blatantly bad 70s songs: wildfire (michael murphy)

here, horsey horsey!

singing cowboy michael martin murphy sings wildfire, a song about a dead girl, a dead horse, and the man who should be quivering in fear at the knowledge that they’re comin’ for me i know. sounds like some westernized stephen king, if you ask me. and yet people in 1975 found this a terribly romantic song, and voila! it became a hit.

in 1975, i was 10 years old and at the height of every young girl’s favorite pasttime: horses. i read all about misty of chincoteage and every single solitary follow-up book marguerite henry wrote about those damn ponies. i oohed and aahed every time i had the opportunity to go horseback riding at camp; i especially loved it when i could get my horse to canter or even gallop. you’d think i was a solid audience for a song about a pony.

you’d be wrong. dead ponies don’t go off well with 10 year old girls.

it took me awhile to figure out that the pony AND the girl were dead. but then, i couldn’t understand why the singer was sounding glad that the dead things were coming for him. run, mister, RUN! hadn’t he seen horror movies? did he not value his life? did he want to wander the earth, zombie-like, terrorizing the masses in the countryside?

sheesh. grownups can be sooooooo dumb.

and musically, though i enjoyed the piano in the very beginning of the song, it seldom got any airplay on my favorite music radio WABC. the rest of the song was a waste, i thought then. i still think it is now. the music is sleep-inducing; the lyrics are horrifying.  i didn’t know whether to snooze or become a serial killer.

how wildfire caught on like, well, you know what, i will never understand.


72 Responses to “blatantly bad 70s songs: wildfire (michael murphy)”

  1. “Wildfire” was more of a WMGQ (Magic 98) type of song, it’s true.

    Have you heard the Langley Schools Music Project CD from some years back? Canadian kids singing ’70s pop hits in their echoey school auditorium, led by a hippie music teacher. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

  2. I LOVE that song, much to my dad’s horror.

    • I’m with you Kello O. If the author had been older than 10, there might have been a better understanding of why this is such a haunting and beautiful song. It’s a fantasy, so let’s not try to apply animal husbandry criticisms. If you don’t get this song, you don’t get the 70s, and I therefore pity you.

      • I too was 10 years old when that song came out, but I loved it BECAUSE it was hauntingly beautiful. I’d read all the Chincoteague pony books, loved horses, wanted one and even lived in a rural neighborhood where people on horseback were a common sight as they exercised their mounts. I suppose that means I was a typical pre-teen girl at least in that area.

        Yet whenever this song came on the school bus radio, I smiled. Dead-pony motif notwithstanding. The melody and the imagery evoked by the lyrics were plaintive, and the song actually told a story, which fascinated me as a young storyteller myself. Not to mention that I could actually understand the lyrics and sing along.

        So, yeah, I have a taste for nostalgia and the music of my youth — who doesn’t? For some strange reason this song has been on my mind for the past few days, which led to my finding this blog entry, and writing this response. Just my two cents, your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, etc.

      • Peggy kelly Says:

        And I’m with you,first off I was taught if u can not say anything nice don’t say anything at all! Nobody is forcing you to like it,that’s on you ,but why go out of your way to trash talk someone that is and will always remembered,unlike you! Also im10000000% sure he didn’t write it counting on it would be only liked and go on to a gold record based on how you feel about! I don’t usually comment on garbage like this,why fuel your hateful heart,but it just made me mad!

      • Bob Juniper Says:

        Its hauntingly beautiful.Take it for what it is.

  3. While I’ve been able to tolerate most of the blatantly bad choices this month, “Wildfire” makes my ears bleed. That nasal “wiiiiiiiiiiiiildfire” refrain is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. At least David Soul was tolerable. Michael Martin Murphy? Not at all.

  4. After this can Tony Orlando and Dawn be far behind

  5. the very sad truth is that tony orlando and dawn SHOULD be here. but 30 days isn’t even enough time to hit everything. i may have to expand the timeframe, though i want a break from posting every single day. for now 😉 but yes. say has anybody seen my sweet gypsy rose ought to be here. it SCREAMS to be here.

  6. I was just a few years older than you when Wildfire hit the airwaves. I found it, and still do, an incredibly sad song of loss. It pulls the heartstrings.

    • Peggy kelly Says:

      Yes it does,and wrekehavoc seems to be so proud to go out of the way to be hateful,Good God if you don’t like it so damn what! The world needs way less people like you!

  7. Some people just have to gripe about every little thing.

    Songs are like poems people sing to express themselves or to tell a story.

