Music 101: Based on a true story

Songwriters get their ideas in many ways, including from actual events.

For instance, the Native American band Redbone brought attention to Wounded Knee, even paying for the recording and distribution of the song with their own money because their label would not. Another example is when Jay Farrar of Son Volt and Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie recorded and entire album about Jack Kerouac in Big Sur, based on Kerouac’s novel of the same name. It also served as the soundtrack to a documentary about Kerouac in Big Sur.

However, not all songs based on true events are historically accurate. The band Paper Lace scored a #1 song in 1974 with their fanciful tale of Prohibition era Chicago, “The Night Chicago Died”. The shootout laid out in the song never happened.

Listen to this week’s Music 101 for more details on these and other songs that are (allegedly at least) Based on a True Story. 



“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” The Band

“Buffalo Soldier” Bob Marley & The Wailers

“We Were All Wounded At Wounded Knee” Redbone

“Satchel Paige Said” The Baseball Project

“The Night Chicago Died” Paper Lace

“Kenji” Fort Minor

“Exhuming McCarthy” R.E.M.

“Big Sur” Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard

“Midnight Rambler” Rolling Stones

“New Speedway Boogie” Grateful Dead

“D.B. Cooper” Todd Snider


In each episode of Music 101, your host Margot highlights a different chapter in music history, bringing you songs you love and the stories behind them.

Listen to Music 101 on the Colorado Sound every Sunday at 10am MT, with the same episode repeated Wednesday at 8pm MT.

You can also hear recent episodes on our Music 101 show page