Songs in the Key of May: The best songs about the last month of autumn

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Songs in the Key of May: The best songs about the last month of autumn

30 days has September, April, June and November… But what month has the most songs with its name in the title? We’ve picked out five for May.

First of May – Bee Gees

Album: Odessa

A dog is a man’s best friend, so they say. So it is little wonder there are many songs inspired by our canine companions – Dolly Parton’s Cracker Jack, Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, Paw’s Jessie and Cat Stevens’ I Love My Dog to name a few.  In the booklet that accompanies their compilation Tales from the Brothers Gibb, Barry Gibb said the title of the song came from the birthday of his dog. “When Linda and I first moved into an apartment near St. Paul’s Cathedral, we got ourselves a Pyrenean mountain dog and named him Barnaby. The idea came from then. Sad to say, Barnaby’s gone but the song lives on.” 

First of May was the only song released from the box-set, a move that would lead to the temporary departure of Robin Gibb. The story goes that Robin wanted his vocal-led ‘Lamplight’ to be the A-side, while manager Robert Stigwood favoured the Barry-led ‘First of May’. With the decision falling in Barry’s favour, Robin left and the brothers would not fully reunite for fifteen months.

The song was a minor hit in 1969, but would find greater popularity when released in 1971 on the soundtrack to the film about puppy love, Melody. In 1996, the song was used as the theme to the Japanese drama, Wakaba no Koro.  

While the band never released a Christmas song, believing it was too much of a marketing gimmick, the word Christmas does appear throughout the track. 


Third of May / Ōdaigahara – Fleet Foxes

Album: Crack-Up

On May 3, 2011, Fleet Foxes released Helplessness Blues. Solo music, side-projects and leaving band members would follow, before the band released Crack-Up in 2017, on which this track appears. May 3 is also the birthdate of founding member, Skyler Skjetlset. 

The album version runs a touch shy of nine-minutes, although a four-minute edited version was released shortly after the original. 

Then Came the Last Days of May – Blue Öyster Cult

Album: Blue Öyster Cult

According to lead guitarist (and the song’s writer) Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser, Then Came the Last Days of May tells the story of three Stony Brook University students who got caught up in a drug deal gone bad, two of whom Dharma knew. 

With guitar solos opening and closing the track, it is one of the band’s most frequently played songs – and one that showcases the skills of Buck. 

The May Queen – Robert Plant

Album: Carry Fire

Although the song title references the line “it’s just a spring clean for the May Queen” from Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, Robert Plant insists it was entirely accidental. Instead, he says it is about the time of year when the whole of life is opening up.

Speaking with BBC Radio 6 Music’s Matt Everitt, he said: “The beginning of the year is such a great time, such an optimistic, great time even for older people.”  

Stuttering (May 4th) – Jawbreaker

Album: Dear You

A track from their fourth and final album Dear You, the liner notes call this song a “true story, ugly and forever”. An angry love triangle and revenge plot would see frontman Blake Schwarzenbach wind up in hospital. 

Blake underwent vocal surgery shortly before the album’s recording. In January of 2019, the band announced their first tour in 23 years.  

You also have Month of May (Arcade Fire), Stormy May Day (AC/DC), Maybe Next May (Secrets), Through the Dark Months of April & May (Cocteau Twins), 5 Days in May (Blue Rodeo), May 16 (Lagwagon), Hold On Till May (Piece the Veil), May 24 (Trophy Eyes), End of May (Michael Bublé), Early Morning May (Ronald Jenkees), The May Song (The Gathering) and The May 4th Movement (Digable Planets).