    So what, you don’t like the song… you have to make a BIG deal out of it. The time it took for you rant and rave about it, like a little 3 year old sissy, you could have done some homework.

    Get a life and try to focus on REAL issues instead of going around bitchin’ about something that isn’t affecting your life….if you have one

    By the way, I love the song and it makes more sense than your whining.

    • I totally agree, if you don’t like the song don’t listen, what makes you a music critic any ways. How many hit songs have you written, oh wait, nadda. It became a “hit”, a popular song, which means millions of people enjoyed the song, so that makes your take on the song mean nothing, no value. I think your just a negative person and hard to please. I’m pissed at myself for even giving you your 3 minutes of fame.

  8. Someone has a (horse) hair caught somewhere painful.

    Well, I happen to agree with you, Miss Wreke. But that’s why we have a bajillion different outlets for music — because no one should have to listen to “Theme from Elmo’s World,” “Kung Fu Fighting” or Wildfire” if she doesn’t want to. And I don’t want to.

    But I’ll listen ONE MORE TIME, to see if I can find the poetry amidst the rhyme.

  9. […] (you think i kid? check out people i don’t even know hating me because i knock songs like wildfire and playground in my […]

  10. If you can knock the song, then people can knock you for knocking the song.

  11. If you have time to knock the song, don’t knock those who have the time to knock you for knocking the song.

  12. uhm. ok. third base. 🙂

  13. Okay, here it is 2009 and this song still does something to people. Whether good or bad, it did get your attention, it did make you think about it and the piano part is absolutely beautiful (kind of reminds me of how the music from “Man from Snowy River” makes me feel). So, accept the beauty where you find it, for what it is and don’t worry about the rest. It was a dream MMMurphy had and he put it into a song. 4 million people can’t all be wrong. I absolutely loved, and still love “Wildfire”. I think it’s great we can all have an opinion and that we all don’t think the same or have the same likes and dislikes…this IS America and God Bless America.

    • Well Jerry, I got an email saying you commented on my response telling how MMM was inspired to write Wildfire but when I click on your name it takes me to a Comcast site, so…..could you comment again and maybe this time I’ll see it. Thanks

  14. Kyle chappell Says:

    Im a sixteen year-old guy who just recently discovered this song
    and i was so touched the first time, it really is a masterpiece unlike what many of you believe. just imagine being a man who lost the girl of his dreams in that manner only to hope one day she and her horse will come for him.
    just my take

  15. wes murphey Says:

    There are songs a person falls in love with over time, and there are far fewer that one loves the first time they hear it. Wildfire was definitely a song I loved immediately. And it still ranks as one of my top twenty all-time favorite secular songs. I still get teary eyed every time I hear it.
    I was a senior in high school and from a broken home in a country community when I first heard this song. It is mind-boggling to me that anyone could find fault with Wildfire. I bet those same people love the heavy metal, acid-rock, or rap-crap, which musically can’t hold a candle to Wild Fire.

  16. I love the song it is a sad one but it is good

  17. Get a life and do something constructive, why not best songs? Why does it have to be bad songs? Have you ever written a song? Or tried? I can’t even believe I’m taking the time to even tell you this, you won’t get the message anyway. Besides, this is merely your opinion and millions of other people disagree with you or you would never have heard the song.

  18. you like the song; i don’t. vive la difference. you are welcome to write a blog all about songs you love. i do that in my blog as well.

  19. David taylor Says:

    You are an idiot! The song is not about a dead horse and a dead girl, ti is about a man who has lost the woman he loves years ago when she when to look for her lost horse. Now the man is at deaths door and he is thrilled that he will see the woman he loves once again.

  20. JohnyVespa Says:

    Great Song!! At least not the music of our normal 21 century tunes about killing cops or raping girls…. Seems like back them musicians could write great songs… Now days just a few good songs here and there,,but not many.. Bascilcly all sounds same and many new artist rip from the past…

    American Idol sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • John Berg Says:

      Above is the URL for the Wikopedia article about Murphy; given the ignorance of this blogger about this song, it might be worth her spending a few minutes to build her knowledge base before ripping into the tastes of millions of people (like me and others who’ve replied here). But as was said above, the world of blogs, Tweets, and other online postings is built upon the freedom to exhibit one’s idiocy without reprimand or price to pay. Ain’t freedom great?

      • perhaps not as idiotic as people who comment on a post over two years after it’s posting on a blog which has since moved to a completely different site.

