Teenage Death Songs: “Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning

Part one of a grisly series.

The teenage death song, or “splatter platter,” was popular in the late 1950s and early ’60s. I define the teenage death song thusly:

A teenage death song is a song about a teenager dying for reasons related  in some form or fashion to his or her love of another teenager, who is often, but not always, the narrator of the song.

Others define the genre more broadly–the (lousy) Wikipedia article on the subject stretches the definition so far that it includes songs such as “Seasons in the Sun,” in which the narrator is still alive and could be an older man dying of cancer for all I can tell about his age from the lyrics.

Well, screw that.  “Seasons” is not a teenage death song.  Teenage death songs are in the mode of 1959’s “Teen Angel,” probably the first, where the narrator’s girlfriend runs back to his car, which is stalled on the railroad tracks, to retrieve the class ring he had given her.

And then, to paraphrase a favorite childhood rhyme:

A teen in a car on the railroad track
Her heart is all aflutter.
Around the bend comes Number Ten
Toot! Toot! Teenage butter.

Now that’s a teenage death song.  Don’t try to pawn “Ode to Billy Joe” off on me as a teenage death song.  I know the real thing when I hear it.

Of course, I reserve the right to stretch or ignore my own definition for other posts in this series.

Other posts in this series below the fold.

Teenage Death Songs: “Tell Laura I Love Her” by Ray Peterson

Teenage Death Songs: “Run Joey Run” by David Geddes

Teenage Death Songs: “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las

Teenage Death Songs: “The Water Was Red” by Johnny Cymbal

5 Responses to Teenage Death Songs: “Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning

  1. Jason Austinite says:

    I hope to see a post on “Patches” by Dickey Lee. My dad loves that song from his youth. He once told me that it’s the saddest song ever written.

  2. I plan a long series of posts on songs both well-known and obscure. “Patches” is a great one and it will be covered at some point.

    I’ll probably spread these out quite a bit just so no one becomes unduly concerned with the state of my mental health.

  3. Chris Brooks says:

    Does anyone know if there is an album consisting of all of the sad/teenage death songs. A friend told me that he had one a long time ago. He is now very sick and I would like to buy this album for him, if it still exists. Thanks

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