All songs (well, most) tell a story, but story songs are really something special. Imagine a short story set to music and you get the gist. A story song includes a plot, characters, conflict, and resolution. Some are so cinematic, like Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” for example, that they actually become movies. How cool is that?
For my music dollar the best story songs date to the singer-songwriter era but the genre’s commercial heyday was probably the ’80s, when Bruce, Mellencamp, and Bon Jovi were topping the charts with little ditties ’bout living on a prayer in the U.S.A. Even KISS got in on the act.
I’m not going deep with this playlist. Instead, here are some great examples of story songs:
“Taxi,” Harry Chapin.
“Operator,” Jim Croce.
“Space Oddity,” David Bowie.
“Eleanor Rigby,” The Beatles.
“Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” Meatloaf.
“Lola,” The Kinks.
“Frank’s Wild Years,” Tom Waits.
“Red Barchetta,” Rush.
So there’s eight from me. What did I miss? I’m listening.