Story songs

Today I heard the Decemberists’ song The Mariner’s Revenge for the first time.

I thought right away that it needed to be added to my list of the all-time great story songs.
But I don’t actually have such a list. So I’ve been mulling it over…

  • “The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night”
  • “’52 Vincent” written by Richard Thompson, but as performed by Del McCoury band
  • “A Boy Named Sue” — Johnny Cash, written by Shel, of course.
  • “Devil Went Down to Georgia” — Charlie Daniels
  • “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” – Warren Zevon
  • “Mean Individual Stranded in a Limousine.”- Paul Simon
  • The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.
  • “Hot Rod Lincoln”
  • “Frozen Logger”

Trucker songs merit their own category… Two of my favorites:

  • “Little Joe” Red Sovine
  • “Roll On” Alabama

Of course, if we’re going to allow Roll On, it almost seems like we’ll have to allow “Wildfire…”

I love how many of thoser songs have not only an ending, but a twist ending!

These are great songs, which almost qualify as story songs, but not quite (according to my stringent standards)

  • “City of New Orleans”
  • “The Weight”

Of course I wouldn’t dream of finalizing this list without hearing your input…

4 Responses

  1. Totally agree on 52 Vincent and many others. I’m throwing in:

    Pancho and Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
    Return of the Grievous Angel (Gram Parsons)
    Long Black Veil (So many good people recorded that one!)
    Gimme A Ride to Heaven Boy (Joe Ely)
    And of course Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
    Oh, and Coat of Many Colors (Dolly!)
    And Caleb Meyer (Gillian Welch and David Rawlings)
    Her First Mistake (and most anything by Lyle Lovett)
    I’ll have to keep thinking.

  2. Well, dang! You already hit most of the best ones.

    I do have a soft spot for a few gunfighter ballads, though, that didn’t make the list: “Big Iron,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” and “El Paso” are pretty great.

    I’m also a fan of C. W. McCall’s “Convoy.” And I’m willing to admit it. That should count for something …

    “Coward of the County” by Kenny Rogers will always have a special place in my heart.

    I’m not sure if “Years Ago” by the Statler Brothers is quite a story song; it might be more of a situation-song, but it and “It’s A Small, Small World” are both great classics. Nothing like each other, of course.

  3. How about “Take the Money and Run” by the Steve Miller Band? Not really a *great* story, but it is a great song.

  4. “The Mary Ellen Carter”!! (of course)

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