Disaster songwriting must really be understood as a widespread activity, and disaster songs must be understood as a common expressive form, emerging in the wake of a tragedy. This chapter provides a history of disaster songs, starting with the broadside ballads that have so obviously shaped many contemporary disaster songs before moving on to a history of disaster songs within popular music. By the seventeenth century, broadside ballads permeated the British landscape. They were pasted on walls; they could be heard being hawked in the streets; and their sounds permeated both pubs and workplaces. While it is important to recognize the huge impact of broadside ballads on disaster songs, it is also important to recognize that they were produced by the news industry, not the music industry. Their purpose was to sell news using the medium of song. Almost as soon as recording technologies were developed in the late nineteenth century, the commercial music industry began selling recordings.