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Padre Steve’s Favorite Story Songs

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I like songs that tell good stories. Unfortunately many of them are sad stories, which makes them somewhat different than sad love songs. Sad love songs generally don’t really have to have a story other than what Lieutenant Frank Drebin said in the Naked Gun: “It’s the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.”

However these songs are about life, disappointment, tragedy as well as real events and people. Sometimes they deal with love, other times loss and sometimes real world events and people. Some are songs that appeal to simpler times, but all tell stories.

I think that songs that tell stories speak to us in ways that we might not otherwise expect. But then for me music is something that can reach my heart in ways that written words cannot. Most of these songs come out of the 1960s and 1970s, which I really think was the time where such songs were most influential and popular. There are others that I could list her but for now I will leave you with these.

Please enjoy them.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Terry Jacks Seasons in the Sun http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhQ13geD2OA is an English adaptation of Jacque Brel’s song Le Moribond.

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Gordon Lightfoot The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0DqPSF2fyo is about the loss of the large bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 1975.

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Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCpsD0ZDfus is a song that speaks about a father who is too busy for his son as the son is growing up and finds that when he is old that his son has “grown up just like me.”

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Billy Joel Piano Man http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxEPV4kolz0 tells the story of a bar musician and is a fictionalized retelling of his life before he became famous. His song Goodnight Saigon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJFmRA7ousE is an ode to the Vietnam Veterans that came out as the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial was being constructed.

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Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s The Ballad of the Green Beret http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34CXcgJURbg was written after Sadler recovered from wounds that he received in Vietnam.

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One song that has always gotten me is the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Mr Bojangles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3YMyW0SqmU was written by Jerry Jeff Walker and recounted his meeting a street performer in a New Orleans jail.

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Elton John’s Candle in the Wind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoOhnrjdYOc was written in honor of the late Marilyn Monroe.

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Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Alone Again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_P-v1BVQn8 is a really sad and introspective song about a man who struggles with life.

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The Beatles Yesterday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIc6AH_2TEs is about the break up of a relationship and was the first Beatles song that only one member sang, in this case Paul McCartney.

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Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHkBv-AtKDA was written by Kris Kristofferson and recorded by others before it became a number one hit for Joplin after her death to a heroin overdose in 1970.

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Abba’s Fernando http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv_-6XQyIq0 is a song of two veteran’s of the Mexican Revolution remembering their younger days in that conflict.

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I have always liked Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg

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Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods Billy Don’t Be a Hero http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0lKmznjgfQ is an anti-war song that they recorded and released just before Paper Lace in the United States and deals with a love story set amid the Civil War.

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Paper Lace’s The Night Chicago Died http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryVh9BuwOs4 tells a fictional story of a police shoot out with the Al Capone gang.

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Cher’s Gypsies Tramps and Thieves http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOSZwEwl_1Q is the story of the daughter of a Gypsy family and her struggles to survive.

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Joan Baez’s The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnS9M03F-fA was originally written and recorded by Robbie Robinson and Levon Helm of The Band. It tells the story of a Confederate soldier in the closing days of the Civil War.

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Bobby Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDHpkYI5_FY is a Southern Gothic type song about suicide, grief, emotional separation and other tragedies set alongside the banal happenings of everyday life.

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Coven’s One Tin Soldier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qswm7lHp7oY is another anti-war song but is a story about tow peoples and the desire of one people to attain the treasure held by the other, a treasure that was to be shared, that of peace on earth.

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Arlo Guthrie’s City of New Orleans http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfxoM6trtZE was written by Steve Goodman and is set on a nostalgic and bittersweet ride on the Illinois Central Railroad’s City of New Orleans. It was released in 1971 at a time when my family still road the railroads to cross the country and I can feel the emotion of those trips when I hear the song.

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Barry Manilow’s Copacabana http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU8TAkl7Tbg is the story of a tragedy that unfolds in the lives of a singer named Lola and her bartender boyfriend Tony in a clash with a mafia don named Rico at the famed New York nightclub Copacabana. Unlike most of Manilow’s songs and for that matter most of these story songs, it is a Disco song.

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Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj4nJ1YEAp4 became the epitome of a story song that spawned a number of movies.

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Olivia Newton-John’s Please Mister Please http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULJ3KrFwdbA is a song about a woman who cannot bear hearing a song that she associates with her lost love when people play it on the bar jukebox.

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Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58id5JIzFao is a sad song about a woman who has lost her love and is away from home longing to return.

The Eagles Lyin’ Eyes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk1g6jJTsXY is one of a number of story songs by that super-group and is the story of a woman who has married a rich old man, but unfulfilled enters into an affair while lying to her husband about it.

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I think the way to end this list is with Tony Orlando and Dawn’s Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3ouKAhxZbQ

 

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Peace, Protest and Social Justice Songs

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I grew up in the turbulent times of the 1960s and 1970s. I can remember when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr were assassinated. I remember the terrible massacre at My Lai in Vietnam. I remember the racism that was part of the fabric of the times that I grew up, the struggles of African Americans, Asians, Mexican Americans and other minorities to become part of our society and the struggles of women for equality and the emergence of the Gay rights movement. I guess that means I have just a bit of non-conformist radical in me. Oh well, could be worse.

