Monday, June 26, 2006

Calling All Third Persons

After my very recent post about songwriters, Nick thought it would be fun to come up with a list of the best songs written from the third person. And he's right, it would be. If it was easier.

After thinking about this for most of the day, the only purely third-person pop/rock song I can come up with is "Jack and Diane." There are several great narrative songs I can think of that clearly don't reflect the songwriter as the "I" or "me" -- Springsteen's one of the best at this, and his "Atlantic City" and "Highway Patrolman" are terrific examples -- but they're still written from the first person.

So, I'll open this up a bit. If you've got any third-person songs you love, please share them in the comments. Otherwise, I'll accept great story songs of any type.

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17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Steve Miller's Take the Money & Run

2. Billy Joel's Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

...

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3. Phish's Esther

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4. Aerosmith's Janie's Got a Gun

5. Bob Dylan's Hurricane

6. Janis Joplin's A Woman Left Lonely

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7. Jane's Addiction's Jane Says

1:02 PM  
Blogger lmha said...

I beg to differ on Atlantic City... "so (blah blah blah) and make YOUR hair look pretty, and meet ME tonight in Atlantic City..."

This is way too hard because it requires you to know the lyrics of every song. I know lots of lyrics, but my brain doesn't work like Google.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elvis Costello "Let Him Danlge"

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom Waits- "Cemetery Polka"

4:58 PM  
Anonymous pf said...

Seems to me it's not all that uncommon.... Tom Waits has a bunch, for example, as I'm sure lots of other songwriters do who are fond of story songs. It's just that in most story songs, the narrator lapses into the first person just once or twice, which disqualifies the song from this category. But does the first person really change the song?

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"18 and Life," by Skid Row. (Ummm, I probably shouldn't admit that my first thought was, "18 and Life, of course. Duh.")

"Poncho and Lefty," by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

"The Road Goes on Forever," by Robert Earl Keen.

"Bust a Move," by Young MC.

All right. I'll stop now.

-- Comish

6:47 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Yeah, PF, I'm being kind of lazy (what else is new?) I think Ben Folds has a few, too, maybe.

Laurie, the "me" disqualifies Atlantic City. That's first person.

And Comish, I have two Skid Row songs on my computer, one of which is "18 and Life." Just thought I'd share in your shame.

This still strikes me as odd. We've got, what, 12 or 13 songs listed here? I can't think of another category for which we wouldn't very quickly have hundreds of examples.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carlito by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. -- Tavia.

8:48 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Paul Simon (who probably has a few), "Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War." So good, in fact, that I have to share the lyrics here. Keep 'em coming, people...

Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Returned to their hotel suite
And they unlocked the door
Easily losing their evening clothes
They dance by the light of the moon
To The Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
and The Five Satins
The deep forbidden music
They'd been longing for
Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were strolling down Christopher Street
When they stopped in a men's store
With all of the mannequins
Dressed in the style
That brought tears to their
Immigrant eyes
Just like The Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
and The Five Satins
The easy stream of laughter
Flowing through the air
Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog apres la guerre
Side by side
They fell asleep
Decades gliding by like Indians
Time is cheap
When they wake up they will find
All their personal belongings
Have intertwined
Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were dining with the power elite
And they looked in their bedroom drawer
And what do you think
They have hidden away
In the cabinet cold of their hearts?
The Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
and The Five Satins
For now and ever after
As it was before
Rene and Georgette Magritte With their dog
After the war

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul Simon has a bunch: There's "Rene and Georgette Magritte...," and some older stuff like "Silent Eyes" and "Night Game."

Henrix has a few, like "Castles Made of Sand," "The Wind Cries Mary," and "All Along the Watchtower" (Dylan's tune, I know, but Hendrix owns it, I think).

And the Beatles have several: "Rocky Racoon," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "Eleanor Rigby," etc.

Dishonorable mention to Warren Zevon for the unaccountable survival of "Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner," and some others too hideous to name.

Nick

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Young MC's Bust a Move is thoroughly second-person, dude.

11:56 AM  
Blogger lfw said...

ray lamontagne - narrow escape

patty griffin - sweet lorraine

dire straits - romeo & juliet (i think all of the 1st/2nd person bits in this could be considered the narrator quoting the characters...)

james - she's a star

will johnson - catherine dupree

tori amos - girl

they might be giants - particle man (hee)

12:47 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Nice choices, lfw. I had been meaning to mention Romeo and Juliet.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous jpw said...

I feel as though Broadway show tunes may provide fertile ground for third-person lyrics...I'll have to look into this further, but, just off the top of my head: "The Farmer and the Cowman" from Oklahoma... "Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends, oh the farmer and the cowman should be friends; one likes to push a plow, the other likes to chase a cow, but that's no reason why they can't be friends!" HA!!!

10:03 PM  

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