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Rock Songs About History

What songs tell a story about historic events, places or people. 

 

I'll start with a true favorite: Roads to Moscow- Al Stewart

From his 1973 Past, Present and Future album

 

This song tells the story of the German invasion of Russia in WWII. Each verse  beautifully captures the different aspects of the conflict as seen through the eyes of a Russian soldier. When you listen, you can almost see the aspects of the campaign happening.

 

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1944 (Jamala)

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Pride (In the Name of Love) (U2)

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Enola Gay (OMD)

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War Surplus Baby (Bill Danoff)

 

"Barefoot and sadness
Bell bottom eyes
We did what need to be done
So we marched all the marches
Ended all the wars
All the time believing that we won"

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Life In Dark Water - Al Stewart

 

About the tale and mystery of The Mary Celeste

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Outlaw Blues: Dylan (He references Jesse James and Robert Ford, the guy who shot Jesse James).

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Indian Reservation - Paul Revere and The Raiders

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Murder Most Foul: Dylan

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Telegraph Road (Dire Straits)--about the development of an actual road in LA

 

"A long time ago came a man on a track
Walking thirty miles with a sack on his back
And he put down his load where he thought it was the best
Made a home in the wilderness"

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Good Timin’: Jimmie Jones

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Juarez (Tori Amos):  From Flavorwire:  "As you might expect of a song about the border-town murders of hundreds of women, “Juarez” is incredibly haunting."

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They Dance Alone (Sting)--concerning the Disappeared in Chile during Pinochet's regime 

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We Work the Black Seam Together (Sting)--concerning the 1984 miners strike in England

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P.T. 109: Jimmy Dean 

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All and Everyone-- by PJ Harvey -- About the the battle of Gallipoli

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Killing of Georgie (Parts I & II) (Rod Stewart)

 

From Wikipedia:  "In the May 1995 issue of Mojo, Stewart explained: 'That was a true story about a gay friend of The Faces. He was especially close to me and Mac. But he was knifed or shot, I can't remember which.'"

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Warren Harding- Al Stewart

From Past, Present and Future album

Telling the story of Warren Harding, 29th US President from 1921-1923 and an alleged scandal with an immigrant bootlegger

 

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Memories Of Yesterday - the Five Crowns

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Scarborough Fair / Canticle  -  S&G

 

In the 1600's, Scarborough Fair was an annual gathering for vendors selling their goods along with minstrels and other performers. It's an old folk song made popular by traveling minstrels. More at . . .

https://www.songfacts.com/facts/simon-garfunkel/scarborough-fair-canticle

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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When We Were Young - the five Playboys

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I Remember The Night - the Newtones

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Sympathy For The Devil  -  The Stones

 

Several historical references are mentioned - 

Jesus and Pilate

The Russian Revolution 1917 and killing of the royal family

World War II and Hitler's blitzkrieg

The killing of the Kennedys

A reference to killings in India possibly referring to a religious cult

 

 

 

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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American Pie - Don McLean

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Impi (Johnny Clegg)

 

From Wikipedia:  "The album's lead single, "Impi", with its pointedly political lyrics about a defeat of the colonial British army by the Zulus at the Battle of Isandlwana, was banned by South African radio"

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Catherine Howard's Fate  -  Blackmore's Night

 

Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, and the second to be executed for "treason" (adultery).

 

 

 

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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Bring Back Those Do Wops - the Bagdads

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The Ballad Of Ira Hayes: Dylan

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The Green Fields of France (No Man's Land)  -  Eric Bogle (Scottish singer-songwriter) and recorded by various artists, especially Irish singers and folk bands

 

It's about the WWI cemeteries found in the "no man's land" of Flanders and Northern France, and a young soldier, Willie McBride, who died and was buried there.

 

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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