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5 Songs That Are Stories

American Pie by Don McLean was released in response to the terrible plane-crash resulting in the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. This day is forever called “the day the music died.” Don McLean alludes to this day saying, “There’s bad news on the doorstep.” The song is a tribute to the loss of these young but big names in the music industry of the time, but also a general response to the sad time in America. This era was the era of the Vietnam War, a terrible economy, and 3 sad deaths that forever changed rock n’ roll. The song speaks to the spirit of America saying,

“Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die” 


Piano Man by Billy Joel is a story about himself. In this story, he plays piano in a bar, and is called the Piano Man. The song describes the lives of the people around him:

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy
And probably will be for life
And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinkin’ alone
The Piano Man is beloved by the characters in the bar because his music transports them to happier times, when they weren’t alone and stuck.

Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels Band is a story about a man named Johnny that makes a deal with the devil. This Georgia man sits on a tree stump playing his fiddle when the devil appears to him to challenge him. The devil says he can play the fiddle better than he can, and if he wins then he gets Johnny’s soul. If Johnny wins, then he gets a golden fiddle. Johnny ends up outplaying the devil, and wins his reward.

“The devil bowed his head
Because he knew that he’d been beat
And he laid that golden fiddle
On the ground at Johnny’s feet
Johnny said, “Devil, just come on back
If you ever want to try again
I done told you once you son of a gun
I’m the best that’s ever been”

Hotel California, the Eagles most famous song, has a interesting message. The song begins by setting the scene of someone stopping at a hotel for a night while travelling. The person ends up staying a while because of the amazing life and promises given at the Hotel. He meets a woman, lives lavishly, and wakes up every night to hear the words:

“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place 
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year you can find it here”

Next, with a set of lyrics that are a confusing allegory for drugs, the man realizes life in the Hotel is not what it cracked up to be. He desperately tries to run for the door, only to be told that the Hotel is, “…programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

The story is a metaphor for the Eagles rise to fame, and the glamorous facade it all turned out to be. The song, at first listen, is an amazing four minutes including a great guitar solo with confusing lyrics, but after listening closely, it turns out to be an actually quite terrifying story.

Escape by Rupert Holmes is a beautiful story that is really only known for its catchy chorus:

“If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape
Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me and escape”

The story starts off with a man in a unhappy marriage. He says he loves his wife, but they are stuck in a boring routine that they cannot seem to get out of. As he’s reading the paper in bed next to her, he sees an personal ad, saying “If you like piña coladas…” and so on. Mentally apologizing to his wife, he responds to the ad in kind, wanting to meet up at a bar to plan his escape with the mystery woman. When she arrives at the bar, he realizes the ad was sent by his wife, who was feeling the same about the marriage as he was. They both laugh for a moment, neither able to be mad. He looks at her and says:

“I never knew that you liked piña coladas, or getting caught in the rain. And the feel of the ocean and the taste of champagne. If you like making love at midnight in the dunes on the cape. You’re the lady I’ve looked for, come with me and escape”