4 Incredibly Honest Songs About Heroin Addiction
The number of popular and talented artists who have engaged in hard core drug use is unknowable. Musicians tend to be very passionate, and as lyricists, they are modern day poets. It can be very therapeutic to listen to the trials of another’s addiction put to song through artistic expression. The following are some of the most honest and insightful songs about heroin addiction:
Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)
Anthony Kedis, the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is credited as writing the lyrics to this song, discovered by his manager first as a poem. it was a bittersweet look back on his days as a heroin addict and the isolation it brought. Lyrics like express his loneliness and despondency:
Sometimes I feel like don’t have a partner
Sometimes I feel like my only friend
Is the city I live in, the city of angels
Lonely as I am, together we cry
Female backup vocals join Kedis in a crescendo climax which is absolutely gut-wrenching. The bridge mentioned in the song was a place where he would buy and use heroin:
Under the bridge downtown is where i drew some blood
Under the bridge downtown I could not get enough
Under the bridge downtown I gave my life away
Due to the emotional impact of the final chorus, Under the Bridge may well be the most beautiful and ethereal songs about heroin addiction.
There She Goes – The La’s
This song has a very interesting, albeit short history. It has been released as a single and charted several times. it has also been used as a soundtrack to commercials, movies, and television shows. A casual listener may not pick up on the heroin references, and instead interpret the song as one of longing. Listening close to the lyrics tell the real story:
There she blows
There she blows again
Pulsing through my vein
And I just can’t contain
This feelin’ that remains
The real nature of this song is a bit hard to digest at first, but if you listen to it in this light, it easily transforms into a soft and understated song about heroin addiction.
Beetlebum – Blur (1997)
Blur’s Damon Albarn claims this song is an expression of his experience with heroin and a former girlfriend. An obvious reference to The Beatles, Beetlebum includes the following refrain:
And when she lets me slip away
She turns me on and all my violence is gone
Nothing is wrong, I just slip away and I am gone
Nothing is wrong, she turns me on
I just slip away and I am gone
Also, the term “chasing the beetle” is alternative slang for “chasing the dragon”, which refers to the inhalation of opium, morphine, or heroin.
Hurt – Nine Inch Nails (1995) and Johnny Cash (2002)
This may be one of the most depressing songs about heroin, made even more depressing when Johnny Cash’s stripped down version released a year before his death in 2003.
While the song is full of hopelessness and despair, heroin addiction is mentioned specifically in the following lyrics:
I hurt myself today to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away, but I remember everything
The Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young (1972)
Often thought to be one of the greatest and most honest songs about drug addiction, this song was written by Young, but not about himself. Rather, about the musicians he was close to who were addicted to heroin. Specifically, it was inspired by his Crazy House band mate Danny Whitten, who died after the recording in November, 1972 at age 29.
The acoustic song was recorded live in January 1971, and appeared on the Harvest album in 1972. It previewed more grief to come, as Crazy Horse roadie Bruce Berry died of an overdose as well in June, 1973. Young penned:
I hit the city and
I lost my band
I watched the needle
take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.
I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s
like a settin’ sun.
Heroin – The Velvet Underground
This song appeared on the Velvet Underground’s first album in 1967, entitled The Velvet Underground & Nico. It was written by Lou Reed in 1964. The song seems to neither condemn nor endorse heroin, but rather takes a bit of apathetic or objective stance.
Rolling Stone ranked the song at #455 on their list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004. It it also among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Due to the obvious title, it is probably among the best known songs about heroin.
While the entire song reeks of the drug from start to finish, the following is the most graphic:
I have made the big decision
I’m gonna try to nullify my life
‘Cause when the blood begins to flow
When it shoots up the dropper’s neck
When I’m closing in on death
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