Songs about money are equally as popular as songs about love. It’s only natural because the two topics are things that we think about every day. Many artists weave heavier emotions into melodies and use money as a way to personify those emotions. Some of these songs are overtly about money where others are about what the quest for money leads people to do. Others are songs were written for one thing, but the recording artist heard something different. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. Money is threaded throughout many things in our lives. Although it is needed to pay expenses and enjoy life, some people obsess about it and take the pursuit of getting it to extremes. Other people want the simpler things that transcend the accumulation of wealth. However money is viewed or attained, people experience many emotions when thinking about this loaded topic. These ten songs cover a wide range of feelings about money.
20. Money – Pink Floyd
This song is one of several on this list with misinterpreted lyrics. Although many people think it’s a celebration of money, Roger Waters wrote it to warn people who accumulate and hoard money. According to planckmachine.com, Waters was the one who put engineered the sounds of receipt tape being torn and coins being thrown into a large steel bowl. Waters suggests to listeners that to be happy, you only need a good job you like that pays for a comfortable life.
19. Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band
The story of Bonnie and Clyde was Steve Miller’s inspiration for this song. The two teenagers in this song decide to go on a robbery spree because they’re bored. The song’s characters may have come across as unlikeable in another songwriter’s hands. Steve Miller used a comedic “cops and robbers” style when writing it, so the song appears funny and madcap. Strangely, Miller also thought this song would be a good one to listen to on a road trip.
18. It’s All About the Benjamins – Puff Daddy
Benjamin is slang for a hundred-dollar bill. During the late 90s, singers like Puff Daddy, Master P, and Jay Z lived the lifestyle embodied in this song. They weren’t only rappers; they were on a mission to build a lasting legacy. Puff Daddy started his own company Bad Boy Entertainment, record label, and his clothing line Sean John. Throughout his career, he became more a mogul and less a rapper.
17. Free Money – Patti Smith
Many of Smith’s songs reflect her childhood, growing up poor. This song is about her parents’ struggles since she and her two siblings both had many medical problems during their childhood. This song is a tribute to her mother, who always dreamed about winning the lottery but never bought a ticket. However, Smith’s mom kept a list of everything she would buy if she won the money.
16. Bills Bills Bills – Destiny’s Child
Many songs play on the stereotype of women constantly needing money from their significant others; this song is a role reversal. Kandi Buruss and Kevin Briggs already wrote another iconic song about a similar subject; No Scrubs for TLC. Afterward, they wanted to write a song for another chart-topping girl group. Beyonce Knowles and Letoya Luckett both received writing credits.
15. Brother, Can You Spare A Dime – Bing Crosby
According to socialwelfare.library.edu, this song is considered the anthem of the Great Depression. Additionally, it was part of the 1932 musical Americana. Jay Gorney wrote the melody from a lullaby his mother sang to him as a child. Unfortunately, the Broadway Musical wasn’t a success. Instead, crooner Bing Crosby made the song famous.
14. She Works Hard For The Money – Donna Summer
This song started in a bathroom during a Grammy after party in 1993. Donna Summer was at Chasen’s restaurant, and when she went to the restroom, she noticed the attendant taking a nap. The singer woke her up, and after the woman apologized, she told Summer she worked two jobs. However, the singer was so inspired that she immediately started writing the song on toilet paper in the restroom. It took her approximately 20 minutes to write it.
13. Easy Money – Billy Joel
Rodney Dangerfield asked the singer to write and record a song for his first movie. Billy Joel wrote this song from the character’s point of view; a comedic gambler. This wasn’t the only time this song was featured on TV. The track is also heard in the second season of Lost on the fourth episode, Everybody Hates Hugo. Besides the pop culture, this song was part of Joel’s album An Innocent Man. Many of the songs including this one were throwbacks to traditional music he listened to growing up in New York.
12. Take This Job and Shove It – Dead Kennedy
Johnny Paycheck was the first to record this song. However, Dead Kennedy’s version has a sound closer to the frustration someone feels when they’ve had enough at a job and know the money isn’t worth the stress. Although the song is only about a minute and a half, it’s a good way to quickly vent when you are questioning whether or not money and paying the bills is worth continuing doing something you loathe every day.
