Big Star - Thirteen - 1972

Big Star - "Thirteen" (1972)

Big Star's "Thirteen", released in 1972, is a song that has captivated audiences for decades with its tender lyrics and simplistic, yet evocative melody. This track, from their album "#1 Record", is often hailed as one of the greatest songs in rock history. It's a beautiful ballad that captures the innocence and confusion of teenage love. Let's dive into the history, meaning, and impact of this timeless classic.

The Band: Big Star

  1. Big Star was an American rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in the early 1970s.
  2. Alex Chilton, the lead singer and principal songwriter, was a former member of the Box Tops.
  3. Chris Bell, another key member, played a significant role in the band's sound and songwriting.
  4. Despite critical acclaim, Big Star remained largely unknown during their initial years due to distribution issues and limited commercial success.

The Song: "Thirteen"

  1. "Thirteen" is known for its acoustic guitar accompaniment, creating a soft and intimate atmosphere.
  2. The lyrics of "Thirteen" reflect on teenage romance and the innocence of young love.
  3. It's often praised for its lyrical simplicity and emotional depth, making it a favorite among both fans and critics.

Legacy and Influence

  1. "Thirteen" has been covered by numerous artists, showing its enduring influence in the music world.
  2. The song is frequently featured in lists of the greatest songs in rock history, such as Rolling Stone’s "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
  3. It's often used in films and TV shows to evoke a sense of nostalgia and youth.

Interactive Tasks

Quiz: Questions on the song

What year was "Thirteen" by Big Star released? (1972) (!1969) (!1975) (!1980)

Which album features the song "Thirteen"? ("#1 Record") (!"Radio City") (!"Third/Sister Lovers") (!"In Space")

What is the primary instrument used in "Thirteen"? (Acoustic guitar) (!Piano) (!Electric guitar) (!Drums)

What theme is predominantly explored in the song "Thirteen"? (Teenage love and innocence) (!Political unrest) (!Personal struggles) (!The music industry)

How is "Thirteen" typically described in terms of its musical style? (Soft and intimate) (!Loud and energetic) (!Experimental and avant-garde) (!Orchestral and complex)

Quiz: Questions on the Performer

Who was the lead singer of Big Star? (Alex Chilton) (!Chris Bell) (!Andy Hummel) (!Jody Stephens)

Before joining Big Star, Alex Chilton was a member of which band? (The Box Tops) (!The Velvet Underground) (!The Byrds) (!The Beatles)

Which Big Star member had a significant impact on the band's sound and songwriting along with Alex Chilton? (Chris Bell) (!Andy Hummel) (!Jody Stephens) (!Michael Stipe)

Despite critical acclaim, why did Big Star remain largely unknown during their initial years? (Distribution issues and limited commercial success) (!Band members' personal issues) (!Their music was considered too avant-garde) (!Disagreements with their record label)

In which city was Big Star formed? (Memphis, Tennessee) (!New York, New York) (!Los Angeles, California) (!Nashville, Tennessee)

Quiz: Questions on the lyrics

Which of the following lines is from "Thirteen"? ("Won't you let me walk you home from school?") (!"I'll see you at the show tonight") (!"Dancing in the dark under the pale moonlight") (!"Riding down the highway with the wind in our hair")

The lyrics of "Thirteen" primarily convey feelings of? (Nostalgia and youthful romance) (!Anger and rebellion) (!Despair and loneliness) (!Joy and partying)

What is a notable feature of the song's lyrics? (Their simplicity and emotional depth) (!Complex metaphors and symbolism) (!Political statements) (!References to historical events)

In "Thirteen," the narrator wants to do what with the song's subject? (Walk them home from school) (!Take them to a concert) (!Go on a road trip) (!Dance in the moonlight)

The lyrics of "Thirteen" are often described as capturing the essence of? (Teenage innocence) (!Adult complexities) (!Political unrest) (!Celebrity lifestyle)


Create a memory game with matching pairs for this topic. Insert suitable texts (at least 5 pairs) using exactly the following format, write only the text and leave no characters out, do not transform anything into a table, etc. Do not use any term twice. Term A matches Term 1, Term B matches Term 2, etc.

Alex Chilton Lead singer of Big Star
"Thirteen" Featured in "#1 Record"
Acoustic Guitar Primary instrument in "Thirteen"
Memphis, Tennessee City where Big Star was formed
Teenage Love Central theme of "Thirteen"

Open Tasks


  1. Research Big Star's Discography: Look into the albums released by Big Star and note the differences in style and themes across albums.
  2. Create a Playlist: Make a playlist of songs that share themes or styles with "Thirteen" and explain your choices.
  3. Draw a Band Poster: Design a poster for Big Star, incorporating elements that reflect their music style and era.


  1. Write a Song Review: Write a review of "Thirteen", focusing on its musical and lyrical elements.
  2. Explore Music of the 70s: Research other bands or songs from the 1970s and compare them to Big Star's style.
  3. Interview Project: Conduct an interview with someone who grew up in the 70s about their music preferences and if they knew Big Star.


  1. Analyze the Influence: Analyze how "Thirteen" has influenced modern music and cite specific examples.
  2. Create a Documentary: Make a short documentary about Big Star, highlighting their impact on the music industry.
  3. Songwriting Challenge: Write your own song inspired by "Thirteen," focusing on capturing similar emotions and themes.

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Oral Exam

  1. Discuss the Cultural Impact of Big Star: Talk about how Big Star influenced music culture in the 70s and beyond.
  2. Analyze the Lyrics of "Thirteen": Discuss the themes in "Thirteen" and how they reflect teenage experiences.
  3. Compare and Contrast: Compare "Thirteen" to another song from a different era that deals with similar themes.
  4. Music Evolution: Discuss how the musical style of the 1970s influenced contemporary music.
  5. Personal Connection: Describe how "Thirteen" or another Big Star song personally resonates with you and why.

OERs on the Topic


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