Tangent Sunset

The History of Conscious Music by Alex Cosper

Storytellers Reach Beyond Self Image


Storyteller music remained strong in the seventies. Many of these folks painted the individual in opposition to society in stories about struggle for survival. One of the most haunting storyteller songs of the decade was based on an actual event about a mysterious shipwreck called "Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. The long epic 1977 ballad was a sad tale about a lost passenger ship in the stormy Great Lakes that cost many lives. For people living in the region, the story would prove to be an everlasting unsolved mystery. Another Gordon Lightfoot song called "If You Could Read My Mind" in 1971 built up a hero fantasy and then shot it down with a call to "be real." Neil Diamond sold millions as a storyteller songwriter who dealt with the meaning of life in songs like "I Am...I Said." Narcissism and the challenge to see through narcissism would become big themes in the seventies.

People were heavily into the idea that great music should be theater of the mind. That's how a folk artist like Don McLean was able to break through with an eight minute song, which would normally not even be considered by pop radio. But with big hits from examples like Bob Dylan and The Beatles breaking the five minute time barrier (while the standard was three minutes), it was gradually becoming acceptable for pop radio to play long epic songs. McLean's eight minute hit "American Pie" in 1972 used metaphors to outline the history of rock and roll, with the curious judgment that the plane crash which killed Buddy Holly in the fifties was "the day the music died." The song was filled with religious imagery and grumpy conservatism, but became a campfire classic partly because of its clever rhyming scheme and picturesque storyline.


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