Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Songs of Death

I just noticed or should have noticed some of the songs about death. I do think about death a lot. Its one of my passions; to think of loss.  The songs of death can be quite refreshing and some, well they are about death. Some of the songs will immortalize a person or some will just do a lonesome homage. As you get older you will notice more and more how people are dying. Mortality - That happens.

So let's try and get some tunes out there which cover death in different ways. The Great Johnny Cash sang of death in different ways, he sang in Cocaine Blues about killing his woman and in his song God will cut you down he sang of smite.  He sang a song of missing a loved one with I Still Miss Someone.  There are many artists who stabbed the subject in different ways.

The Pogues - The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. This is a great version of the song. The song speaks of war the Australians and the Turks. A few lines stand out - "we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter... we stopped to bury our slain..."  This song makes no glory of war.

Canadian Blue Grass band Uncle Earl sings a very good version of Ola Belle Reed's My Epitaph . has real Haunting lyrics.  The poetry is not lost in this beautiful song - Flowers you give, please give them today Don’t waste their beauty on cold lifeless clay

The Rolling Stones do a very good version of the Towns Van Zandt song Dead Flowers   Addictions is an ugly thing and addictions is going to kill you.

John Prine most likely wrote one of the baddest death songs out there.  Sam Stone.  The PTSD of the veteran. "There's a whole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes... Sam Stone was alone when he popped his last balloon. They played his last request when the room smelled like death..."  

Eva Cassidy Came into my life about 11 years ago. It  was in a small coffee shop in Vancouver on Davey street. This handsome young man was playing it on his stereo.  I asked him about the music and he told me of her and how she is dead. She covered a few songs and she did this one by Sting, Fields of Gold. She made it her own and it is such a lovely sad song. 

Sarah McLachlan does a very good song with In the Arms of Angel.

The Long Black Veil is another song that has been covered by many including Johnny Cash. My favorite version is Mick Jagger's version with the great Chieftains.   This song reminds me of my loss; my boy. He liked the song. He enjoyed many songs I enjoyed. 

Van Morrison is most likely my favorite artist. His songs are just killer. He does this old Irish song called Carrickfergus.  He does this with the great Chieftains.  It deals with death.  "my boyhood friends and all my relations have all passed on like the melting snow..."  "come lay me down..."

Van Morrison seems to like the old Irish tunes and they seem to like death. This haunting song is covered by Sinead O'Conner as well. Both good versions. She Moved Through The Fair Love lost and grief. 

Some old Country songs hit the death bell as well. Big Bad John Jimmy Dean: John Henry Ballad - there are many many different covers of this song.  I think Johnny Cash did this one as well.  

The late Harry Chapin was a pretty good song writer and story teller. I always enjoyed this song - 30000 pounds of Bananas.   "This song starts out with a brilliant Chet Atkins guitar lick"  Poor guy in the song.  The description of how he meets his demise is classic. This song makes dying fun.  

Oh Death is all about death with Ralph Stanley. You will remember this song from the movie O' Brother where art thou.  And if you want a picture of death, this song will give it to you. This song has death being all scary and stuff. 

Not sure if this really can be classified as a death song but I relate it to death or memorium. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole does a fantastic song with Somewhere Over The Rainbow


You can't speak about song writers without thinking of the great Tom Waits. He does songs like no one else. Dead and Lovely   Come on to the House is a better song but it only refers to the Cross so only Jesus was on the Cross and he died. But its not really about death.

The Dixie Chicks can do death both fun and sad. They sing Goodbye Earl and Traveling Solider. Both songs of death and both different themes. One song where death is deserved and another where it is heartbreak.  

Rhianna Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops speak of death of a town and not a person .Still its a story of death and living. Leaving Eden live is just awesome, no other way to describe the story and the song. The Cello is alive in this song.

For some reason singers seem to kill off women in their songs. Willie Nelson has an awesome story with the Red Headed Stranger.  This is the live version and it is so cool. Death doesn't even get the hang man's noose in this story. "He shot her so quick... well you can't hang a man for killing a woman who is trying to steal your horse..."

Thinking of songs and death and you realize how the subject is close to home. We can remember many of the country artists told stories and shared the aftermath of loss. 

Of course the Gospel Songs sing of a Glorious reunion with God when we meet death. 


Well I hope you heard some good songs hear and got you thinking of mortality. It comes for us all. 

Here is the Great Singer Edmund Bull (Red Bull singers) and his song  of Remembrance  



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