
But we’ve been hurting one another,
And now the pain has cut too deep.
So take me from the wreckage,
Save me from the blast.
Lift me up and take me back.
Don’t let me keep on walking,
Walking on broken glass.”

Oh, Annie Lennox put words to my angst earlier this month when I caught her belting out “Walking on Broken Glass” on xM Radio’s ’80s channel.

That song told my story that day. I began conjuring up other fragments of pop music that tell stories — not in only bits and pieces, but throughout the song. I wished for a Pandora channel that categorized storytelling lyrics instead of genres. Here’s the short list I developed of popular music that tells stories:

  • “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band.
  • “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes
  • “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot
  • “Cat’s In the Cradle” by Harry Chapin (a favorite of my Beloved’s)
  • “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Folgelberg
  • “Delta Dawn” by Helen Reddy (this might be a little bit of a stretch because we never find out what happens to Delta).

I thought for sure Phil Collins told some song stories on “No Jacket Required,” a tape (yes, tape) I wore out, I played it so often on my Walkman in 1985. But no. Like a typical percussionist, his lyrics are more rhythmic than narrative.

I could say the same for Jack Johnson. Like “No Jacket Required,” “In Between Dreams” only felt like it told a story because it was the soundtrack to a personal soap opera.

I am reminded of a fragment of a Natasha Bedingfield song I took as a personal anthem when it came out in 2006:

“Today is where your book begins;
The rest is still unwritten.”

We all have stories. Sometimes, they’re best told with a little tune.

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