Classic songs tell timeless stories


Caroline Ragland

The Ragland family owns many concert T-shirts, such as this one from a Fleetwood Mac concert.

I grew up around music. My father sticks to the more traditional “dad music” of the ‘80’s hair bands and the Eagles, while my mother experiments with disco, Madonna and techno. My grandfather is one of those people who listens to late ‘60’s rock, i.e. Credence Clearwater Revival, and my grandmother is one with Christian music.

I, being so influenced by the amount of different songs around me, have quite the music taste, with various genres ranging from ‘90’s alternative to ‘80’s new wave, from today’s latest pop to today’s indie, from big band to country, and from rap to classical symphonies. I am truly surrounded.

So, what makes a good song? Well, if it has words, I have a philosophy: it needs to tell a story. Music is rhythm and beats, lyrics are lines from poetry and the purpose of these is to show the listener a narrative. Take for example Bob Dylan. In 2016, Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The incredibly prestigious award was given to him for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Music is rhythm and beats, lyrics are lines from poetry and the purpose of these is to show the listener a narrative.”

— Caroline Ragland, 10

Go back, and read “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” While the sad harmonica and dark vocals will bring anyone to tears without even listening to the words, the lyrics show us it’s really a song about walking away from a relationship and finally being able to move on. The song is about mending a broken heart, not about one breaking.

Bob Dylan isn’t the only talented songwriter out there, and he isn’t the only person to use personal experience to create great music. One of my favorite bands, Fleetwood Mac, is a great example of this. I absolutely love them, and for my 16th birthday, I got to go see them in concert. My dream concert. It was right up there with The Beatles, The Cranberries and R.E.M. They also are the writers of one of my favorite albums, and I got to hear songs that almost broke up the band, live.

The whole “Rumors” album is about the majority of the band members going through several break-ups with each other at one time. A marriage fell apart, high school sweethearts broke it off. The whole thing was a real mess, but it led to some of the most recognizable songs on the radio. These include “Don’t Stop Believin’,” used as Bill Clinton’s campaign song, “The Chain,” a very recognizable, very overplayed hit, and “Go Your Own Way,” which is now featured on a commercial selling COPD medication.

But what makes this album great is all of the songs tell a story. Some are about moving on, others about not wanting to let go, some are about soul searching, while others about wanting to escape. The album “Rumors” is a true masterpiece of songwriting and storytelling, but one of my favorite songs of all time was played at their concert, and it wasn’t one of theirs.

Due to constant drama, the whole band of Fleetwood Mac was not there. Thus, they had to gain replacements. One of those was the front man for Crowded House. If you haven’t heard of this band, then I don’t blame you. They were only popular for a short time and only had a few hits in the mid-’80’s. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t great. In fact, one of my favorite songs were written by the lead singer himself, Neil Finn.

That is the point of a good song–the ability to show the listener how the writer feels.”

— Caroline Ragland, 10

“Don’t Dream It’s Over” is amazing, and, to be honest, every time I listen to it the song can take on a different meaning. Some have interpreted it into talking about waste in society, some have thought it read as an insight into how others affect a relationship, and I feel it is about how self-awareness is key to betterment in life.

That is the point of a good song–the ability to show the listener how the writer feels. Songs are poetry, and the lines and verses and stanzas in poetry can open our eyes to different perspectives. That is the true intent of music.