10 Great Songs About Suicide
Jeremy by Pearl Jam
Jeremy is on Pearl Jam's fantastic grunge rock album Ten. It tells the story of a troubled high school boy who commits suicide in front of his class. The video for the song won Best Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA). The inspiration for the song came from a newspaper article about 15 year-old Jeremy Wade Delle from Texas who shot himself in front of his English class. His schoolmates said he was "real quiet" and was known for "acting sad." Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam said:
It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you're gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-three degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That's the beginning of the video and that's the same thing is that in the end, it does nothing … nothing changes. The world goes on and you're gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back.
Country Death Song by Violent Femmes
This is a story of murder-suicide. It's about a man who kills his child for no reason other than he's bored. It all seems so pointless. However, after the killing he feels remorse and hangs himself in shame. See 9 Great Songs About Death for more information on this song.
The Kick Inside by Kate Bush
The Kick Inside is the title track to Kate's debut album, which was released when she was only 19. If you haven't heard the album, I highly recommend it. This is the album that produced her fantastic #1 UK hit Wuthering Heights. The title track is about suicide:
The song The Kick Inside...was an area that I wanted to explore because it's one that is really untouched and that is one of incest. There are so many songs about love, but they are always on such an obvious level. This song is about a brother and a sister who are in love, and the sister becomes pregnant by her brother. And because it is so taboo and unheard of, she kills herself in order to preserve her brother's name in the family. The actual song is in fact the suicide note.
The Kick Inside refers to the unborn baby that will die with her. The website http://gaffa.org/cloud/index.html has the background information on a lot of her songs. It's a must for Kate Bush fans.
Suicide (Little Sad) was recorded when Ke$ha was a teenager
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right and Suicide (Little Sad) by Ke$ha
Ke$ha has two great songs about suicide, so I'll include both. She covered Don't Think Twice, It's All Right for the Amnesty International album Chimes Of Freedom. Anyone who knows the original Bob Dylan version will know it's addressed to an ex-lover. Ke$ha and producer Bob Ezrin decided to reinterpret it as a suicide note. Ke$ha practiced the song alone in her bedroom recording it acapella on her laptop. She broke into tears during the recording. Ezrin loved it and didn't want her to change it. She's heard sobbing throughout, which makes it sound like a realistic recording from someone who's about to end it all. Ke$ha said about her cover:
And there were particular lyrics in the song that you can just tell, once they came out of my mouth – the emotion caught up with me and I just started weeping. I'm so lucky and blessed, but there are moments that are just so incredibly lonely that it's indescribable.
Suicide (Little Sad) was recorded when Ke$ha was about 15 or 16. At that time, she recorded under her real name Kesha Sebert. The song is about a teen dealing with depression but insisting they aren't suicidal. Unfortunately, this song is part of her very impressive unreleased discography.
Everybody Hurts by R.E.M
Everybody Hurts is from the R.E.M. album Automatic for the People. I was surprised to learn this song peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. I remember when it was released and I always assumed it was a much more popular song. Guitarist Peter Buck said:
...the reason the lyrics are so atypically straightforward is because it was aimed at teenagers. I've never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me.
The British organization The Samaritans used the song in an advertising campaign to encourage suicidal youth to call their charity's support hotline.
I'm Still Breathing by Katy Perry
I'm Still Breathing by Katy Perry is a bit more ambiguous in it's meaning. There's a debate over whether the song refers to the death of a relationship or a dying relationship that makes her suicidal. Perry has another song called Cup of Coffee about feeling suicidal when a relationship ends and the guy not seeming to care that was written around the same time, so the suicide interpretation makes a lot of sense.
I leave the gas on
Walk the allies in the dark
Sleep with candles burning
I leave the door unlocked
I'm weaving a rope and
Running all the red lights
Did I get your attention
'Cause I'm sending all the signs and
The clock is ticking
And I'll be giving my two weeks
Pick your favorite shade of black
You'd best prepare a speech
Say something funny
Say something sweet
But don't say that you loved me
Suicidal Thoughts by The Notorious B.I.G.
I hadn't heard this until very recently when it was recommended on my other list about death. It's from the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. real name Christopher Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997). He had a very short and very troubled life with multiple arrests. He was rumored to have been involved in the murder of fellow rapper Tupac Shakur. He was killed himself in a shooting while in a car stopped at a traffic light. Suicidal Thoughts is a very angry song filled with lots of self loathing. It's on an album called Ready to Die. It's a very thought provoking song.
Sweet Old World by Emmylou Harris
Sweet Old World by Emmylou Harris provides the perspective of someone mourning a loved one. They're thinking about what this person has lost because they took their own life. The song repeats:
See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world
But there isn't any anger toward them. It's more of a feeling of sadness and loss. The song asks:
Didn't you think you were worth anything?
Didn't you think anyone loved you?
This song is on Harris' fantastic album Wrecking Ball.
Loser by 3 Doors Down
Loser is on 3 Doors Down's debut album The Better Life. The band's lead singer Brad Arnold wrote the song about a friend who became addicted to cocaine. The story of the song is told from the perspective of a depressed person. The protagonist in the song repeatedly calls himself a loser:
You're getting closer
To pushing me off of life's little edge
'Cause I'm a loser
And sooner or later you know I'll be dead
Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry
Bobbie Gentry (real name Roberta Lee Streeter) was one of the first female country artists to write and produce her own music. All Music said she is one of the most interesting and underappreciated artists in 1960s country music.
Ode to Billie Joe is one of those country songs that tells a great story. The song is ranked at #412 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was nominated for eight Grammy awards and won four. It also went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The original recording was a seven minute song. When the record label saw single potential, it was re-recorded as a shorter track to appeal to radio.
The song tells the story of a fictional character named Billie Joe McAllister who jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge. It starts off with a family gossiping about the incident around the dinner table. Their casual conversation is contrasted with the incident.
Well, Billie Joe never had a lick o' sense; pass the biscuits, please
Gentry says she was often asked why Billie Joe did it and what was thrown off the bridge in this part of the song:
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billie Joe was throwin' somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge
Gentry said these questions:
...are of secondary importance in my mind. The story of Billie Joe has two more interesting underlying themes...the illustration of a group of peoples' reactions to the life and death of Billie Joe, and its subsequent effect on their lives, is made.