Songs That Deal With The Human Condition

Chu Gai

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I'm not sure if human condition is the right term here, but I've always had an interest in songs that deal with comparatively difficult topics in sensitive and exploring ways.

For example, Lucinda Williams' 'Sweet Old World' talks about someone she knew who committed suicide and laments his loss and how was it that he was able to not recognize all the things he'd chosen to leave behind. Martina McBride's 'Concrete Angel' talks about how death was finally able to free a little girl from child abuse and a society that looked the other way and didn't want to get involved. Kinky Friedman, who wasn't elected governor of Texas, recorded 'Ride 'Em Jewboy' which speaks hauntingly about the final solution.

What recordings can you think of that deal with difficult subjects like this?
 

Cameron Yee

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Based on your examples, Patti Griffin's "Tony" would fit the bill. It's about a high school outcast who commits suicide, sung from the perspective of a classmate reflecting on her interaction with him (or lack thereof) and her own feelings of isolation.

"Hey Tony, what's so good about dying? Think I might do a little dying today."

Another one that comes to mind is The Story's "So Much Mine" about a mother's struggle with a teenage daughter, seeing their once close relationship slipping away because of the daughter's rebellion.

"You were so much, so much mine, now I reach for you and I cannot find you."

I have a bunch more (they're on my list of favorite melancholy songs) but I'll just do one more: John Prine's "Hello In There," about senior citizen loneliness.

"You know that old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day. Old people just grow lonesome waiting for someone to say "Hello in there, hello.""
 

Darryl

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Here's a couple of recent ones.

Kellie Pickler (yep, her) - I Wonder. About how she wonders whether her mom that abandoned her as a child ever thinks about her.

Blue October - Hate Me. He wishes his girlfriend would move on so that he won't be an emotional burden to her any more.
 

Rob P S

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Peter Himmelman (a Jewish singer-songwriter) wrote "Untitled" about his taxi ride with a racist neo-Nazi taxi driver.

Steve Earle has done several songs against the death penalty - "Billy Austin", "Ellis Unit One", "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)".
 

RodC

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How about Dream Theater's album, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence? The enitre second disc is about mental illness and it's affect's on several different people.
 

ElevSkyMovie

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Mellencamp's albums are full of songs like this. "Rain on the Scarecrow", "Minutes to Memories", "Empty Hands" and "Jackie Brown" are just a few off the top of my head.
 

Tim Hoover

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You know, I think there are quite literally thousands of songs that could fit the general description. Chu, were you wanting to be more specific and limit it to songs dealing with suicide/death?
 

dberthia

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I can't believe nobody's mentioned Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. It's the mother of all human condition recordings IMHO. While technically not one song, you need to look at the work as a whole. It's all about madness and hanging on, trying to make your way in the world.
 

TomCW

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If I may add a couple,
Rosanne Cash - September When It Comes
Rodney Crowell - Riding Out the Storm

Tom
 

Rachael B

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Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.

Eleanor McEvoy tends to have songs that could fit in these bounds.....

I like the enviornmental songs by Spirit like Nature's Way and Fresh Garbage....how 'bout John Mayall's Nature's Disapearing from USA Union album stirs me.

Eleanor McEvoy doin' Marvin Gaye's Mercy Mercy Me (the ecology) on her latest album is a hot ticket....I got it on SA-CD, myself.

Richard & Linda Thompson's Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed ?
 

Brian Perry

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I think the Rush song Losing It fits the category -- it describes the agony of losing a skill one once had.

The dancer slows her frantic pace
In pain and desperation
Her aching limbs and downcast face
Aglow with perspiration

Stiff as wire, her lungs on fire
With just the briefest pause
The flooding through her memory
The echoes of old applause

She limps across the floor
And closes her bedroom door...

The writer stares with glassy eyes
Defies the empty page
His beard is white, his face is lined

And streaked with tears of rage

Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision

And he stares out the kitchen door
Where the sun will rise no more...

Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we'd like to be
Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee...
 

Chris

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I don't normally listen to country. Today, on SIRIUS, I was flipping through and stopped, and they were playing a track "Alyssa Lies" I will be the first to admit: I damn near pulled over to the side of the road to bawl. I can't think of the last song that really got to me in such a way. In fact, it's been years. I think being a parent of two young kids made it mean something else to me, but by the time they were in the second verse, I felt like I wanted to puke because I knew what was happening in the song and just felt horrified by it.

Lyrics:


My little girl met a new friend,
just the other day,
on the playground at school
between the tires and the swings

But she came home with tear-filled eyes,
and she said to me "Daddy, Alyssa lies"

Well I just brushed it off at first,
'cause I didn't know how much my little girl had been hurt
or the things she had seen.
I wasn't ready when I said "You can tell me"

and she said...

"Alyssa lies to the classroom,
Alyssa lies everyday at school,
Alyssa lies to the teachers
as she tries to cover every bruise"

My little girl laid her head down that night to go to sleep.
As I stepped out the room, I heard her say a prayer so soft and sweet
"God bless my mom and my Dad
and my new friend, Alyssa
*oh*I know she needs you bad

Because Alyssa lies to the classroom,
Alyssa lies everyday at school,
Alyssa lies to the teachers
as she tries to cover every bruise"

(bridge)

I had the worst night of sleep in years
as I tried to think of a way to calm her fears
I knew just what it was I had to do *I knew exactly what I had to do*
but when we got to school on Monday I heard the news

My little girl asked me why everybody looked so sad
the lump in my throat grew bigger
with every question that she asked.
Until I felt the tears run down my face
and I told her that Alyssa wouldn't be at school today

'Cause she doesn't lie in the classroom
she doesn't lie anymore at school
Alyssa lies with Jesus
because there's nothin' anyone would do

Tears filled my eyes when my little girl asked me why
Alyssa lies
*Oh Daddy, oh* Daddy tell me why
Alyssa lies
 

Nathan Eddy

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Jan 22, 2004
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Brian Perry, you read my mind. I was going to say, "80's, 90's, and 2002 Rush."

Really, Vapor Trails' "Secret Touch" is one of the most emotional songs Neil Peart has ever written. It's all about the healing touch of finding someone new--after he had lost his daughter and wife within a 2-year span. At least I think it's about finding someone new. It definitely touches upon the feeling of dislocation after losing someone close, but the hope that remains afterwards.

Rush's lyrics are usually pretty cerebral. You'll have to dig a little to find the "human condition" element . . . but it's definitely there.
 

Mary M S

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Mar 12, 2002
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Hundreds could pop up but a few surface because I have run into them recently.
Not always, but often songs about the state of man, will have stick-with-you-ness for me, when combined with film.
Road to Hell Chris Rea
Particularly the track Tell me there’s a Heaven about Child Abuse.
Mad World Donnie Darko version lyrics Gary Jules
What if God were one of us Joan Osbourne
I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow The Soggy Bottom Boys – O Brother Where Art Thou?
The last an instrumental, (I could think of several in that category)
But this one has stuck in my mind for years voicing the poignancy of life.
From an old film starring David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence title track.
I believe youtube has Ryuichi performing it Live.
 

Gordon Wakim

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I saw that Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall were mentioned. The Wall is a especially good one. Another good one is Roger Water's Amused To Death.
 

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