I’m always amazed by well-crafted story songs. This goes back to one of my original favorite songs from childhood, The Band‘s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” I’ve never been much of a story teller. Stories are important. A well-told story set to great music simply dazzles me.
I even appreciate story songs that I can’t stand, such as Don McLean‘s “American Pie” and Billy Joel‘s “Piano Man.” The latter, for all its relative Joel merits, quickly falls prey to the high bar set by telling a story song from the perspective of an old man when the songwriter is, in fact, a young man. That “when I wore a younger man’s clothes” line in “Piano Man,” for instance, is one of the song’s many deal-breakers for me.
Last night, as “Piano Man” played on the radio after a fun dinner out with the family, even our 11-year-old son began cutting up on the lyrics. “The music’s good,” he said, “but the lyrics are stupid.” In the front seat my wife and I began talking about Olde Thyme-themed story songs of our youth. “Midnight at the Oasis” came on next, and we all got a chuckle out of that one, reminding ourselves that it was supposed to be silly.
“‘Mr. Bojangles’!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah,” my wife replied, “what was the deal with ‘Mr. Bojangles’?”
What was the deal with “Mr. Bojangles”?