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That was a turbulent time and one of the key elements in it was the music. The music often provided an entry for people who might otherwise have not supported various people’s struggle for justice, equality and peace.

I am not going to go into a lot of detail about each song but each has a message. Some were not in your face protest songs, but they became anthems for various movements. While one does not have to agree with the message of the songs or evens the movements that they have come to represent it is hard not to deny their importance in the shaping of our country over the past 50 years.

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One of the saddest songs of the era was Dion DiMucci’s Abraham, Martin and John http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPdYViBu0is which was a ballad about the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr and John F Kennedy.

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Barry McGuire’ Eve of Destruction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExH7h9Lk5HY was one of the most acclaimed and derided songs of the era. Released in 1965 it boldly attacked many injustices in society. After McGuire became a Born Again Christian he released a similar song called Don’t Blame God for the Sins of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3HjUOxy-O8 is a haunting rock song that though written and released in 1974 that speaks truth even today.

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Coven’s haunting One Tin Soldier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XoETkduqPs was the theme song for the film Billy Jack. It is a song that speaks of the greed that underlies so many wars and the terrible cost of those wars.

Paul Revere and the Raiders

Paul Revere and the Raiders Cherokee Nation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ojRQ15My7s spoke of the crimes committed against the Cherokee’s and other Native American tribes over the course of American history.

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Helen Reddy’s hit I am Woman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmifO2sKT7g became the anthem of the Women’s rights movement.

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Edwin Starr’s War What is it Good For? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01-2pNCZiNk is a classic and blatant anti-Vietnam war protest song that reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1969. It has endured and was placed on a list of inappropriate songs by the conservative talk radio conglomerate Clear Channel after the  attacks of 9-11-2001.

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Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIekamBDiAw&list=PLE40E6F3D5BB9DC23&index=13 deals with the effects of the Vietnam War on Americans. Released in 1984 ten years after the end of the war and two years after the dedication of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall.

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Bob Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWwgrjjIMXA though considered by many to be a protest song is more of an introspective and philosophical song dealing with questions of war, peace and freedom.

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The folk trio of Peter Paul and Mary was deeply involved with much of the 1960s protest movement and their songs, particularly The Times they are a Changing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oU7M4OeSRM and If I Had a Hammer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaWl2lA7968 are legendary.

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The Kingston Trio recorded Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBtT9NfWtbE in 1961. Seeger had adapted it from a Cossack folk song which Seeger learned of when reading Mikhail Sholokhov novel And Quiet Flows the Don. It is considered one of the most influential political songs ever written and been recorded by many more artists over the years.

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Isley Brothers Fight the Power http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tLp3p4okmg which was release in 1975 was noted for its use of the word “bullshit” which was censored on the radio and its negative portrayal of authority figures in general.

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Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods Billy Don’t Be a Hero http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0lKmznjgfQ was also released by Paper Lace. In 1974, its anti-war message, couched in terms of the story of a Civil War soldier who leaves his fiancee to volunteer. The Heywood’s version hit number one in the US and Canada while the Paper Lace version hit number one in England, but never charted above number 96 on the US Hot 100.

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Inspired by Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind the legendary Sam Cooke wrote and recorded A Change is Gonna Come http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaNzxniXxYE Cooke was inspired to write the first draft following a sit-in protest in Durham North Carolina in 1963. The song was released following his death and was recorded and released later by Otis Redding.

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Simon and Garfunkel Sound of Silence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hUy9ePyo6Q was written and recorded following the assassination of John F Kennedy.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBfjU3_XOaA released in 1969 was a protest song about the Vietnam War and criticism of the children of political and economic power brokers who avoided serving in the war. It was used in the movie Forrest Gump.

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Janice Ian’s At Seventeen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMUz2TNMvL0 is a song about the ugly ducking’s, and the cruelty of adolescents, school popularity and the fears and anxieties of growing up.

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Aretha Franklin’s Respect http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o1Bg7yBxQo released in 1965 is considered a hallmark of the Feminist Movement.

Don McLean American Pie

Don McLean’s American Pie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr-BYVeCv6U is not really a protest song, but the poetry of the song which deals with the death of Buddy Holly in 1959 touches on a wide range of themes and issues of the 1960s and early 1970s.

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The Hollies He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1KtScrqtbc is another one of those songs that isn’t a protest song, but does speak of responsibility for others.

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Vicki Lawrence’s The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaTH3a7u8kU talks of the injustice found in a small Georgia town when an innocent man is arrested, tried, convicted and executed for a murder that he did not commit and the revenge found by his sister.

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The Byrds Turn, Turn, Turn http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q95iQJk-nq8 was adapted from the Bible, the Book of Ecclesiastes by Pete Seeger. Though Seeger recorded it the song became a major hit when recored and released by the Byrds. Though written as a folk song it is most often noted as a plea and prayer for peace.

And with that I wish you peace,

Padre Steve+

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