The beauty of the arts, such as music-writing, is that the artist can discuss whatever it is that is affecting them or someone close to them. Oftentimes, musicians write songs that deal with tough issues, such as drug abuse and addiction. Although a song might not sound like it upon first listening, if you really pay attention to the lyrics, you just might find a hidden story. Here are 6 songs you probably didn’t know were about addiction.
6. “Call Me Al” – Paul Simon
There are many different interpretations of this song out there but, there’s one in particular, that Simon himself seemed to confirm, some years after writing and releasing it. Apparently, he wrote Call Me Al for his friend, comedian Chevy Chase, who was in rehab for alcoholism at the time – and who appears in the music video with Simon. The name “Al” is short for alcoholic. In the song, Simon also refers to a person named “Betty,” which could be referring to the Betty Ford Clinic, a well-known rehabilitation center.
The opening line “a man walks down the street…” was admittedly a reference to the cliché bad joke that always starts with “a man walks into a bar…” said Simon. The story is of a middle-aged unhappy drunk stumbling down the street trying to find himself.
5. “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life” – Third Eye Blind
Although to listen to it evokes a happy, sunshine-y image of the early 90s, this song was actually written from quite the opposite perspective – a dark, dank, and depressed place of a couple on a crystal meth binge. One of the line, “Then I bumped again,” is just one of several that gives this away. The refrain seals it: “I want something else/To get me through this life.”
4. “Domino the Destitute” – Coheed and Cambria
Lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez described this song in an interview with Billboard magazine as an anthem that was inspired by the departure of their bassist, Mic Todd from the band. “It’s sort of a play on the rise of this champion, only to find that that rise is really actually his demise, and all the things that come with that attention,” he said. One can only assume that this is a description of the eventual demise that every drug addict faces at one time or another.
Todd left the band after being arrested for armed robbery and unlawful possession of narcotics. He’d reportedly robbed a Walgreens pharmacy Massachusetts while Coheed and Cambria were touring with Soundgarden.
3. “There She Goes” – Sixpence None the Richer
This song is actually a cover of a track by the same name by Liverpool band The La’s. It’s a sweet-sounding, candy-coated tune that, on the surface sounds as if it’s about a boy admiring a girl, perhaps from afar. There She Goes, however, is really about drugs and addiction. Consider these lyrics: “Racing through my brain, pulsing through my vein.” Sounds like it’s about shooting heroin, to me.
2. “Swimming Pools” – Kendrick Lamar
The second single from Lamar clearly struggling with all that comes with having a drinking problem. In the chorus, he asks, “why you babysitting only two or three shots. I’m a show you how to turn it up a notch.” Lamar also sings, “First you need a swimming pool of liquor, then you dive in.” What a great way to describe the feeling of being swallowed up by alcohol.
1. “Angel” – Sarah McLachlan
McLachlan has said that it was a joy and an easy task to write this song, although it’s about a very heavy subject: heroin addiction. The “angel” symbolizes the drugs that the addict gives in to over and over again when trying to cope with life. McLachlan says that she was inspired by Rolling Stone articles she had read, that were about the many musicians who have turned to heroin in order to cope with the pressures of the music industry and their tragic overdoses.
McLachlan has said that she can identify with the feelings lead someone to use heroin: “I’ve been in that place where you’ve messed up and you’re so lost that you don’t know who you are anymore, and you’re miserable—and here’s this escape route. I’ve never done heroin, but I’ve done plenty of other things to escape.” She also said that the song is about “trying not to take responsibility for other people’s problems and trying to love yourself at the same time.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.