A folk ballad – Songwriting Challenge – Week 2 of 4

Rosanna & familyThis is the second week of the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) 2016 4 Song in 4 Weeks Blogging and Song Challenge and this time the challenge, put forth by Bryan Potvin, was to write a story song.

Some of the examples given were contemporary tracks – Amy Sky, Jim Croce, etc.
As we started writing, Robert in his space in the cool basement recording/concert venue and Cailin in her artists loft in the hottest part of the house, we both took different directions but, surprisingly, both went back to stories of Grand-parents. We ended up completing and demoing ‘Rosanna’, the song which Cailin started and it is more like a classic folk ballad story song than anything ‘contemporary’.

In Cailin’s words:
This story is intensely personal. It is the true story of my grandmother’s life. Since my mother is visiting with us at the moment, I was able to delve into her memories of her mother to be able to step into her shoes for a moment. I always knew the facts, but never really thought about what it must have been like for her. Writing a story song about her forced me to think about things I never did before. The challenge was to relay the sentiment in such a way that others would feel it, too. I hope we have accomplished this. I know we did so with my mother at least. Her eyes were filled with tears at the end of the song.

It’s this kind of connection that is important to us in our songwriting. If we can evoke empathy in the listener then we have the opportunity of sharing something deep with them. We can provide release, enjoyment, thoughtfulness or almost any other emotion. It’s why we do what we do. Here’s the song:

Sound cloud link to ‘Rosanna’

Lyrics to ‘Rosanna’ – by Campbell + Green © 2016 SOCAN

Life was so unfair to you, Rosanna
You did your best with what you had
Life was so unfair to you, Rosanna
May your spirit be at rest

On a bitter cold fifteen below, a hundred years ago
You fought for your first breath and a story yet untold
You were but a child, yet made to work in a kitchen baking bread
Early to rise and to lay your weary head
Your youthful beauty caught the eye of the town’s most handsome man
Nineteen when you married, he twenty-five with two strong hands
Nothing could prepare you for the loss that stole your joy
On the day you gave birth to a lifeless baby boy.


As the hard years scraped and laboured by, five more children born
Your lover lost to insanity, ‘twas for him you did mourn
Your heart and soul so broken, so much you loved was lost
You paid the price of poverty at far too high a cost


In your desperation, what deeds were you driven to?
Three little girls, two hungry boys, what hell tormented you?

They took your children, took your house, they even took your pride
They left you shame and sorrow, with nowhere to hide
You worked your fingers to the bone, slaving to get by
Through it all, you tried to smile, begged God to answer why

There came a day when another man vowed to share his love
Lift you from this cursed life, and hold you high above
But by then your shattered spirit, couldn’t hold on anymore
Your poor heart and tired body walked through heaven’s door.

Chorus / Tag