Saturday, October 8, 2011

Halloween Festival of Lists: October 8: EIGHT Depressing Songs Of Death

For some reason, songwriters just want to make us feel like crap. I realize they are probably getting all their emotions out and trying to work through their own troubles, but why do they have to be such Debbie-Downers?

I'm not just talking Ozzy's Suicide Solution, though that would be an appropriate inclusion here... I'm going as far back as the late 50's, when Mark Dinning proclaimed his girlfriend a "Teen Angel" (though what the hell a girl would run back to a car stuck on the railroad tracks just to get a class ring is waaay beyond me!)

People have been dying in songs and singing about death well before that I'm sure.
And before I give you a sample, you should know this is a 'Titanic'-free zone, so no chest-thumping Celine Dion songs are presented.

*Don't Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult (1976)

This song just happens to be my favorite song and has been since high school (and that's a long time, my friends).  I have no idea what it is about it that just takes me to another time zone, but there it is.  Perhaps the fact that it plays on Annie's car radio in Halloween when she picks up Laurie to babysit could be part of the reason, but I think it's just because my dad had the album and played it a lot.  I've even waxed poetic about this song in detail here on this very blog, and you can read that right here.
    Obviously, tons of others are in my corner, as the song has been covered about a hundred times.
    In the lyrics, it's rather clear that the reaper they are referring to is indeed, the Grim Reaper.  He's come to pick up a few more souls, and by god they don't want you to be afraid!  It's natural, this death thing.  40,000 men and women everyday! Oh, and you'll be able to fly! Whoo-hoo!

  Selected lyrics:
    Came the last night of sadness
    And it was clear we couldn't go on
    Then the door was open and the wind appeared
    The candles blew and then disappeared
    The curtains flew and then he appeared
    Saying don't be afraid
    Come on baby...
    And we had no fear
    And we ran to him...
    Then we started to fly
    We looked backward and said goodbye
    We had become like they are
    We had taken his hand
    We had become like they are
    Come on baby...don't fear the reaper

*People Who Died by Jim Caroll Band (1980)

This song is featured in Dawn of the Dead remake from 2004, in fact it plays over the end credits.  I don't think there's too much one can say to explain this song except that the songwriter (Jim Caroll) wrote it to commemorate friends of his that died before their time.  The lyrics speak for themselves, so I'll let them:

Teddy sniffing glue he was 12 years old
Fell from the roof on East Two-nine
Cathy was 11 when she pulled the plug
On 26 reds and a bottle of wine
Bobby got leukemia, 14 years old
He looked like 65 when he died
He was a friend of mine
Those are people who died, died

They were all my friends, and they died
G-berg and Georgie let their gimmicks go rotten
So they died of hepatitis in upper Manhattan
Sly in Vietnam took a bullet in the head
Bobby OD'd on Drano on the night that he was wed
They were two more friends of mine
Two more friends that died / I miss 'em--they died

Mary took a dry dive from a hotel room
Bobby hung himself from a cell in the tombs
Judy jumped in front of a subway train
Eddie got slit in the jugular vein
And Eddie, I miss you more than all the others,
And I salute you brother/ This song is for you my brother

Herbie pushed Tony from the Boys' Club roof
Tony thought that his rage was just some goof
But Herbie sure gave Tony some bitchen proof
";Hey,"; Herbie said, ";Tony, can you fly?";
But Tony couldn't fly . . . Tony died

Brian got busted on a narco rap
He beat the rap by rattin' on some bikers
He said, hey, I know it's dangerous,
but it sure beats Riker's
But the next day he got offed
by the very same bikers

Nice, huh?

*Teen Angel by Mark Dinning (1959)

Here's the aforementioned song about the brainless girl who went back to get her boyfriend's class ring.  Story goes that the car got stuck on the railroad tracks and our hero pulls said girlfriend to safety, only to have her worry about the damn ring!!  I think we all know what happened from there.

Selected lyrics: 

What was it you were looking for
that took your life that night
They said they found my high school ring
clutched in your fingers tight
Teen angel, can you hear me
Teen angel, can you see me
Are you somewhere up above
And I am still your own true love
Just sweet sixteen, and now you're gone
They've taken you away.
I'll never kiss your lips again
They buried you today

Oh my.