11. Money (That’s What I Want) – The Flying Lizards
The group had a one hit wonder with a cover of The 1959 Barret Strong song. However, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones first covered this song; their version is the one most people remember. According to thedeletebin.com, the song almost sounds like it is trying to be pop during the height of the New Wave. Yet, many songs from that genre had a strange sound but were trendy. Although this song was considered a novelty song, its lyrics were thought to be much deeper than other throw-away songs with the same moniker.
10. The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
The original meaning of this song and what most people think about when they hear it are incredibly different. According to psychologytoday.com, songwriter David Schlitz wrote the lyrics from advice his father gave him before he died. When considering the song from this perspective, it becomes apparent that advice is never black and white, and it’s better to embrace the middle path. However, Kenny Rogers heard a different meaning, and the song became the title track for the 1978 movie The Gambler. The song became the iconic tale of Brady Hawkes, a notorious poker player. Additionally, the advice Schlitz wrote about became a metaphor for the card game about bluffing and reading your opponent.
9. Rich Girl – Hall and Oats
According to songfacts.com, the song’s lyrics were inspired by a story from Daryl Hall’s girlfriend, Sara Allen. Her ex was a rich guy whose father used money to make all of his problems go away. Although Hall later found out that David Berkowitz, the notorious Son of Sam killer, heard lyrics that incited him to kill.
8. Material Girl – Madonna
One of the worst stereotypes about women is their need to manipulate to get the things they want. Madonna’s smash hit speaks to that theme. The video plays off another iconic song about a similar topic; Marilyn Monroe’s song Diamond Are A Girls Best Friend. But, according to freshwriting.nd.edu, Madonna’s song is a tribute to Monroe’s song, including most of the lyrics playing on the same topics of the original. However, there are several twists. Madonna’s version expands on the original concept of money by adding that human beings are also treated as material objects.
7. For The Love of Money – The O’Jays
The O’Jays were part of the Philadelphia Soul genre. Many people think this song is a celebration of wealth accumulation, further substantiated by its theme song on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. However, the lyrics are a cautionary tale of what happens when you prize money above all others. A singular focus on money causes loss of meaningful relationships and leads to a shallow existence.
6. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
This song is the title track for the 1980 movie soundtrack. The song, like the movie, is a celebration of women and how far they’ve come in the workforce. Parton was excited when asked to write the title track. According to americansongwriter.com, she explained the typewriter sounds on the track when she spoke to Jimmy Fallon. She wrote the song on set using her acrylic nails.
5. Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen
The song references the “chicken man,” Phil Testa, an American Mobster who briefly ran the Philadelphia crime racket. This song is about a blue-collar worker making an honest living who can’t make ends meet and realizes that he will have to go against his ethics and take a job with an underground crime organization. The lyrics reflect why the character is willing to compromise everything he knows is right to make the money he needs to survive.
4. Ends – Everlast
Money is a loaded topic. Some people have more than they need, and other people live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet. Everlast wrote this song during a reflective period after seeing the downfall in the United States and the things people do when faced with financial problems. Additionally, his lyrics speak the person he realized he was becoming and didn’t want to be.
3. If I Had A Million Dollars – Barenaked Ladies
Overspending is a downfall when people suddenly come into a lot of money. Like much of the group’s other songs, If I Had A Million Dollars is full of pop culture references. The lyric about Kraft Dinner refers to the Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition of pelting the screen with cheesy pasta. The group plays this song at every live show. Ultimately, it’s a song about sharing your good fortune with someone you love.
2. How Do You Like Me Now? – Toby Keith
According to theboot.com, Keith’s record label didn’t want to release this song as a single. However, the singer struggled to maintain creativity in his music, creating Show Dog Nashville’s label. The singer’s instincts paid off; this song spent five weeks at number one. Keith wrote this song to inspire upcoming artists to pursue their dreams even when people tell them they’re not going to make it. Like other Toby Keith songs, this one gives listeners a solid message wrapped in the singer’s signature wit.
1. Taxman – The Beatles
John Lennon and Paul McCartney co-wrote many of the group’s most iconic hits. However, this one belongs to the quiet Beatle, George Harrison. When he wrote this song, the group was at the height of their fame and paying excessive taxes. Several of the names mentioned in the song references British Prime Ministers who were overtaxing wealthier British Citizens. The opening track on Revolver began ushering in a new style of music for the Beatles. Although many songs prior to this one had more of a novelty feel, Harrison’s lyrics started tackling current issues. This type of insight would feature prominently in later songs like Blue Jay Way and Piggies. According to interestingliterature.com, the catchy lyrics were a satirical take on British politics.