Table of Contents
- 1. How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live – Bruce Springsteen
- 2. I Need a Dollar – Aloe Blacc
- 3. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
- 4. Dear Landlord – Bob Dylan
- 5. Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin
- 6. No Woman, No Cry – Bob Marley
- 7. Hard Knock Life – Jay-Z
- 8. Mockingbird – Eminem
- 9. Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins
- 10. The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ – Billy Joel
- 11. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- 12. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – Eric Clapton
- 13. Dead End Street – The Kinks
- 14. I’m Busted – Johnny Cash
- 15. Can You Spare a Dime – Bing Crosby
- 16. Liquor Store Blues – Bruno Mars
- 17. Common People – Pulp
- 18. Mr Banker – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- 19. Arrested Development – Mr. Wendal
- 20. Hard Times in New York – Bob Dylan
- 21. For the First Time – The Script
Money has always been a popular subject in music, and for good reason. Financial struggles are a universal experience, and many artists have channeled their own experiences with poverty and hardship into their music. Whether it’s the feeling of not being able to make ends meet, the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, or the desperation that comes with being in debt, the songs about being broke and having financial struggles resonate with many listeners.
In this article, we will explore the top 21 songs about being broke and having financial struggles. From classic tracks like “Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child and “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, to more recent hits like “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and “Bad and Boujee” by Migos, we will take a deep dive into the world of music that speaks to the experience of struggling financially. These songs not only provide comfort and solidarity to those who are currently facing financial hardship, but also serve as a reminder to everyone about the importance of financial responsibility and living within one’s means.
1. How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live – Bruce Springsteen
“How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live” is a song written and originally recorded by Blind Alfred Reed in 1929, during the Great Depression. Bruce Springsteen later covered the song, infusing it with his signature passion and energy. The lyrics describe the struggles of the working class during tough economic times, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Springsteen’s gritty vocals and raw guitar playing highlight the desperation and hopelessness of the situation, while also speaking to the resilience of those who struggle to survive. This classic protest song remains relevant today as income inequality continues to be a pressing issue in society.
2. I Need a Dollar – Aloe Blacc
“I Need a Dollar” is a soulful and upbeat song by American singer Aloe Blacc that was released in 2010. The song was later selected as the theme song for the TV show “How to Make It in America.” The song tells a story of a man who is struggling to make ends meet and is in need of financial assistance, but his pleas are falling on deaf ears. The lyrics are both catchy and poignant, conveying the frustration and anxiety that come with financial struggles. The song’s infectious beat, accompanied by Blacc’s powerful vocals, has made it a popular anthem for those facing economic hardship.
3. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
“Livin’ on a Prayer” is a classic rock song by American band Bon Jovi, released in 1986. The song tells the story of a young couple, Tommy and Gina, who are struggling to make ends meet and are determined to hold onto their dreams. The catchy chorus and upbeat melody make it one of Bon Jovi’s most popular songs, and it has become a staple at parties and events around the world. The song’s message of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity has resonated with listeners for decades, making it a timeless anthem for anyone trying to achieve their goals.
4. Dear Landlord – Bob Dylan
“Dear Landlord” is a song by Bob Dylan from his album “John Wesley Harding,” released in 1967. The song features Dylan’s signature poetic and politically charged lyrics and was written during a time of social and political upheaval in the United States. The song is a plea to a landlord who is evicting the singer from his home, but it also carries a deeper message about power and inequality in society. Dylan’s distinctive voice and acoustic guitar playing make the song both haunting and powerful, and it remains a classic example of his songwriting and musical style.
5. Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin
“Mercedes Benz” is a song by Janis Joplin, which was released posthumously on her album “Pearl” in 1971. The song was written by Joplin, along with Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth. The song’s lyrics are a humorous commentary on consumer culture, with Joplin pleading to God for a new Mercedes-Benz car, a color TV, and other material possessions. The song’s simple melody and Joplin’s raw, bluesy vocals make it an iconic example of her musical style. The song’s message about the futility of material possessions has resonated with listeners for decades and has made it a classic of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 70s.
