There are songs with crazy lyrics, songs that make a political point, and then there are songs that just want to let you know what happened. Probably the very first songs were historical, so why shouldn't they still exist? This week Scott's made a little list of songs that can also teach. He'll start with a classic:
Gordon Lightfoot - The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
If you just listen to the twangy music, this sounds like another post-Beatles ballad. But if you listen to the lyrics, you'll find this Gordon Lightfoot song is actually a classy tribute to an American tragedy. This Great Lakes freighter sank in 1975 with all hands aboard, and 29 people lost their lives. Like a good historian, Lightfoot just recounts the story and stays out of the way. Both educational and entertaining!
Before wikipedia, the record store was the coolest research location! After the jump are a few more educational hits, and then, it'll be your turn to list a few in the comments.
As always, remember our Spotify playlist will be featuring a great selection from last week's Music Monday comments. The theme of the mix is Best Beatles Covers and aren't you in for a treat? Just remember, before you fire up that playlist, you gotta check out this week's Music Monday below. Our list of History Songs awaits inside…
Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water
Hey, rock history is still history. With an opening riff that guitar store employees have come to hate, Deep Purple recounts the worst recording session known ot man. The story goes that a guy at a Frank Zappa concert fired a flare gun, thus burning down Deep Purple's rented studio, leading the band to use a mobile recording space borrowed from The Rolling Stones. It's a crazy story that somehow makes perfect sense when mixed into a rock song, to the point it's become a classic. Talk about making lemonade!
Johnny Horton - The Battle Of New Orleans
How many pop songs start in 1814? The Battle of New Orleans recounts… well, the story of the Battle of New Orleans as part of the War of 1812. This war against the British made us feel a little more like a world power, and somehow ended with us and the British being friendly again. Not exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to be topping the charts in 1959, but hey, maybe education was more important back then.
Bob Dylan - The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
It takes real bravery to accuse someone of being a murderer while they're still alive, especially when that person is rich. But that's what Bob Dylan did in 1963, telling the story of a rich tobacco farmer who hit a 51 year old barmaid with his cane and contributed to her death. The guy was given a short sentence, released, then spent the rest of his life having to deal with obsessive Bob Dylan fans asking for his side of the story. The guy said it didn't matter to him, but if nothing else, it left him unable to forget what he'd done until his death in 2009. It's hard to imagine an artist getting away with a song like this one today.
The Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays
Before Band Aid and USA For Africa and Pink Floyd: The Wall, Bob Geldof wrote this song about a sixteen year old girl who opened fire on a group of schoolchildren in San Diego. Her reason for the crime? "I don't like Mondays." The melody is strong but the story is stronger, and though the lyrics aren't 100% factual, they're still "truthy" enough to inspire more research. I'm saying that it qualifies, and if you don't like it, you can protest in the comments.
So… what are YOUR favorite history songs? Will you pick something obscure, something college rock, or something we've never heard of before? It's all on you now, so drop your picks in the comments below. Of course, as always, we're in the Turntable.fm room waiting for you when you finish. Come and enjoy a morning mix with friends! Incidentally images are from each song's respective Wikipedia page and are here under fair use.