A Ballad Analysis Essay, Research Paper
Has the ancient tradition of ballads fallen prey to today?s modern society? One might think so. The truth, however, is the opposite. Ballads have thrived throughout many centuries and have influenced many types of music. Punk, Ska, and Hardcore bands such as Operation Ivy, Less Than Jake, H2O and All have capitalized on ballads as a form of lyrical expression. One such song, ?Numbered Days?, a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song, written and composed by Dicky Barrett and Nate Albert, is a prime example.
?Numbered Days? tells the story of a Boston gang?s attack on an innocent man. This attack ends up being a homicide and only one member of the gang is caught. When questioned about the murder, the arrested man points the finger to his fellow gang members. The other gang members are questioned and all deny ever being even in the vicinity of the murder, let alone assisting in it. The arrested man is tried, convicted and put on Death Row, while the other gang members are set free to cause more trouble. The theme of this ballad is a very simple one: ?Those who stick by you in times of trouble really are your friends.? This ballad is a violent example of gang life and the consequences of such a life.
There are several repetitive devices in ?Numbered Days.? The main one being the repetition of the lines ?Time?s running out and the tables will turn. The days have been numbered and your number?s coming up.? (lines 18-21, 23-26) Another repetition is of lines 9-10, 15-16, 43-44. However, the first line of the couplet is altered to fit the progression of the story inside the ballad. The first stanza does seem to fit the traditional ballad stanza. The second and fourth lines rhyme, as do the first and third. In traditional ballads, the first and third lines of the stanza did not necessarily have to rhyme.
There are many things that contribute to the overall tone and theme of the ballad. For instance, the lines ?Someone crossed their path at the worst time to do it. Toes to the temple and he didn?t live through it,? (lines 11-14) seems to express the seriousness of the gang and the crime committed. In lines 20-21 and 25-26, one gets the impression that something is at a deadline or about to happen. This could quite possibly be a hint towards the convict?s position on Death Row or how close he is to his turn in the electric chair. Lines 39-42 state the fact that, though this one criminal has been eliminated, there still are many out on the streets.
Though the format is not completely traditional, Dicky Barrett and Nate Albert make use of and insert many traditional formats into the song, such as the rhyme scheme and subject matter. The modern aspects that the writers use includes the musical interpretation as well as interweaving issues faced in today?s world. ?Numbered Days? is not only an example of the uses of traditional and modern aspects of writing styles and ballads, but a powerful, emotional song that expresses feelings that even the people of the Middle Ages could relate to.