Tag Archives: music

Somebody please bring back the storytelling ballads!

Paul Revere in Boston

Maybe if Paul Revere had loaned his horse to Charlie, Charlie could have jumped off the train and ridden away! Paul Revere statue image courtesy of keencarlene, Morguefile.

So on New Year’s Eve, I’m sitting around playing a hilarious game of Uno with my mom and a friend. (Who knew the card game Uno could be so cutthroat??!!)

We’re chatting away and the friend mentions a song by the Kingston Trio called “M.T.A.” (Bostonians, quit giggling.) Oh funny song, where have I been all your life? How is it that I have never, ever heard of this song before? (See video below.)

My research tells me that this is quite the iconic song in the Boston area. It is the story of a man named Charlie forever trapped on a subway train due to a fare increase and was originally created as a song to get a local mayor elected.

(Oh, I could have fun writing a parody of this song for the DC area……)

Of course, if Charlie had a smartphone, he could send out a tweet or a Facebook post about it. Sympathetic users would pass on the message to others, and Charlie would be rescued more quickly. Poor guy.

It got me thinking, when was the last time I heard a good ballad from a modern artist? It’s been quite a while, because songs that tell a good story with a defined beginning, middle and ending aren’t really created these days.

It seems like the golden age of ballads was between the 1960s and 1980s. There was Bobbie Gentry’s Southern-Gothic “Ode to Billie Joe” in the 1960s (they made a movie out of that one), Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” in the mid-1970s, and Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” and “Leader of the Band” from the 1980s.

According to Dictionary.com, the word “ballad” comes from Europe, where it originally meant “dance” or “dancing song”. Although dancing is a bit hard to picture when we’re talking about a song like “Ode to Billie Joe”. “Footloose,” it ain’t.

It would be fun to see ballads make a comeback, don’t you think? Blog readers, do you have one or two favorite ballads?

Video credit: Jan Hammer, YouTube.


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