Top 10 “Story Songs” # 3 Gordon Lightfoot (The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

Sailing in at NUMBER 3

“The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Gordon Lightfoot (1976)

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In November 1975 a cargo ship named The Edmund Fitzgerald sailed into a brutal winter storm on Lake Superior and sank. All 29 crew members perished. Canadian singer/songwriter/seafarer Gordon Lightfoot was sufficiently moved to write this dense, dreary tribute soon after. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a classic on many levels. It went to # 2 on the Billboard chart.  Details of the crew’s final moments will never be known. However, Lightfoot fills in the blanks with a likely scenario that makes full use of the artistic license granted to storytellers in the folk idiom. And, Lightfoot’s love and knowledge of sailing informs and authenticates his view of the tragedy.  Commonly cited as one of the greatest examples of the “story song” in pop history; the song was used as background music for a 2010 television documentary on the event.

In the early seventies, America’s Lyric Laureate, Bob Dylan was maintaining a low media profile. Anxious Rock journalists rung their hands and began a vigilant lookout for “The New Dylan”.  Gordon Lightfoot was among the names most often put forward.  This performance of “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” shows why…..

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Top Ten “Story Songs” # 8 Harry Chapin (Taxi)

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By Dale Nickey:

Number 8….

“TAXI” – Harry Chapin

There are some songwriters who try their hand at the story song with great success. There are the rare few who specialize in the form. Harry Chapin was one of the latter. The mawkish, weepfest “Cat’s In the Cradle” went # 1 and paid the bills. However, the urban fable:”TAXI” was Chapin’s first splash in the mainstream and is by far the superior work; both musically and lyrically. A chance reunion with an old flame in a cab is artfully set up with the line, “she was gonna be an actress, and I was gonna learn to fly….” Gorgeous cello fills and a rich and melodious instrumental bridge makes “TAXI” a musical feast as well as an engrossing story song that rewards multiple listens. Such a tragic irony that uber-philanthropist and all around good guy Chapin would die too young of cardiac arrest in fiery a car crash 1981. He did NOT die in a taxi accident as many urban legend enthusiasts would have you believe.

Top 10 “Story Songs” # 9 Suzanne Vega (The Queen And The Soldier)

By Dale Nickey:

No. 9……

  “The Queen And The Soldier” – Suzanne Vega (1985)

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I once read a quote that said, “Honor thy limitation as hidden intent”. Suzanne Vega’s enduring strength is that fact she never oversells a song. Not an acrobatic vocalist; Vega’s conversational, deadpan delivery pairs perfectly with this timeless epic. Rooted deeply in folk; “The Queen And The Soldier” has the familiar elements of chivalry, loyalty, betrayal and murder that are the hallmarks of old English balladry. The strong and pretty melody supported by the brittle jangle of an arppegiated acoustic guitar mirrors the psychological complexity of The Queen. A beautiful work that elevated Vega to the elite league of songwriters.