6. No Woman, No Cry – Bob Marley
“No Woman, No Cry” is a song by Bob Marley and the Wailers, released on their album “Natty Dread” in 1974. The song was written by Marley and Vincent Ford and is a tribute to the people of the Trenchtown neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica, where Marley grew up. The song’s lyrics evoke the hardships of life in the ghetto, but also express a message of hope and resilience in the face of struggle. The song’s memorable melody and Marley’s distinctive voice have made it one of the most beloved and well-known songs in the reggae genre, and it continues to inspire listeners around the world.
7. Hard Knock Life – Jay-Z
“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” is a song by rapper Jay-Z, released on his third album “Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life” in 1998. The song samples the chorus of the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the musical “Annie,” and uses it to explore the difficulties of growing up in poverty in inner-city neighborhoods. The song’s catchy chorus and hard-hitting verses, coupled with the recognizable “Annie” sample, made it a hit and a defining track in Jay-Z’s career. The song’s themes of struggle and perseverance continue to resonate with listeners today, making it a classic in the hip-hop canon.
8. Mockingbird – Eminem
“Mockingbird” is a song by Eminem from his fifth studio album “Encore” released in 2004. It is a deeply personal track that Eminem wrote to his daughters, Hailie and Alaina, addressing the difficulties of his divorce from their mother and his own struggles with fatherhood. The song uses a sample from the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby” and is built around a piano loop that provides a somber backdrop to Eminem’s introspective lyrics. The song’s emotional depth and vulnerability showcase a side of Eminem that was not always present in his earlier work, cementing his status as one of the most influential rappers of all time.
9. Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins
“Another Day in Paradise” is a song by Phil Collins released in 1989. The song tells the story of a man who ignores a homeless woman and her baby while going about his daily life, only to realize later the suffering they must endure. Collins uses a combination of pop and soul music to create a poignant and moving message about the plight of the homeless. The song was a commercial and critical success, reaching the top of the charts in several countries and earning Collins a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. “Another Day in Paradise” remains a powerful commentary on the issue of homelessness that continues to resonate with audiences today.
10. The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ – Billy Joel
“The Downeaster ‘Alexa'” is a song by Billy Joel that tells the story of a struggling fisherman on the North Atlantic, who is trying to make a living while dealing with overfishing and dwindling catches. The song’s lyrics and haunting melody paint a vivid picture of the hard and perilous life of a fisherman, and the song’s title refers to the name of the boat that the protagonist uses for his livelihood. With its melancholic tone and somber subject matter, the song stands out as one of Joel’s most evocative and moving compositions, and has become a fan favorite over the years.
11. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Released during the height of the Vietnam War, “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival has become an iconic protest song. The song is a scathing critique of the draft system that disproportionately impacted the working class, while the wealthy and well-connected could avoid military service. Through the use of powerful imagery and biting lyrics, lead singer John Fogerty paints a picture of a system that is rigged against the common people. The song’s message is just as relevant today, as income inequality continues to widen and the wealthy remain insulated from the struggles of the less fortunate.
12. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – Eric Clapton
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” is a blues classic originally written by Jimmy Cox in 1923. Eric Clapton’s version, released in 1970, features his signature soulful guitar work and heartfelt vocals, making it one of his most memorable performances. The song’s poignant lyrics speak to the hardships and loneliness that come with financial struggles, and the way that even close friends and family members can turn their backs when times get tough. With its timeless message and emotive delivery, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” continues to resonate with audiences today as a powerful expression of human vulnerability and resilience.
13. Dead End Street – The Kinks
“Dead End Street” is a classic rock song by The Kinks, released in 1966. The song tells the story of a working-class couple living in poverty in a run-down neighborhood, struggling to make ends meet. The lyrics highlight the bleak reality of their daily lives, from the lack of decent housing to the constant struggle for money. The song’s catchy melody and upbeat rhythm contrast with the somber lyrics, making it a poignant critique of societal inequality. “Dead End Street” is a powerful reminder of the struggles faced by those living in poverty and remains relevant today.
