This week’s Pick Six covers a very uplifting topic: “Songs About Death.”
“The ’59 Sound” – The Gaslight Anthem
“The ’59 Sound” is probably The Gaslight Anthem’s “signature song” at this point in their young career, and for good reason. Inspired by the death of friend in a car accident (“Young boys, young girls/Ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night”), “The ’59 Sound” is a blistering punk track with an instantly-identifiable lead guitar lick that references Dickens (“I hope we don’t hear Marley’s chains/We forged in life”) and asks the question “I wonder which song they’re gonna play when we go?”
“Creeping Death” – Metallica
This is the only song I know of that is about a physical manifestation of death other than the Grim Reaper. In “Creeping Death,” the narrator is the last plague to sweep through Egypt in the time of Moses. You know, from the Bible story – the one about “killing the first-born son.” The highlight of “Creeping Death” is the bridge of “Die, die, die” over and over again, which is especially amazing live as the crowd chants along.
“When The Angels Sing” – Social Distortion
Allegedly inspired by the death of Social D’s guitarist, Dennis Danell, “When The Angels Sing” uses the titular metaphor to explore what happens after a person dies, both in the physical and spiritual world. This song gets bonus points for the following lyrics: “When the angel of death comes a-lookin’ for me/when the angels sing/I hope I was everything I was supposed to be.”
“Keep Me In Your Heart” – Warren Zevon
“Keep Me In Your Heart” is probably the most emotionally crushing song in this list. Written by Warren Zevon when he knew that his death was inevitable from terminal cancer, the song is a plea for his loved ones to remember him after he’d died. It’s such a simple request, and Zevon asks so beautifully, that I’m sure his wishes were more than fulfilled.
“Welcome to the Black Parade” – My Chemical Romance
For their third full album, My Chemical Romance eschewed some of their punk/emo sound for arena rock bombast, and the result was brilliant. No track has more of that bombast than “Welcome to the Black Parade,” which sounds like Queen met The Clash in the late 70’s and had kids that listened to 90’s pop-punk in their teenage years. The song rattles and rolls on like a New Orleans funeral, which is appropriate considering that the theme is moving on after the death of a loved one by carrying on his or her ideals.
“Long Live the Queen” – Frank Turner
Beside being a showcase of Frank Turner’s songwriting and singing abilities, “Long Live the Queen” is a powerful song about friendship and death. The song’s narrator’s friend, Lex, is dying, but she tells him to “stop looking so damn depressed” and that “you’ll live to dance another day/but now you’ll have to dance for the two of us.” Great advice from a great songwriter.