Run, Joey Run: or I Was a Teenage Death Song

This morning the oldies station played Run, Joey, Run by David Geddes. For those of you unfamiliar with this ditty, basically its about a couple who want to get married, her father doesn’t like Joey, so Daddy plans to shoot the kid, but at the last second the girl jumps in front of the bullet.

That got me thinking of other Teenage Death Songs. Off the top of my head:

Run, Joey, Run - Girl dies by accidental gunshot
Last Kiss - Girl dies in car vs. train accident
Wildfire - Girl dies of exposure
Leader of the Pack - Boy dies in motorcycle accident
And I vaguely remember one about a plane crash. I think it was by the Everly Brothers, but I’m not sure.

How many more Death Songs can you think of?

The best one I know is the immortal “Patches” by Dickie Lee. The story: Nice kid falls in love with “Patches,” a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Dad tells kid he can’t see her anymore (“A girl from that place/would just bring us disgrace/So my dad says I can’t love you”). Patches, despondent, drowns herself and is found “floating face down in that dirty old river that flows through the middle of old shanty town.” In the last verse, the narrator/singer is preparing to commit suicide so that he can be with Patches. It’s a classic!

Teen Angel, can you hear me?
Teen Angel, can you see me?
Are you somewhere up above, and am I still your one true love?

The car was stalled on the railroad tracks, and the couple gets out safely before the train hits them… but at the last second, the girl dives back into the car. Why? *They said they found my high school ring, clutched in your fingers tight… *

Then there’s Tell Laura I Love Her, Ray Peterson’s 1960 classic about a kid who dies racing cars.

Not really a teen death - but Big John dies at the bottom of the mine saving all the other miners… Ringo chooses to die instead of killing the sheriff that once saved his life… and in Billy, Don’t Be a Hero Billy is a hero, dying to get the ammunition to the rest of the man.

  • Rick

DOA – some sort of traffic accident (“we were flying low, and hit something in the road”)

Running Bear – they dove into the water and swam to each other, but the current was too strong and they both drowned

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia – explaining the song would take as long as singing the song, but the guy was set up by the corrupt small town establishment and his little sister took revenge.

Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billy Joe.” Almost answers that immortal musical question “Why did Billy Joe McAllister jump off the Tallahatchee Bridge?” It even spawned a Movie of the Week.

There was another “Patches” song by Clarence Carter about a kid who id twelve and his father dies so he has to work the fields to keep his family from starving. Here’s a sample lyric:

One day papa called me to his dyin bed
Put his hands on my shoulders And in tears he said
Patches, I’m depending on you son
To pull the family through My son, it’s all left up to you

The teen doesn’t actually die in this song. He suffers a fate worse than death as a sharecropper.

The airplane crash song was DOA by Bloodrock. It went “we were flying low, then we hit something in the air.” It was one of the worst hit songs ever.

On the Steve Goodman double CD (one live, one studio, forget the name) there’s a medley of “Dead Girl” songs he sings. He actually starts with Born to be Wild, not a DGS, but slips into Leader of the Pack, again not technically a DGS but there is death. Third up is Tell Laura I Love Her with a final choice of Strange Things Happen, a truly odd number about a guy picking up a ghost at a dance.

Incidently, all this is sung wearing a motorcycle helmet because no one in the audience had a cowboy hat.

I thought the horse dies in Wildfire, not a girl. And why would a horse be spooked by a killer frost. Stupidest lyric of all times.

Not sure if it would qualify as a teen death song, but R. Dean Taylor’s “Indiana Wants Me” could.

Seems the singer is on the run from the police after killing somebody ("…if a man ever needed dying, he did") and is singing to his young wife/girlfriend while on the run ("…you, me, and our little baby…").

He is eventually surrounded by the Indiana police (megaphone repeating in the background: “This is the police. You are surrounded. Give yourself up.”). While we never find out exactly what happens, it’s easy to imagine that he’s decided to go down in a blaze of gunfire.

Not exactly your standard teen death-from-car-crash song, but maybe it qualifies.

Jet Set Satellite, The Best Way to Die.

Don’t know why I dig this song so much, but I do.

No, the girl dies:

"Oh they say she died one winter
When there came a chilling frost
And the pony she named Wildfire
Busted down his stall
In a blizzard he was lost
She ran calling Wildfire "

Damn, now I have that song running through my head.

Let’s not forget Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks (and recently – excruciatingly – covered by Westlife):

Goodbye my friends, it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky…

I’m not quite sure what the singer is dying of, but he whines a lot first.

And then there’s Billy Don’t Be a Hero by somebody or other, in which he goes off to war. What a loser.

There are lots of non-teen death ones, like Ruby by Kenny Rogers (IIRC) – Ruby, don’t take your love to town – and Tom Jones’s Delilah, but that’s a whole other genre.

There’s always Richard Marx’s schmaltzfest Hazard about a new boy in town who is accused of murdering a local girl.

Not to nitpick or anything (warning, nitpick ahead), but in Run, Joey Run wasn’t Julie pregnant? Hence the repeated:

Daddy please don’t. It wasn’t his fault
He means so much to me.
Daddy please don’t, we’re gonna get married
Just you wait and see.


He says he’s gonna make you pay, for what we’ve done, he’s got a gun, so Run, Joey Run …

And to cap it all off, “I heard she threw the letter away…” :smiley:

It was by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, incidentally.

The british paperback Death Discs by Alan Clayson (Victor Gollancz, 1992) goes into a lot of these.

One I heard recently was I Want My Baby Back by Jimmy Cross (circa 1965). He and his girlfiend have a head-on collision with another car. He’s coming to after the accident…“And theyah was my baby/and over theyuh was my baby/and over theyuh was my baby…” Song ends him digging up her coffin several months after the accident, and singing the last chorus inside it… (!)

Dead Man’s Curve by Jan and Dean. And then one of them got into a brain-damaging, career-ending car accident. Didn’t they ever listen to their own music?

I think you’re thinking of Ebony Eyes by the Everly Brothers. He’s waiting for her plane, and everyone waiting for it is asked to “report to the chapel” at once…presumably because, you know…

We can’t forget that classic, “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” by Julie Brown.

Debby’s smiling and waving her gun.
Picking out cheerleaders one by one.
Buffy pom pom just flew to bits.
Mitsy’s head just did the splits.
God, my best friend’s on a shooting spree.
Stop it, Debby! You’re embarrassing me!

Probably doesn’t get much airplay these days.

As I mentioned elsewhere, Teen Angel is a parody of a death rock song. At least, that was how it was originally written, though Mark Denning sang it straight.

If we’re going to include other parodies, there’s Blotto’s [“My Baby’s the Star of a Driver’s Ed Movie.”]( Baby’s)