“Don’t Pay the Ferryman” by Chris de Burgh
(Words/Music: Chris de Burgh, Album: The Getaway, A&M Records 1982)
One of the reasons I decided to begin this song-a-day blog, and why I decided upon the particular format it has, is to examine how I came to like the things I do. Why and how do I pick the music I listen to, the movies and television shows I watch, and the books I read? One of the songs which I think helped shape my musical development is Chris “The Lady in Red” de Burgh’s “Don’t Pay the Ferryman.” Although it wasn’t a very big hit, I still find it running through my head whenever someone mentions the River Styx or various death rituals (which actually happens fairly often in the Humanities class I teach).
I have always been intrigued by the drama of this song, which today reminds me of something Queen-like, although at the time it was receiving airplay on the radio, the only Queen I knew was “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions.” Still, de Burgh creates a fantastic situation of having to be ferried across the River Styx by Charon, the Ferryman, and gives what seems like general life advice: “Don’t Pay the Ferryman/ Until he gets you to the other side.” Oddly, thematically it went along well with my reading at the time which was a heavy dose of Tolkien, Poe, and eventually Lovecraft. I suppose it could even be a pre-cursor to my interest in Iron Maiden, whose songs are filled with historical, mythological, and supernatural tales. This song came to mind the other day as I was watching the original Clash of the Titans which depicts the mythical adventures of Perseus and as I work to put together a project on ancient monsters for a unit on Fear. While not a terrifying song by any means, I still find it interesting that I was drawn to this song at an early age and that it, unlike some things I initially liked, still holds my interest.