Money might not actually be able to buy happiness, but you’d be a lot more comfortable crying yourself to sleep in a comfortable bed than you would on the sidewalk. Most people will go through a time in their life when they just don’t have enough money to do the things they want (or need), a situation that has provided numerous music artists with inspiration.
In this article, we’ll look at 25 songs about being broke and dealing with financial woes.
1. Mockingbird – Eminem
Today Eminem is one of the most prolific rappers in history, but he came from very humble beginnings. Even after he had put out a few songs, there were still struggles ahead for his family. Mockingbird is one of Eminem’s songs that are directly addressed to his daughter. Drawing on his own rough childhood and all the things he wishes he could do for his daughter, the song eventually became one of his most emotional and powerful songs.
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2. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out – Eric Clapton
There are plenty of examples of people who have short-lived fame or blow through a big chunk of change quickly. In most of those cases, they thought they had a lot of friends around them, but once the money dries up or the fame disappears, so will all of those people. That’s basically what Eric Clapton was on about in Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, a song about how it seems like nobody is there for you during those hard times.
3. Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi
Livin’ On A Prayer might be one of the most iconic rock songs of the 80s, but the actual meaning behind it is more profound than most people think. The song is actually about a young couple struggling to pay the bills and at their wit’s end. Instead of giving up, they decide to hold on to “what they’ve got,” which is each other. It was influential for the band, with many of them having tough childhoods and strongly relating to the song.
4. Busted – Johnny Cash
Poverty and struggle isn’t a thing that only affects one person. In many cases, they can bring down entire communities and keep them from progressing. The narrator of I’m Busted by Johnny Cash is a struggling farmer that just wants to feed his family. As expected, he looks to his brother for help.
Unfortunately, he can’t get any help from his brother because he is struggling just as much. It’s an incredibly sad blues song that might just make you feel a bit better about your own situation.
5. I Need A Dollar – Aloe Blacc
Being broke sucks, but sometimes it’s a good thing. Losing your job can force you to do something great, which is exactly what happened to Aloe Blacc. I Need A Dollar was written by Blacc when he began focusing on music after losing his job, becoming an absolutely massive hit that made sure he never needed a job again. So yeah, being broke isn’t always a curse.
6. Something In The Way – Nirvana
Before Nirvana formed and changed the landscape of music forever, Kurt Cobain was a rebellious teen that spent a decent amount of time as a homeless youth. At 16, he survived by living under a bridge in Seattle. Something In The Way is about that time of his life, and you can feel the weight of his emotions in this song.
7. Last Dollar (Fly Away) – Tim McGraw
Sometimes the lack of money makes you free to do anything you want. Without a mortgage or possessions you can’t hit the road with, you aren’t tied to any place in particular. That sort of freedom is the thing Tim McGraw revels in with Last Dollar, a song about being able to risk it all because he has nothing to lose.
8. Broke – Lecrae
Lecrae is a vastly underrated rapper. His song Broke puts a bit of a positive spin on financial hardship, something a few songs in this article will do. He didn’t gain more wealth or fame being broke, but he thinks it made him a better, stronger person and that it was a valuable experience. Looking back, that makes sense, but it doesn’t take away from how hard it can be during hardships.
9. Window Shopper – 50 Cent
When you don’t have enough money to actually buy anything (or just don’t intend to) but want to go to stores to look at stuff, you’re essentially a window shopper. 50 Cent uses the phrase as a diss in this song to say he’s richer than his rivals, as he can actually go in and buy stuff while they have to stand outside. Not a great pick-me-up if you’re the one broke, but a great diss towards your broke haters.
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10. Hard Knock Life – JAY-Z
If you listen to much rap music, one of the themes you’re going to hear a lot is the rapper’s rise from the hood to greatness. Hard Knock Life by JAY-Z is another one of those songs, but it goes a bit deeper on the way the struggle in those neighborhoods shapes your life. It’s something that doesn’t ever leave you, no matter how far you go or how much luxury you surround yourself with. This song compares his days running the streets to his newfound fame and wealth.
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11. The A-Team – Ed Sheeran
Today, Ed Sheeran is a world-famous music artist and can pretty much go and do whatever he wants, thanks to his wealth. Before that, though, he was broke and homeless, a time that was very important in shaping who he became after he made it. The A-Team is meant to bring attention to the plight of the homeless, and he’s used the song to help raise money for charities that also support poverty-stricken people.