*The End by The Doors (1967)

Played against the opening credits of Apocalypse Now, this song just sounds like doom to me.  Always has.  I can't say I will ever understand what the hell the song is about, but I'm sure there are Jim Morrison ultra-fans out there that will explain lyrics such as this to me:  "the blue bus is callin' us.." and "weird scenes inside the gold mine"... yeah, whatever.  But the words that come at the beginning of the song to me are the most poignant and revealing.

Select lyrics:
This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again

Sad but beautiful. 

Stan by Eminem (2000)

First let me start by saying I am not a fan of rap/hip hop music or anything that really resembles it.  But way back when, I recall hearing this song for the first time and thinking, hot damn! That's effing brilliant. 
The song tells the tale of Slim (obviously Eminem speaking of himself), a singer/rapper that has been getting letters from a rabid fan of his.  The song is told by Stan - the fan himself, as he dictates a letter that goes through his days thinking about Slim, wondering why he's never received a response to other letters he's sent.  He goes on to complain about his life, drawing similarities to Slim's life and pretending everything is going to be alright since Slim is going through the same shit. 
As the song continues though, Stan becomes more and more angry, finally blaming Slim for not getting in touch with him, seemingly causing him to bounce off the walls and take matters into his own hands.  He bitches and curses, saying he and Slim could have been great friends and reveals that sometimes he cuts himself just to feel better.  In the end, Stan dreadfully explains that he's speeding down the highway, drunk and wildly depressed.  Oh! And his pregnant girlfriend is in the trunk screaming.  He wraps the letter up by driving the car off the bridge. 
The real clincher in the song is the last bit of lyrics, in which Slim finally writes back, saying he's sorry for not getting back to him but he's just been so insanely busy.  He says he appreciates all his fans and knows sometimes people do stupid things in the name of fandom.  Like this one guy who got drunk, put his girlfriend in the trunk and drove off a bridge....Damn.

Dust in the Wind by Kansas (1977)

Another favorite of mine, this song isn't quite as depressing as some of the others here, but nonetheless its lyrics are still pretty bleak and finite.  After all, "nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky"...

Selected lyrics:
I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment's gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now don't hang on
Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and Sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Leader of the Pack by The Shangri-Las (1964)

One of the great 60's teen tragedy songs, this one still has people revving their virtual motorcycles all over.
Betty's friends can't get over the fact that she's really going out with Jimmy!  After all, he's the leader of the Sons of Anarchy local motorcycle gang and is from the notorious 'wrong side of town'! Oh my!
Betty explains how they fell in love at first sight but her parents just aren't having it.  She breaks it off with Jimmy, causing him to get all angsty and despondent.  He tears off on his motorcycle - she begged him to go slow! And then...

Selected lyrics:

But whether he heard, I'll never know 

Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out! (cue the crash!)
I felt so helpless, what could I do?
Remembering all the things we'd been through
In school they all stop and stare
I can't hide the tears, but I don't care
I'll never forget him (the leader of the pack)

The leader of the pack - now he's gone

I Will Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie (2006)

This is a really beautifully written song that doesn't scream doom and gloom.  Its lyrics speak of having someone with you when your soul embarks to...wherever it is we all go.  Claiming "Love of mine some day you will die...but I'll be close behind...I'll follow you into the dark", it is more of a love song than a dark and hopeless foray into the unknown.  I think I'll just let the lyrics speak for themselves....

Love of mine some day you will die
But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark

No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark
If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me
"Son fear is the heart of love"
So I never went back

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

You and me have seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes are all worn down
The time for sleep is now
It's nothing to cry about
'cause we'll hold each other soon
In the blackest of rooms

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the No's on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Then I'll follow you into the dark


Raymond Betancourt said...

Great post! At the risk of joining the ranks of the Debbie-Downers, might I add that Jim Carroll joined that long list of "People Who Died" a couple of years ago...and oh, someone please inform Kansas the "Earth and Sky" don't last forever either, at least not according to science. Happy Halloween :)

iZombie said...

this was a great post!

Jeremy [iZombie]
iZombie Lover

Christine Hadden said...

Ray: I didn't even realize Jim Carroll had died...wonder if someone wrote lyrics about how he died?
And Happy Halloween to you as well :)

And Thanks, Jeremy ;)