Short Songs That Tell A Story


Telling a story in song is a classical mode of storytelling as old as the form itself (I apologize, I think that sentence snuck in my head from a boring documentary). Many artists use songs to tell long, sprawling stories. It’s pretty much what prog-rock was born on. But it takes such a stronger skill to tell a short, concise, story, set to music, in under three minutes. In the interest of brevity (and inspired by the songs) I will just let the stories speak for themselves.

Brand New – Untitled Demo 01


“And all that I remember is the feeling of waking up. When we were kids, you were the sun to which my eyes could not adjust.”

Roy Orbison – Running Scared


“Then all at once he was standing there…”

The White Stripes – We’re Going To Be Friends


“Walk with me, Susie Lee. Through the park and by the tree. We will rest upon the ground and look at all the bugs we found.”

Built to Spill – Twin Falls


“Cafeteria, Harrison Elementary. Beneath the parachute, I saw her without shoes.”

The Mountain Goats – See America Right


“I was driving up from Tampa when the radiator burst. I was three sheets to the wind, a civilian saw me first.”

Billy Bragg (feat. Johnny Marr) – Walk Away Renee


“And then one day it happened: She cut her hair and I stopped loving her.”

Sufjan Stevens – Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois


“In the spirit of three stars, the alien thing that took its form.”

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3 Comments on “Short Songs That Tell A Story”

  1. Colin Holmes
    10.25.11 at 8:47 PM #

    No Warren Zevon? Surely “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, “Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner,” and “Frank and Jesse James” are better songs than anything on this list?

  2. Jim adair
    10.25.11 at 10:48 PM #

    Colin, those songs are too long for inclusion on this list

  3. Colin Holmes
    10.25.11 at 11:06 PM #

    Whoops, didn’t realize that all of these songs were under 3 minutes long.

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