9 Songs Inspired By Actual Events

Music with history behind it.

If you are sick of hearing sappy songs about misery and heartache, brush up on your history with these 9 songs that could have taken inspiration from the 6 o’clock news.

Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck 1979

This song references an real local train wreck from 1979.

It ran off the track, 11-79,
while the immigrants slept, there wasn’t much time,
the mayor came calling, and got them out bed,
they packed up their families, and headed up wind,
a poison cloud, a flaming sky, 200,000 people and no one died

That’s the story of the Mississauga train derailment of 1979 which was the largest peacetime evacuation in North America for many years.

alt-J – Taro

alt-J’s music is full of references to obscure books and poetry. This song is about two war photographers: Gerda Taro, who died in the Spanish Civil war when a tank ran into the car she was in (1937), and Robert Capa, who died after stepping on a mine in a war zone in Indo-China (1954). These two were “companions and professional partners.” Rumour is they were engaged and Capa never moved on after Taro’s death.

Vampire Weekend – Giving Up The Gun

Ezra Koenig’s dad gave him a book called Giving Up the Gun by Noel Perrin about Japan in the 17th century when they closed trade with the west and reverted back to the sword. The song’s not specifically about Japanese history, but the idea of minimalism and giving things up was the inspiration.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Ohio

Neil Young saw a copy of Life magazine with the cover story of the Kent State Shootings. He left with the magazine and his guitar and wrote this song within a few hours.

Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

Of course since this is an Arcade Fire song, it probably has some deep metaphorical meaning, but the inspiration for the lyrics come from an ice storm that hit Montreal in 1998. Regine Chassagne was living without power for an entire week.

Bastille – Pompeii

The city of Pompeii was destroyed by a volcano in 79AD. Scientists have since dug up bodies that are preserved in the position they died in. Dan Smith imagined a conversation between two of these charred bodies as their city was being decimated by a volcano.

U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday

Ireland has had two Bloody Sundays. This song was inspired by the second in January of 1972 when British paratroopers at a civil rights protest killed 13 Irish citizens.

Pearl Jam – Jeremy

Jeremy Delle was a 15 year old who on January 8, 1991 killed himself with a handgun in front of his English class. When Eddie Vedder read the story in the newspaper, he went and wrote this song.

Sublime – April 29, 1992

The lyric in this song where he sings “April 26, 1992” is a mistake. They are singing about the LA riots on April 29th after four police officers were acquitted for beating up Rodney King. Bradley Nowell accidentally sang April 26th while recording and the take was so good they just left it.