  21. Billy Retard Says:

    I likted the song.What are u, an anus?

  22. After many years it still grabs me by the heart…..Betsy are you out there?

  23. […] 2) my feelings about the song wildfire, which, i must tell you, i still firmly believe, even if loads of people disagree with me and send me hate mail over (which continues to come on my old site, so if you’d like to see a total stranger call me an anus,  click here.) […]

  24. Its a hauntingly beautiful song, HATER !

    • Carol Mininger Says:

      I heard Wildfire for the first time sunbathing on beautiful Lake Tahoe with a close group of friends and family after a late night of partying (dancing till dawn) and this strange calm came over me. I looked up at the breath taking mountains around the lake and for that short time while the song was playing I felt like I could live forever. I will never forget that song of my “youth”. Whenever I hear it, it takes me right back to that magical time. Love Wildfire!

  25. The song is bad in a funny way, but people like all sorts of awful things. Everyone likes something that isn’t an artistic high point. I like “Cherish;” my husband thinks it sounds like college guys trying to get laid. I think he may be right. If the people who disagreed with the writer could respond with a sense of humor, they wouldn’t sound so ridiculous. Maybe you need to be a little ridiculous to like this song a lot. Lastly, that was one stupid pony.

  26. I would not go so far as to call you an anus, I realize its a diff blog site but hey, wth? Anyhow, I was 12 when this song came out. I loved it then and still love it. I just heard it on the radio for the first time in a very long time and its amazing that I still was able to sing along with all the lyrics. This song will always put a lump in my throat!

    • I completely agree with Beth and all the others who love this song. It is hauntingly beautiful, tells a compelling story and has great lyrics. I never knew anyone to actually hate this song, interesting that it inspires such vitriol in some. I still love it.

  27. girlfriday Says:

    This is one of the best songs ever written… Wildfire is both a story and a metaphor.

    The story is from the 19th Century, when Nebraska was still the wild, wild west, the settlers lived in homes made of sod, and life was hard.

    She is either the daughter, the wife or the fiance of the singer. He loved watching her ride her pony Wildfire, she was a vision of raging life, and love.

    She died during a ‘killing frost’ of the kind that blanketed the midwest in the winter of 2007-2008. The horse ran off, being spooked by something, and was never seen again.

    By the dark of the moon refers to the time when the moon is full to when it is new again, and is the time that you plant crops that grow below ground, such as potatoes, beets, turnips, etc. The singer was following the old farmers almanac, but his crops were destroyed by an early snow before he could harvest.

    He lay there in his cold, empty sod house, knowing he would die of starvation that winter, as promised by the hoot owl outside his window, which in native american lore meant death was coming.

    So he waited for her and Wildfire…

    Wildfire is a metaphor for something that takes you away from hard times. The song pays tribute to the bravery and hardships faced by our ancestors.

    It’s a masterpiece.

  28. I have written on this site before since I love the song Wildfire. I looked up how MMM got his idea for the song…I pasted it below.

    Michael Martin Murphey talked to The Boot about his biggest hit.

    I was in my third year of college at UCLA, but I was living in the mountains in California. I would drive down to Larry’s apartment in Los Angeles and sleep on his floor, because we would work sometimes 22 hours a day on the album.

    The night ‘Wildfire’ came to me, Larry went to bed and I went to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor. I dreamed the song in its entirety. I woke up and pounded on Larry’s door and said, ‘Can you come down and help me with this song?’ His wife got up and made us coffee and we finished it in two or three hours.

    The song came from deep down in my subconsciousness. My grandfather told me a story when I was a little boy about a legendary ghost horse that the Indians talked about. In 1936, author J. Frank Dobie identified this ghost horse story as the most prominent one in the lore of the Southwest.
    It came out, took off in Chicago and Milwaukee, and public demand made it a hit, which proves that those of us in music have no clue about anything when it comes to what will be a hit song. It came out in the disco era in 1975 and was a pop hit, going to No. 1 in R&R and No. 2 in Billboard. It was one of the last gold singles before they stopped releasing songs as singles. It’s still in the Top 20 songs for airplay for BMI.
    The song can’t be all bad if it went gold…maybe those of you who do not like have no vision or imagination. Not all songs are written with realistic meanings. If you listen to “Break My Stide, you’ll understand that. And it starts “Last night I had this dream…

    • One of my favorite songs ever. Makes me tear up every time I hear the opening strains on the radio. Just exquisite.

