Allusions in Songs


"Who Wrote Holden Caulfield" by Green Day

Green Day sang the first verse of this song as it was Holden Caulfield (from The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger). Holden is a boy that has a spastic train of thought, and frequently digresses from the topic he originally was talking about. The chorus talks about Holden from a third person perspective, saying that Holden is lazy and lacks motivation to do anything in life. It eventually ends up saying that Holden is going crazy, and somebody has to help him soon or else he’ll end up going completely insane. This is interesting, since in the book many people argue that Holden eventually did go crazy and is telling the story from a psychiatric hospital.

“A thought burst in my head and I need to tell you
It's news that I for thought
Was it just a dream that happened long ago?
I think that I just forgot

Well it hasn't been the first time
And it sure does drive me mad

There's a boy who fogs his world and now he's getting lazy
There's no motivation and frustration makes him crazy
He makes a plan to take a stand but always ends up sitting.
Someone help him up or he's gonna end up quitting

I shuffle through my mind
To see if I can find
The words I left behind
Was it just a dream that happened long ago?
Oh well...
Never mind.”


"Mosh" by Eminem

This song alludes to 2004 elections in the United Sates, and is trying to convince the general public to vote against George Bush in the elections. While the song is generally about the Bush presidency, it also frequently mentions the Iraq war and the singer’s views and opinions on it. This song is a great example of how a modern song can be used as an allusion to a current even topic, and maybe even be used to influence people in decision making. Below are some lyrics that really emphasize the point of the song.

"Let us beg to differ
As we set aside our differences
And assemble our own army
To disarm this Weapon of Mass Destruction
That we call our President, for the present
And Mosh for the future of our next generation
To speak and be heard"

"Turn! Turn! Turn!" by The Byrds

This song was originally written by Pete Seeger, but was made famous when the Byrds covered it. The whole song, with the exception of the last line, was taken completely from chapter three in of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The message behind this song can be taken spiritually or literally, as the words are true, no matter your religion and how you view the Bible and Christianity. It’s a great allusion to the Bible, and a popular one at that. Many people still recognize this song even after almost fifty years since its release date.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

"We Didn’t Start the Fire" by Billy Joel

There were 115 different allusions in this song written by Billy Joel. He decided to write a song about the major headline news stories that happened in his life, from the years 1949-1989. The name of the song and the chorus refer to “the fire”, which is in itself an allusion to conflict and turmoil in society. He says “we didn’t start the fire” to say that you can’t blame his generation (the baby boomer generation) for all the problems in the world, since many of them happened when they were growing up and they had no control over it. The “fire” has always been burning since humanity existed, and will continue to burn, as it is human nature.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I", and "The Catcher in the Rye"

Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Zhou Enlai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
Starkweather homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land,
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on...