Top 20 Songs About Heroin

Posted by Billyjam, November 25, 2014 03:00pm | Post a Comment

Upon hearing the incredible, engaging new single "Bag A Gear" from the Dublin, Ireland-based rapper Tommy KD (formerly known as Man & The Machine) on the topic of his former heroin habit that he is grateful to have finally kicked, I was reminded of the numerous songs tackling the topic of the highly addictive opiate.

I have put together a Top 20 Songs About Heroin list - some seemingly pro but most definitively con. These songs (with accompanying videos) are culled from different genres and different eras but all share views on the same topic - one that has destroyed way too many great musicians' careers and lives over the decades. Just as there are countless terms and nicknames for heroin (horse, smack, H, skag, junk, dirt, brown sugar, golden girl, hell dust, white nurse, thunder, etc. etc.) there are also seemingly endless songs about the drug. This subjective top twenty list could easily be extended into a Top 100 or Top 200 list, so feel free to post any songs on the subject of heroin that you think should have been included. Since I tried to keep it down to 20, I had to cut out duplicates by artists included and did not include such greats as "Ain't it Fun" by both The Dead Boys and Guns N' Roses.

Deliberately absent from this list are those popular rock songs that are supposedly about heroin (Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," America's "Horse With No Name," and The Eagles' "Hotel California") but their creators have at some point denied that they were about heroin at all. For example, Don Henley has said of the Eagles' song that it was about "the excesses of American culture and certain girls we knew" and  also about "the uneasy balance between art and commerce."

I had to include the great John Prine song "Sam Stone" that is both an anti-war and anti-heroin song with those memorable lines, "There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes/Jesus Christ died for nothin' I suppose." Also included is Jane's Addiction's classic "Jane Says" in which Perry Farrell sums up the mentality/mindset of a well-meaning but ultimately doomed junkie with the best intentions of kicking their habit not today but tomorrow with the repeated line "I'm gonna kick tomorrow." Of the few pro-heroin songs on the list is The Stranglers' "Golden Brown," which appears to be overall in favor of using the drug by focusing on its short-term euphoric effects rather than its overall longterm devastation with lyrics like "Golden brown texture like sun. Lays me down with my mind she runs….never a frown with golden brown." Meanwhile, Neil Young takes a much more cautionary tone with his lyrics, "I watched the needle take another man. Gone, gone, the damage done." The Dandy Warhols is more anti but in a hipster way, which I think diffuses its message with the lyrics, "But I never thought you'd be a junkie because Heroin is so passé."

In researching the accompanying videos for the songs on this list I've noticed how, via YouTube comments, so many people in recovery have used these songs to help them in their battle for sobriety. One song in particular that fulfilled this need is Haystak's "My First Day" with its honest, heartfelt, relatable lyrics. Another rap track on the list is from 50 Cent; an artist I normally don't care too much for but who did a great job with his "Baltimore Love Thing." In the song, the G-Unit rapper talks in first person as the drug in much the same way James Brown did in his three-part song "King Heroin" - also included here with the Godfather of Soul singing lyrics like, "I can make a good man forsake his wife…I could make a girl sell her body for a five dollar bag" + "for the white horse of heroin will ride you to hell until you are dead."

John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" about the torture of withdrawal from the highly addictive drug is most vivid with the lyrics "Temperature's rising, Fever is high, Can't see no future, Can't see no sky. My feet are so heavy, So is my head, I wish I was a baby, I wish I was dead….Cold turkey has got me on the run." Meanwhile, in his earlier song - the Beatles' "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" - one will find Lennon's most forward reference to the drug: "I need a fix 'cause I'm going down. Down to the bits that I left uptown." The song was banned on the radio because it appeared to be singing about shooting up H, but Lennon would later deny that it had anything to do with drugs at all. Lou Reed, both solo and with Velvet Underground, has covered the topic in such songs as "Waiting For The Man," "Perfect Day," and "Heroin." The latter VU song, which is included in this list, is lyrically both balanced and most insightful on the topic with such lyrics as, "Cos it makes me feel like I'm a man when I put a spike into my vein. And I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the same when I'm rushing on my run and I feel just like Jesus' son…..Heroin, be the death of me Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life."

Helplines for those addicted to heroin include  and the Heroin Helpline.

James Brown "King Heroin" (1972)

Neil Young "The Needle And The Damage Done" (1972)

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band "Cold Turkey" (1969)

4) Tommy KD "Bag A Gear" (2014)

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers "Chinese Rocks" (1987)

Velvet Underground "Heroin" (1967)

Jane's Addiction "Jane Says" (1987)

John Prine "Sam Stone" (1971)

Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Under The Bridge" (1991)

U2 "Running To Stand Still" (1987)

Joni Mitchell "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" (1972)

The Forgotten Rebels "Surfin On Heroin" (1981)

The Stranglers "Golden Brown" (1981)

Elliot Smith "Needle In The Hay" (1995)

Haystak "My First Day" (2004)

Dandy Warhols "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth" (1997)

Rolling Stones "Dead Flowers" (1971)

50 Cent "Baltimore Love Thing" (2005)

Alice In Chains "Heroin" (aka "The Real Thing") (1990)

Lynyrd Skynyrd "The Needle And The Spoon" (1974)

Relevant Tags

Tommy Kd (2), Lou Reed (17), 50 Cent (14), James Brown (30), Janes Addiction (2), Songs About Heroin (1), Rolling Stones (33), John Prine (3), Heroin (7), Bag A Gear (1), Forgotten Rebels (1)