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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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The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - the Band

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Mothers of the Disappeared  -  U2

 

During the 70's and 80's, there were civil wars and military coups in the countries of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and Argentina. While traveling in Central and South America in 1986, Bono learned of children that had disappeared, abducted by the various military regimes and dictatorships from families of the opposition. He met with groups of mothers in those countries who were asking the various governments to investigate the disappearance of their children whom they believed were murdered. One group was called "Mothers of the Disappeared."

 

When U2 toured Chile in 1998, one group of Madres appeared on stage holding pictures of their missing children. Bono called out to the former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, to just tell them where the bodies were buried. 

 

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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Warsaw 1943 (Johnny Clegg)

 

Note by Johnny Clegg : Inspired by the writings of Czeslaw Milosz, this song is about friendship that survives the ultimate betrayal. There is much we still need to understand and remember from those who died as well as from those who survived the fascist and stalinist terror

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The Unicorn: Irish Rovers (a fun take on some Biblical history).

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The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia - Vicki Lawrence

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Vera Lynn sang:

 

1) We’ll Meet Again
2) They’ll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover 

 

The early years of WW II from a British perspective. Powerful, uplifting and morale boosting songs.

 

 

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Doolin - Dalton  -  Eagles

 

Tells the story of the notorious outlaw gang led by Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton from the late 1800's. 

https://www.songfacts.com/facts/eagles/doolin-dalton

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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Good Timin’: Jimmy Jones

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Tom Dooley: Kingston Trio

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Done With Bonaparte  -  Mark Knopfler

 

The song is written from the perspective of a French soldier, as Napoleon's army is forced to retreat from its invasion of Russia in 1812. He had joined the French army with high hopes, only to have his dreams shattered. Wounded, malnourished, and longing to be home with his loved one, he prays the world never sees the likes of "the little Corporal" again. 

 

Knopfler is a brilliant storyteller, and the lyrics to this song are poignant. The rhythm and melody, however, make for a great dance tune.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-N0u6xTs1g

 

Lyrics:  https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/markknopfler/donewithbonaparte.html

 

 

 

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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The Night Chicago Died - Paper Lace

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The Death Of Emmett Till: Dylan

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CHICAGO- Graham Nash

From his 1971 debut solo album

This song's title and lyrics are about the anti Vietnam War protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago

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Vincent: Don McLean

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The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot

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Children's Crusade (Sting)

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A Hundred Pounds Of Clay: Gene McDaniels (it fits the topic in a creationist sort of way).

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John Henry: trad. American folk song.

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The Ballad Of Ira Hayes: Johnny Cash, Dylan, others.

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Waterloo: Stonewall Jackson

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History Will Teach Us Nothing (Sting)

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Walk On  -  U2

 

This song was written about Burmese activist and politician, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She had led a non-violent protest against the government for democracy and human rights. When her group was confronted by soldiers with rifles pointed at them, they were ordered to stop or be shot. Suu Kyi refused to stop, and thus the title, Walk On. She was held under house arrest as a political prisoner from 1989 - 2010.

https://www.songfacts.com/facts/u2/walk-on

 

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix
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The Ride Of Paul Revere - the Terracetones

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Comanche (Johnny Horton)

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We Work the Black Seam- Sting

 

Song about the UK miner's strike in 1984

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The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down: The Band

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Sink The Bismarck - Johnny Horton

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"1814 Battle of New Orleans"  by Johnny Horton

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqPs2OjGrYY

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Using the term “History” in its loosest sense:

Mr. Custer: Larry Verne

Lady Godiva: Peter & Gordon 

 

Snoopy v. The Red Baron: The Royal Guardsmen

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sorry: Sink the Bismarck was previously posted

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