Disaster Songs — Readers Recommend

"Flood Disaster (Homecoming - Kaw Valley)," 1951, by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)

We invited our readers via Facebook last week to submit some of the disaster songs they find most moving. Through those, and through some suggestions we got from others directly, we received some great suggestions. In an unusual turn for us, therefore, we’ll turn it over to the readers, and … → read more

Stagolee: A Digital Compendium – “The Bucket of Blood”

This is Chapter 3 of Stagolee: A Digital Compendium.  See also Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5 Caveat – While I will make every reasonable effort to maintain propriety and decorum in writing this post, the language and narrative content of the media herein is decidedly not appropriate … → read more

And his mama cries: In the Ghetto

Elvis Presley, 1970 In considering Chris Smither’s song “Every Mother’s Son” in preparation for this week’s first post, I kept being drawn to the contrast between it and Elvis Presley’s blockbuster “In the Ghetto.”  The two songs appeared within three or four years of each other, both being a little … → read more

Mackie, how much did you charge?

Bobby Darin I fear I’ve become a bit of a crank.  My previous post likely creates the impression that I insist that somehow all songs that involve crime or murder must be serious, and that there’s no room for a song that just inherently swings.  I actually don’t think this. … → read more

The slayer who ran looked a lot like me

In this interview mentioned in the last post, Nick Cave explained how his musical inclinations were forever changed when – as young boy in a small town in Australia – he started watching the Johnny Cash Show. The first episode of the show aired on June 17, 1969 (Cave would have been about twelve) … → read more

The Folk Singer, The Mercy Seat

This week, I’ll explore the dialogue between Johnny Cash and Nick Cave, two great modern murder balladeers who wrestled with themes of redemption and retribution as they explored crime, death, love, isolation, religion and the myths and musical roots of the American Old West. In today’s post, I’ll cover the … → read more

Making arrangements

The D.K. Wilgus article I mentioned in my first post this week divides the American versions of what it refers to as the “Rose Connoley” ballad into two forms.  The first is what Wilgus calls the “Come-all-ye” form, which normally includes about 12 stanzas, the first beginning with that phrase, … → read more

Young Hunting (Henry Lee, Love Henry)

This week’s installment focuses on another American contribution to the genre, in the sense that “Henry Lee,” or “Love Henry,” is an Americanized take on an old ballad called “Young Hunting” (Child Ballad No. 68).     The ballad tells the tale of a man, Young Hunting, who, returning to … → read more