12. For The First Time – The Script
We said that hard financial times could sometimes be a blessing in disguise with our Aloe Blacc entry, and that trend will continue with this song. For The First Time by The Script is about a financial crisis a young couple has to go through together. Instead of causing a rift, they work together to figure it out and connect on a deeper level. So, while it was a bad time, it did nothing but strengthen their relationship.
13. Liquor Store Blues – Bruno Mars
Being too broke to do much is both boring and very grating. It can make you feel stuck, lonely, or hopeless, feelings that many people feel the need to try to get away from. Alcohol is where many turn, just like the narrator of Bruno Mars’ song Liquor Store Blues. Fed up with his job, life, and being broke, he copes by drowning his sorrows.
14. Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
I remember hearing this song a good bit during my childhood, but it took a few years to understand what it meant. Dolly grew up in a low-income family; they didn’t even have anything warm for her to wear in winter. In the song (and in life), her mom sewed her a coat out of rags that she proudly wore to school. After being made fun of for both the coat and being poor, she stands up for herself, caring more about the love that went into the coat than how nice it actually was.
15. Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn is another country star that grew up in a struggling family. Her father was a coal miner, and he had to work himself almost to death to provide for their family. Her father and mother always kept it together for the kids, and despite being poor, their kids never felt unloved, a sentiment she brings to life and appreciates in her song Coal Miner’s Daughter.
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16. Down Below – Roddy Ricch
Roddy Rich gives the world a very blunt reality check on what life in a project can look like in Down Below. The song details his memories of growing up in Compton and the way life was before he made any kind of headway into his career. It’s a bit of a come-up song, but it’s something many people will be able to relate to.
17. What It’s Like – Everlast
What It’s Like is a slap in the face that proves the cold reality that most people aren’t compassionate. Even when someone is obviously struggling, most people will ignore it and go on with their lives or even judge a person for their challenging situation. The song points out that the homeless, pregnant teens and criminals are all looked down on regardless of how they got to that point and that people shouldn’t judge without knowing what it’s like to be in those shoes.
18. Royals – Lorde
Royals is another song that puts a bit of a positive spin on not having much. As a kid, she envied people with money. As she got older, she still didn’t have a lot of stuff, but she was always able to find a way to go out with friends and have a good time in spite of it. It’s a song that’s indicative of the resourcefulness of the young and a good one to cheer you up if you’re struggling.
19. Young, Dumb, and Broke – Khalid
Being young is a time when you have a lot to figure out. What do you really want in life, and how will you support yourself? The indecisiveness that can permeate your mind as a teenager is what Khalid is talking about in Young, Dumb, and Broke, an extremely relatable song for the youngsters out there about being broke.
20. Another Day In Paradise – Phil Collins
Phil Collins won a Grammy Award for this song, and at a quick listen, you might think it’s a very positive song. In reality, it deals with homelessness and comes with an impassioned plea from Collins. Instead of ignoring the downtrodden, we should help them when we can. Because not only could it easily be us in that sort of financial situation, but we may be their only hope for the day. It’s introspective and meant to make you take a moment and really think about the life you have.
21. Changes – 2Pac
Changes tackles a lot of topics, but what else would you expect from 2Pac? It brings the belief that being broke is a mindset just as much of a physical problem, with Pac rapping about how harsh living conditions can ruin you mentally.
22. Darlington County – Bruce Springsteen
Like Tim McGraw, Bruce Springsteen used being broke to give himself some freedom. In Darlington County, he and a friend drive over 800 miles from New York to Virginia, picking up chicks along the way and enjoying the views of the countryside as they go.
23. Mr. Banker – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Some of the songs on this list are sad, but Mr. Banker by Lynyrd Skynyrd is probably the one that will actually bring tears to your eyes. It follows the story of a young boy who doesn’t even have enough money to bury his father after his recent passing. He goes to the bank and begs for help, offering his last possession in the world for the money, his guitar. Skynyrd used their financial struggles as inspiration for the song, but, man, this one is sad.
24. Hard Time AC/DC
AC/DC wrote several songs about the struggles of life, but Hard Times was one of their best. It’s also one of their most recent entries, coming out in 2014 and recalling when they were just starting in music.
25. Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.
Biggie’s most popular song and one of the best rap songs of all time describes his rise from being broke and trying to survive on the streets to being one of the most famous rappers in the world. From being unable to feed his daughters to having the money for anything he wants is a strong juxtaposition and a powerful image.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.