Songs w/ Substance #5: Josh Ritter – “The Curse”

Not every song with substance needs to have some deep, coded meaning or take a righteous political stand. Some times a good song just tells a good story

In his song “The Curse,” the storytelling skills of singer-songwriter Josh Ritter are on full display. Perhaps there is some metaphorical symbolism embedded in the lyrics, but I tend to think that anyone who finds any is probably overthinking it. To me, this song is nothing more than a beautifully creative love story about an archeologist and the mummy she unearths and revives. If there is any deeper thinking required, it probably revolves around the question of who is actually “cursed”—the mummy who appears to be trapped in some kind of inescapable purgatory between living and dead, or the woman he once loved, who has since become “just one more rag now he’s dragging behind him.”

What’s for sure is that Ritter is an absolutely masterful songwriter. He hasn’t gotten a ton of mainstream love over the years, but if that recognition ever comes, a lot of music fans will be spending a lot of time digging through Ritter’s lengthy discography, uncovering all the buried treasures so underappreciated in their time. Perhaps this heartwarming waltz will be one of them.

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Songs w/ Substance is a running segment that explores songs that say something meaningful about the world and the human beings that inhabit it. Aside from being good music, these songs provide powerful social commentary about the human experience—about what it means to live and love and laugh and die on this planet. These write-ups represent my reflections on those lyrics. If you would like to share your own, please do so in the comments section below.  


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