Songs that Tell Stories

acoustic acoustic guitar bass classic


I have always been a sucker for a good ballad. From the time I was a little girl, this was my favorite sort of song, and I could listen to a good story song over and over.

From Bobby Goldsboro‘s “Honey” to Carole King‘s “Tapestry” and Gordon Lightfoot‘s “Bitter Green,” folk was prevalent in our house, and I think that is why I fell in love with the genre.

The best lyrics tell a good story. Sure, there is a place for a good dance song, but it isn’t as difficult to write as poetic lyrics that also tell a story. The artists above are masters of it, but there have been more recent examples.

Jim Morrison‘s lyrics were almost always poetry because he was a poet at heart. Songs like “The Unknown Soldier” combined poetry with story, and helped make The Doors stars.

As I mentioned yesterday on Here’s The Clean, the master storyteller was Harry Chapin. His way of painting portraits of people with a song is simply amazing. From “Taxi” to “A Better Place to Be,” you feel like you know the people he was talking about personally. This is the mark of a true master, and something I would love to emulate in my own work.

Steam Powered Giraffe also thrives on story songs. “Captain Albert Alexander,” tells the story of a life from start to finish, as does “Rex Marksley.” Many of their other songs tell similar stories.

The bards, I know–Brobdingnagian, Bedlam–all are good storytellers

When writing my own songs, I try to keep the storytelling tradition in mind, even if it doesn’t always work. I am particularly proud of “Rose” and “Soul of a Harper” in this regard.

The bards of old were also usually balladeers. My ultimate goal in life is to fit that tradition. 🙂

Of course, this list is by no means complete. Do you have a favorite that isn’t listed? Feel free to leave a name in the comments. I am always on the lookout for a good story song.

About RieSheridanRose

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2,  and Killing It Softly. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. She tweets as @RieSheridanRose.
This entry was posted in About writing, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s