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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 "Last Kiss."

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 life.

"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 Jukebox.



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