5 Songs That Tell a Story of Struggle

Have you ever listened to a song and thought it belonged in a movie?  Have you really held onto every word and felt like it took you on a journey?  Some songs are more than a catchy beat and some crowd pleasing lyrics.  Some songs tell serious stories, both fact and fiction, and if you really listen, you may find yourself feeling a wealth of emotion.  Here are 5 tunes that you may have never heard but we recommend you listen to immediately.

The River-Bruce Springsteen

The Boss did not get his nickname from being a boring, passive songwriter.  This guy has penned some of the world’s most classic and popular songs to date.  “The River” is a song about a blue collar upbringing in New Jersey and tells the tale of two young kids falling in love, having a baby and essentially sacrificing the rest of their lives.  It’s real, it’s deep and to watch it done live is almost a religious experience. 

Outlaw Sh*t-Struggle Jennings/Waylon Jennings

When the step-grandson of country legend Waylon Jennings (Jessi Colter is his grandmother) decided to make a name for himself in the hip-hop genre, a lot of people just clowned him.  At first look, he looks like a jacked up guy you’d find in the backwoods of Tennessee.  Well, he kind of is.  But when Waylon sang “Don’t You Think this Outlaw Bit is Getting’ Out of Hand” he was calling attention to the negative press and crap him and the other country “outlaws” of his time had to deal with.  When his son Shooter Jennings redid this tune in 2008, it turned into something completely different.  And when Struggle recorded his own version, creating a narrative of his drug dealing lifestyle, his arrest and his time away from his daughter, it really took on a life of its own.  Whether you are a rap fan or not, this one is real and comes from a family of outlaws.

Down the River-Chris Knight

OK, so unusual to have 2 songs involving a river but this one is completely different.  Chris Knight is about as real as it gets when it comes to country music.  Coming from the coal mines of Kentucky, this guy has written more songs than we can count including tunes covered by John Anderson and Randy Travis.  But what gets us interested are his songs of the struggle and despair of normal blue collar farmers, miners etc.  The song “Down the River” is just one of those songs about a pair of brothers that get into it with another family in their little town.  Let’s just say a boat is not the only thing that goes floating down the river.

The Silence-Manchester Orchestra

If you are not familiar with this band from Atlanta, do yourself a favor and snag their whole catalog.  While they have several songs that tell a story, any parent will likely resonate with “The Silence.”  Andy Hull, the lead singer and writer of the song describes the song as “God talking to me, God talking to my daughter, and then ultimately at the end, the finale is me praying over my daughter.”  It is heavy and the end of the song may be one of the most powerful moments of any recent song to date.

Outfit-Drive-By Truckers/Jason Isbell

The Drive-By Truckers are a band that have perfected the art of storytelling but perhaps nobody does it better than past band member Jason Isbell.  Isbell’s haunting yet catchy song “Outfit” tells the story of a man trying to instill values and direction into his kid but also warning him to do better than he did.  At the same time, he makes it very clear to be proud of where he comes from.  Isbell tells amazing stories on plenty of other songs including “Dress Blues” and “Decoration Day” but “Outfit” may be his most narrative tale of struggle.

Final Thoughts

We could probably make a top 100 list of songs that tell a story we love and it would not be enough.  Hopefully this starts you down a rabbit hole of music until the next one…

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