Mountains O' Things

Tracy Chapman, 1988

Tracy Chapman, the person singing this song, seems to be having a hard time making up her mind. What is she confused about? Whether having a lot of possessions will fix everything. Let's look at the wrestling she is doing one verse at a time. Use the graphic organizer to map out her thought process: write a summary of each verse and the chorus in each of the boxes. Example summaries:



I've always wanted a life of ease
Things would make everyone pay attention to me and be envious
Those who work and deserve luxuries don't have them
Chorus: Giving up my things will save my soul
I won't die lonely because I'll have all my possessions
Things will keep my loneliness, enemies, sadness away

Who are some of the characters speaking these lines? Poor wanting to be rich; rich defending wealth, lonely rich. In the end, whose life is better—the dreaming poor person or the lonely rich person? Neither is satisfied with what they have.

What 1980s economic and social trends might have inspired this song? What nicknames came from trends in this era? Reaganomics, yuppies, preppies, "me generation."

How true is this song today? What, if anything, has changed?

If things can't bring happiness, what can? What does the song suggest? People. How can we take her advice?

"Mountains O' Things" performed by Tracy Chapman on Tracy Chapman. New York: Elektra [60774-2], © 1988. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

For more information on Tracy Chapman, visit her official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source

Tracey Chapman

Tracy Chapman.

Tracy Chapman was born in 1964 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her excellent grades earned her a scholarship to a private girls' school in Connecticut. She was later accepted to Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, where she majored in anthropology in 1986. A talented singer-songwriter, she began to sing on street corners and in coffeehouses. A fellow student's father worked for a record company, which provided her big chance. She recorded an album of songs she had been writing since 1982. The album was a tremendous success, winning three Grammy Awards in 1989. Like Sting and other artists, Tracy is politically aware and is proud to be a member of Amnesty International.

Compare this song to:

"Simple Gifts" (Unit 3)

Write a single event in each block in the order it occurs. Add as many blocks as needed to include the whole story.

Storyboard a series of public service announcements (PSAs) on the theme that things can't buy happiness. If you wish, produce video versions.



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