Songs of Tragedy
There has been no better era for music than
the 60s. As I look back I recall that there were many songs about teenage death and tragedy that were
very popular not only during the sixties but the fifties as well.
There have been songs of undying love like
Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel" from 1959. The song is about the car which he and his love were
in stalled on the train tracks and both escaped safely except his girl went running back
to retrieve his high school ring and met her fate.
There have been songs of tragedies that have
were based on a true story like Wayne Cochran's "Last Kiss" recorded in 1962 but made more famous in 1964 by
J.Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. As the story goes 16 year old Jeanette Clark was out on a date in
Barnesville, Georgia on December 22, 1962, the Saturday before Christmas. She was with a group of friends in
a '54 Chevrolet. J. L. Hancock, also sixteen, was driving the car in heavy traffic and while traveling
on Highway 341, collided with a trailer truck. Jeanette, the driver and another teenager were killed, and two
other teens in the car were seriously injured. Most were students at Gordon Military College. It was a
shocking gory accident and provoked an intense reaction in Barnesville and from Wayne Cochran who penned the song
Suicide entered the scene in 1962 with Dicky
Lee's song "Patches." The guy falls for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks which his parents
object because she is outside their social class. When his parents equally object to him marrying her, he breaks up
with her and she commits suicide. As the songs ends he is about to take his
"Tell Laura I Love Her," by Ray Peterson in
1960 is about a young man who wants to earn money to buy his girl some nice things, including a
wedding ring. So he enters a stock car race to win the prize. He was the youngest driver and so we all
know the what the outcome was.
"Running Bear" by Johnny Preston also from
1960 tells a story about a young Indian brave and maiden. They are from different tribes who are at war and
their tribes forbid them from seeing each other. This song is upbeat and was a very popular hit in
1960. One of the better tragedy songs of the 60s.
Other songs of the era considered teen
tragedy songs included, 1964's "Leader of the Pack" by The Shangri-las; 1961's "Moody River" by Pat
Boone; 1964's Jan and Dean's hit "Dead Man's Curve; Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe" from 1967. Who can
forget 1958's "Endless Sleep" by Jody Reynolds? This song was not a true tragedy since the girl was
saved at the end.
I now invite you to listen to these songs
and others I have selected as the best teen tragedy songs of the 50s and 60s. Go to Teen Tragedy