  29. I find this song hauntingly beautiful and always have……since its emergence in the 70’s. Still sends a chill up my spine and brings tears to my eyes.

    Of course, I’m an artist and have an appreciation for imagery (visual and auditory). I’m saddened by the apparent lack of education on the arts for the past 20+ years in our school systems which allows music about rapes and killings to win out over such beautiful music as this (to some ears). Sad. Indeed.

  30. I could have written this post!! 9 when the song came out. It sent me into paroxysms of grief. I still can’t listen to it!! The pony dies, people! The pony dies!! Alone and cold!! NOT romantic.

  31. Bibiana Says:

    What a humorous commentary! I was 19 in 1975, and I loved that song. I still do, even though the lyrics ARE rather morbid. I really miss the sweet, romantic ballads of the 70s!

  32. […] people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe […]

  33. […] people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe […]

  34. […] people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe […]

  35. […] people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe […]

  36. […] (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe […]

  37. […] (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe […]

  38. […] (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe […]

  39. Tracy Lamb Says:

    I know it’s a few yrs later lol. In 75 I was 6 had my own pony and to this day this is still my favorite songs. The imagery is beautiful, the same way Poe is.
    BTW you ever listen to “Every Breath She Takes” by The Police? Top romantic song for how long?

  40. smarty pants Says:

    It’s not a bad song. It just doesn’t appeal to you. Strange way to spend your days. Bad songs abound these days, ones with no musical complexity performed on computers, and with zero content beyond: “I want sex and money”

  41. Stacey Van Tassel Says:

    Dude, 17 years old here. This song gives me chills. If you can’t enjoy it and wont give this song credit for its beauitful, poetic balladry, then I’m afraid what you pass as music.

  42. Brenda S. Britt Says:

    Wildfire is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I also wonder but don’t care what trash you listen to or what you call music. I feel sorry for your shallow heart. Maybe if you ever loved anything except yourself you’d understand. I have nothing but pity for your lack of heart. You notice you only have 1 like and that’s probably you which does not matter. Look at all the likes and loves you idiot.

  43. Asshole this is a beautiful song compared to the crap they play nowadays.

  44. --------- Says:

    This was a great song dont be ugly!!!

  45. Sherman holley Says:

    I grew up in the 70’s also, and heard that song and liked the music. I knew it was about a horse but not a dead one. How sorrowful! I was under the impression that a young woman was chasing after a beautiful full grown living horse. The music sounds empathetic and calming to an extinct. If different lyrics were used, it could almost pass for a love song.

  46. Loved this one then…still do today! (I was 19!)

  47. It’s more about a mystical escape. Every ‘sodbuster’ dreams of a mystical hot chick on a jet black flying horse to take him to the hottub under the waterfall on the backside of the mountains. Please give me one of those. If you hate this song, then you have to hate 95% of the mid to late 70s MOR stuff that is still played in most cities. “She’ll be callin’ Wildfire…” I see that selfless, mystical hottie running to her death, but Wildfire is worth it all.

  48. EVERYBODY sucks except you.
    You are special.
    You are pretty.
    You are smart.
    You are unique.
    Your thoughts and choices are the best.

    Now go conquer the world wise one.

    And please waste no more of your time with the peons like us…um k

  49. Timothy Smith Says:

    Ummm….you don’t get it, I’d say because you live in the here and now. Try thinking of music as art and stop writing stymied articles criticizing an artist….geesh.

  50. Tom Jones Says:

    What an idiot!!! It is most surely one of the top 10 songs of all time!!!

  51. I am so glad it caught on!!! You are entitled to your opinion, but this song, in my opinion, is one of my favorites! !

  52. Brian Carbone Says:

    The most important lyric comes at the very end. “I’m gonna leave this sod busting behind”. I love music with historical reference and this is one of the best ever written imho, Every American child should learn and understand how hard life was for great plains settlers. If you had an inkling if how hard you would understand why he would be happy to be taken away. That is the entire point.

  53. Howard Frankment Says:

    She’s coming for me – Jesus Christ she’s coming for me on that ghost-horse! I’m so SCREWED!!

  54. I’ve had a debate with my Facebook friends about the sequence of events of the song. Did the girl die; then, the horse was spooked, perhaps, by her death, and then busted out of his stall? Or did the girl die after the horse busted out of his stall? In other words, was it a ghost girl calling Wildfire or was it a live girl?

  55. Terry Kruger Says:

    You suck for real

  56. Terry Kruger Says:

    Like I said you suck

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