Songs inspired by true events

Always looking to create a new and bizarre playlist, I wonder - what songs do you know of were inspired by true events. Of course, I should say I mean events that are mostly public; we don’t need to list all the songs that were inspired by bad breakups. :wink:

I thought about this as I read the terrifying story behind the song I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats. That song always sounded pretty creepy, but I never knew what it was about (note: I’ve never actually heard the original, only the cover by Tori Amos).

I know Tears in Heaven fits here too as it was inspired by the accidental death of Eric Clapton’s son.

What other notable songs were inspired by real life?

Gordon Lightfoot’s - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


U2’s - Sunday Bloody Sunday

come to mind.

Peter Gabriel Family Snapshot about the Kennedy Assassination.
Wasn’t Smoke on the Water about a real club getting burnt down?
Iron Maiden’s Alexander The Great does quite a long history of Alexander’s life.
Abba’s Rasputin :wink:


Smoke on the Water. The venue/studio burned down. Purple weren’t playing there at the time Zappa was as, indeed, the song says. Not a major event I s’pose, but they didn’t invent it.

And School of Rock notwithstanding - the riff is played in forths dammit, not barre chords :mad:

Lennon’s bit of A Day in the Life was about a real chap who died in a car crash.

Isn’t there some gawdawful pre-disco BeeGees song about a pit disaster or summit?

Battle of the beanfield - The Levellers
Enola Gay - OMD (A bomb plane)
Spirit of the Falklands - New Model Army
Gary Gilmore’s eyes - The Adverts (Gilmore was executed in the US)
Who killed Liddle Towers - Angelic Upstarts
Among probably many, many others

(Ra Ra) Rasputin was by Boney M

::hangs head in shame::
Abba’s Waterloo? Tho’ it’s not actually about the battle . . . as such . . . at all.

** For What It’s Worth ** is about a bar closing that was mistaken for a riot by police officers.

Is Gordon Lightfoot’s version better than the horrendous cover the Dandy Warhols did?

If anyone else doesn’t know the story behind this song (like I didn’t), here’s a concise explanation:

The tragically hip do this all the fricking time. Obvious examples are Fifty-Mission Cap and 38 Years Old.

I never knew that was about a specific event. Know any details?

That would be the toe-tapping New York Mining Disaster 1941

Damn, Governor Quinn got here before I could with the story of For What It’s Worth

Crosby Stills Nash and Young did come back with Ohio (inspired by the Kent state shootings) and Chicago (about the trial of the Chicago 7), which had a little more gravitas behind them.

Johnny Cash recorded Ira Hayes as a tribute to the Native American who helped plant the flag during the battle of Iwo Jima, and later died a penniles alcoholic.

And as noted in a thread a few weeks ago, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald sounds entirely different if you sing it to the tune of Stairway to Heaven

Hell yeah!

Lightfoot’s is the definitive version.

I think a fella named Don Mc-something did a song that might fit.

Rings a bell. :wink:

What is Don McLean’s song “American Pie” all about?

The Altamont Disaster

Man, I wasn’t fast enough to get here first with…
… Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald
… Ohio
… Chicago

Oh well.

Here’s another one though – Harry Chapin’s 30,000 Pounds of Bananas is based on an actual 1965 truck wreck in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

"Hey Man Nice Shot" - Filter

Inspired by the on-air suicide of a Pennsylvania politician.

"Pride (In the Name of Love" - U2

MLK assassination.

I wasn’t aware that “Family Snapshot” was about a specific historic event.
However, the same album contains the song “Biko” about the murder of Steven Biko.

Woodstock by Joni Mitchell.

Solid Air by John Martyn was inspired by the suicide of Nick Drake.

Hurricane by Bob Dylan.

The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key.