1976Released
5:08

Did You Know?

Interesting facts and trivia about (Don't Fear) The Reaper. By Songfacts®.

"(Don't Fear) The Reaper" was written and sung by Blue Öyster Cult's lead guitarist, Donald Roeser, also known as Buck Dharma. It was rumored to be about suicide, but it actually deals with the inevitability of death and the belief that we should not fear it. When Dharma wrote it, he was thinking about what would happen if he died at a young age and if he would be reunited with loved ones in the afterlife. Dharma was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, which got him thinking about his mortality and inspired the song. "I thought I was going to maybe not live that long," he said in a Songfacts interview. "I had been diagnosed with a heart condition, and your mind starts running away with you - especially when you're young-ish. So, that's why I wrote the story. It's imagining you can survive death in terms of your spirit. Your spirit will prevail."

Buck Dharma described this as "a love song where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners." He was taken aback when he learned that many listeners heard it as a song encouraging suicide; it advocates courage in the face of death but in no way suggests we should actively bring it about. In his Songfacts interview, he explained: "It's not about suicide, although people kind of get that from the Romeo and Juliet reference. But BÖC's lyrics have always been... not obtuse, but deep. They're certainly open to interpretation, and everybody seems to have their own thoughts about what stuff means. We purposely let people do that - draw their own conclusions from the lyric."

Blue Öyster Cult was considered a "cult" band, somewhere in the realm of heavy metal with complex and often baffling lyrics dealing with the supernatural. Those inside the cult took the time to understand that like Black Sabbath, BÖC combined outstanding musicianship with fantasy lyrics, and they weren't for everyone. Most music critics appreciated the band, and some worked for them: Their manager/producer Sandy Pearlman wrote for the music magazine Crawdaddy!, as did Richard Meltzer, who contributed some lyrics to the Cult. Patti Smith (yes, that Patti Smith) even wrote some lyrics for the band when she was better known as a music journalist than a musician (she was BÖC keyboard player Allen Lanier's girlfriend). Signed to Columbia Records, their first three albums sold a few hundred thousand each, but with no hit singles. "Don't Fear The Reaper" changed all that. Released as the lead single from their fourth album, Agents Of Fortune, it exposed them to a much wider audience, which was good for business but bad for art. On their next album, Spectres, they felt pressure to write another hit, and the results were disappointing. "The Cult is never destined to be successful at a format," Buck Dharma said in a 1980 interview with NME. "To be a singles band you have to win the casual buyer." Their resurgence came in 1981 with the MTV hit "Burnin' For You," but "Reaper" will always be their defining song.

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Song Analysis

Key, BPM (tempo) and time signature of (Don't Fear) The Reaper.
AKey
MinorMode
4/4Time Signature
141BPM

Album

The album (Don't Fear) The Reaper is released on.

Released By

The record label that has released (Don't Fear) The Reaper.
Columbia
(P) 1976 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

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