1. "Locked In The Trunk Of A Car" - The Tragically Hip
The Tragically Hip have many songs inspired by real events that I could have chosen. "Wheat Kings", "50 Mission Cap" and "Nautical Disaster" all come to mind, but i'm going to focus on "Locked In The Trunk Of A Car". It is written from the perspective of Pierre Laporte who was once Quebec's Minister of Labour. Laporte was kidnapped in 1970 by members of the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) an extremist group based on Marxist and separatist ideals. They forced him into the trunk of their car at gunpoint in front of members of his family. He was found dead a week later.
2. "I Fought The Law" - The Dead Kennedys
"I Fought The Law" is a classic song that was written back in the 60's and has been performed by several artists since such as the Bobby Fuller Four and The Clash. In 1987 the punk band Dead Kennedys released their version of the song, though the group changed the perspective of the song to be sung by San Fransico politician Dan White who murdered the Mayor of SF George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. In their version the main lyric is changed to "I fought the law and I won" implying that White committed first degree murder and got away with it. The song even references White's famous "Twinkie Defense" stating that he was clouded by a brief bout of insanity brought on by consuming Twinkies.
3. "Ohio" - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Known as one of the most famous protest songs of modern times "Ohio" was written in direct response to the Kent State shootings of 1970. During a protest of the Cambodian Campaign at Kent State University the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a group of unarmed students. Killing 4 and severely wounding several others. This event lead to more protests and strikes during an already turbulent time for the US in the mess that was the Vietnam War.
4. "The Rising" - Bruce Springsteen
Folks in my generation will never forget where they were on 9/11. On September 11, 2001 at around 9am a passenger airliner (a boeing 767) slammed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, followed shortly by another. In total four hijacked airplanes were crashed deliberately into American soil (the 3rd hit the Pentagon and the 4th was crashed into a farm outside Washington DC). Like all events of such magnitude and terror musicians soon began to release music inspired by the attacks. One of the first was Springsteen's "The Rising" which was more of a tribute to the Fire Fighters and emergency personnel who risked everything on that day. Lyrics like "On my back's a sixty pound stone; On my shoulder a half mile of line" are direct homages to New York City's finest.
5. "Smoke On The Water" - Deep Purple
Before we all get too morose here with all these terrible stories let's do one a little more light hearted. If any of you out there play the electric guitar it's a good chance "Smoke On The Water" was one of the first songs you learned how to play. In 1971 Deep Purple were looking for a place to record their album that would eventually become Machine Head. They had settled on the Casino in Montreaux, Switzerland, where Frank Zappa was performing. The night before the band was scheduled to begin recording, someone had fired a flare gun during the Zappa show which brought the Casino down in flames. Bass player Roger Glover remembers seeing the scene from across the lake which coined the term "Smoke On The Water"
6. "April 29, 1992" - Sublime
This one is unique on the list because not only is the band performing this song inspired by certain events, they claim to have been involved in them. On April 29, 1992 4 LA police officers were acquitted of the assault and the use of excessive force on Rodney King, which many feel ignited the ire of many of LA's Black and Latino communities and led to the LA Riots. Sublime singer Bradley Nowell claims in the song that most of the musical instruments used on their 1996 album were acquired illegally during those riots, and suggests that it wasn't the verdict that led to the chaos but the general low quality of life in these neighbourhoods and the injustice they dealt with every day.
7. "Leatherman" - Pearl Jam
The Leatherman in this song is a particular vagabond of unknown Origin who traveled from the Connecticut River to the Hudson on a monthly basis in the late 1800's. He lived in rock shelters along his route and was consistent with his appearances in towns for food and supplies. He was called Leatherman because all of his clothes, even his hat, were made from handcrafted custom leather. He seemed content enough to be on his own and was known to be grateful for the supplies he received though no one was quite sure how he got his money. He was found dead in 1889 with a French prayer book in his possession which led to the belief he was French-Canadian. The song itself was a deleted track from Pearl Jam's 1997 album Yield.
8. "Hey Man, Nice Shot" - Filter
It is said that Filter front man Richard Patrick wrote "Hey Man, Nice Shot" about two individuals: the first being Kurt Cobain and the second being Bud Dwyer. Dwyer was a Pennsylvanian politician who was convicted of taking bribes from accounting firms for a multi-million dollar contract he was heading. On January 22, 1987 he called a press conference and in front of a room full of reporters and a live television audience he pulled a revolver out from a bag and shot himself in the head.
9. "Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)" - The Arcade Fire
Though the lyrics for "Neighbourhood #3" are rather ambiguous, there is evidence that it was somewhat inspired by the 1998 Ice Storm that left Montreal, Quebec without power for over a week. Lyrics like "Kids are swinging from the power lines" are probably leftovers from singer Regine Chassange's memory as she was living in Montreal at the time of the storm. Funeral is a fantastic album actually, if you are looking for a band to get into check The Arcade Fire out.
10. "The Way" - Fastball
In June of 1997 Lela and Raymond Howard left their home in Salado, Texas with the intent of attending a near by festival. They weren't seen or heard from for two weeks when their van was discovered at the bottom of ravine nearly 100 miles away from their intended destination. Fastball lead man Tony Scalzo read of the couple in the paper and decided to add a different layer to their story. "The Way" is a reimagining of what happened to the Howards, Scalzo retold the tale as if they left to have fun and leave their lives behind them.
Thanks again all!!
Let's hear some comments and suggestions for future lists!!!