14. I’m Busted – Johnny Cash
“I’m Busted” is a classic country song performed by the legendary Johnny Cash. The lyrics detail the financial struggles of a man who has lost his job, his home, and his dignity. Cash’s gritty vocal delivery perfectly captures the desperation and resignation of the protagonist. The simple instrumentation, consisting of acoustic guitar and percussion, allows the powerful lyrics to take center stage. The song highlights the harsh realities of poverty and unemployment, making it relatable to anyone who has struggled to make ends meet. “I’m Busted” is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with audiences today.
15. Can You Spare a Dime – Bing Crosby
“Can You Spare a Dime” is a classic song from the Great Depression era, composed by Jay Gorney with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg. Bing Crosby’s soulful rendition of this song became an anthem for the unemployed and the working poor during the 1930s. The song’s poignant lyrics express the desperation of a once-prosperous man now struggling to make ends meet and searching for assistance from society. The melody and lyrics of the song make a powerful commentary on the devastating effects of the Depression on individuals and their lives. It remains a timeless reminder of the struggle and resilience of the human spirit during difficult times.
16. Liquor Store Blues – Bruno Mars
“Liquor Store Blues” is a soulful reggae-inspired track by American singer-songwriter Bruno Mars. The song tells the story of a struggling young man who turns to alcohol to escape his problems, only to find himself trapped in a cycle of addiction and poverty. Mars delivers a heartfelt performance with his smooth vocals and soulful delivery, accompanied by a laid-back reggae beat and horn section. The lyrics highlight the struggles faced by many in impoverished communities, and the track serves as a poignant commentary on the negative effects of substance abuse and the importance of finding hope and support in difficult times.
17. Common People – Pulp
“Common People” is a 1995 Britpop classic by Pulp. The song is a sarcastic take on the upper classes’ fascination with the “common people” and their attempt to slum it for the sake of art or experience. It tells the story of a wealthy woman who approaches the singer and claims she wants to live like the common people. The song’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus, combined with Jarvis Cocker’s distinctive voice, make it an anthemic track. “Common People” became an instant hit upon release and has since been recognized as one of the greatest songs of the 1990s.
18. Mr Banker – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Mr. Banker” is a blues rock song by Lynyrd Skynyrd that delves into the troubles faced by ordinary working-class people who have to put up with the consequences of the bankers’ decisions. The lyrics speak of an individual who is fed up with being treated like a number and being denied the means to live by the bankers who only care about making more money. The song’s bluesy sound is accentuated by its electric guitar riffs and the powerful vocals of the lead singer. “Mr. Banker” is a thought-provoking song that reflects the frustration and disillusionment of people who feel left behind by the system.
19. Arrested Development – Mr. Wendal
“Mr. Wendal” is a socially conscious song by the American hip-hop group Arrested Development. The song speaks of the issue of homelessness and poverty, and the way society often turns a blind eye to those who are less fortunate. The lyrics tell the story of Mr. Wendal, a homeless man who is kind and wise despite his situation, and the narrator’s realization that he has much to learn from him. The song’s upbeat, soulful sound contrasts with the serious subject matter, making it an effective piece of protest art that calls for empathy and understanding towards the homeless community.
20. Hard Times in New York – Bob Dylan
“Hard Times in New York” is a raw and bluesy early Dylan song that reflects the tough realities of life in the big city. The song features Dylan’s signature lyrical style, with sharp observations and a wry sense of humor, set against a sparse and driving acoustic guitar accompaniment. The lyrics speak to the struggles of living in a place where even the basics are hard to come by, such as finding a decent place to sleep or a hot meal. Despite the tough subject matter, the song has a driving energy and an infectious melody that showcases Dylan’s talents as a songwriter and performer.
21. For the First Time – The Script
“For the First Time” is a reflective and emotional song by Irish band The Script. It addresses the struggles of young people trying to find their way in the world, particularly during times of economic hardship. With a stirring melody and heartfelt lyrics, the song speaks to the universal human experience of facing difficult times and the resilience needed to rise above them. Its message of hope and perseverance is especially poignant, encouraging listeners to keep moving forward despite obstacles in their path. The song was a commercial and critical success, reaching high positions on music charts worldwide.