A couple of years ago, just for fun, I wrote a post about some of my all-time favorite songs about money. When you stop and think about it, money is one of the big subjects that songwriters often pen their tunes about, usually right after love and truck driving it seems.
But since this blog is about money in some form or other each week, I thought it might just be a good time to add on to this list of money songs I personally love! I apologize if you are someone who wasn’t around back in the days when I was attached to my radio and may only know some of the songs from the Muzak feed on the elevators you occasionally ride. But trust me, every one of these songs was a winner at some point back in time!
10 More of My Favorite Songs About Money
In an attempt to cover all the decades, here are my next 10 top favorite money songs for your pleasure! Counting down, they are:
10. “Busted” by Ray Charles – 1963
The swinging soul smash “Busted”, which occurs smack dab in the middle of his early-sixties period is where Ray best describes the pervasive and insidious nature of the beast. Reduced to begging from friends and family, he soon finds that everyone’s in the same boat he’s in…“Busted”.
Things are, indeed, tough all over, and the hard-luck stories really hurt like the line that cries, “My wife and my kids are all down with the flu, and I was just thinking about calling on you.” Don’t even think about it, Ray!
9. “First I Look at the Purse” by The Contours – 1962
The Contours will always be best remembered for multi-million 60’s hit signaling the ability to dance as a sign of sexual attractiveness, “Do You Love Me?” And as big as that one was, thanks to bar bands everywhere (including the radio version by The J. Geils Band) whole new generations have heard “First I Look at the Purse”, too.
This song not only suggests that love isn’t as important as money. It also suggests that one feeds the other. It features a man hunting for a rich woman and serves as one of the greatest gender-role reversals on vinyl ever.
8. “Taxman” by the Beatles (George, not John and Paul!) – 1966
“Taxman” is a song by the Beatles and released as the opening track on their 1966 album Revolver. Written by the group’s lead guitarist George Harrison, its lyrics attack the higher level of progressive tax imposed by the Labour government of then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. I have a feeling we all feel the way George did when we see our tax bills every year.
7. “Money Machine” by James Taylor – 1976
James Taylor’s “Money Machine” addresses the power and immense influence money endows its owners with. “Now you can measure your manhood by it,” Taylor sings along with “You can get your children to try it. You can bring your enemies to their knees.” He even acknowledges he used to sing of Fire and Rain, but no longer as he’s been living in the lap of luxury too long. There’s also a heavy love component to the song, buried within Taylor’s desire for his lover to come home and spend his money with him.
6. “Material Girl” by Madonna – 1985
Hard to believe that this song is 35 years old, but it is. The song and the video were mimicry of Marilyn Monroe’s performance of the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The mimicked scenes are interspersed with scenes of a Hollywood producer trying to win the heart of an actress, played by Madonna herself. Discovering that, contrary to her song, the young woman was not impressed by money and expensive gifts, he pretended to be penniless and succeeded in taking her out on a date. Now is that reality?
5. “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan – 1994
The acronym in the title stands for “cash rules everything around me” which is less a condemnation of materialism than a statement of fact. The drive for dough is especially pronounced in the urban war zones described by these Staten Island, New York rappers, who’ll turn the streets red in pursuit of the almighty green.
4. “Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child – 1999
Before lead singer Beyoncé became a billionaire with her husband Jay Z, it seemed like she was dealing with financial troubles of her own. In this track, she laments a boyfriend who is “making me pay for things your money should be handling.” Beyoncé shows off her knowledge about credit scores, too, when she reprimands her boyfriend for “giving me bad credit / buying me gifts with my own ends.” This mega-hit went to number one on the Hot 100 in 1999.
3. “Ka-Ching!” by Shania Twain – 2003
Like some of this list’s other songs, this one by the Canadian singer-songwriter warns us about the dangers of a culture that’s steeped in materialism. She reminds us that the desire to spend money is just a distraction, and she implies that spending frivolously should be avoided at all costs: “We’ve created us a credit card mess, we spend the money that we don’t possess” and more and more! It is one of her biggest international hits despite not being a biggie here in the USA. Perhaps it hits a little too close to home here?
2. “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates – 1976
Hall of famers they are and in 1976, they hit it big with “Rich Girl”. There’s certainly no shortage of rap and hip-hop songs regarding money, but pop-rock gets in on the fun, too. Hall and Oates’ number-one hit single refers to a fast-food heir who lived solely off his father’s wealth and previously had dated Hall’s ex-girlfriend. Hall never thought “rich boy” sounded right so he changed the song’s name to depict a young girl. “You’re a rich girl, and you’ve gone too far, ’cause you know it don’t matter anyway,” begins Hall. “You can rely on the old man’s money. You can rely on the old man’s money.”
1. “If I Had $1000000” by Barenaked Ladies – 1992
What would you do with a million bucks?
This Canadian band never released this as an actual single, but it was still a very well-known tune from their live shows and eventually a big hit in their home of Canada despite making it up the US charts to only #37 years later.
In this song, Barenaked Ladies entertained the question and offered up plenty of their own suggestions in “If I Had $1000000”. The lead singer considers all the things he’d buy his sweetheart if he had $1,000,000, like a Picasso original, a fur coat, an exotic pet albeit done with a lot of humor. “If I had $1000000, I’d buy you a house,” he sings. “If I had $1000000, I’d buy you a monkey, haven’t you always wanted a monkey?” Considering the song probably made them a small fortune, it likely served as a brainstorming session for things to come for the band itself!
Sometimes we just need a break from the pressures that money brings, especially when we are in the midst of depression-like unemployment numbers and we are just plain depressed. Songs about money can cheer you and entertain you and also give you a sense that you are not alone with these feelings. My one tip of advice is to stay away from the ones that have lines in them like “Buddy, can you spare a dime!”
What songs do you love about money? Did I miss your favorite or do you agree with my choices? Maybe you can write your own money song and make yourself some dough? That’s what all of these folks did!