Songs with Psychiatric Illness theme
July 14, 2005 4:41 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for songs with a psychiatric illness theme. 2 songs come immediately to mind, both by Simon and Garfunkel. One is Richard Cory dealing with a suicide by a probable manic-depressive .The other is A Most Peculiar Man which describes the suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning of a schizophrenic patient. i know it is rather morbid but I would appreciate hearing of other songs of the same ilk.
posted by kryptos to Media & Arts (72 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"Brain Damage" by Pink Floyd springs immediately to mind.

First post, by the way.
posted by FearAndLoathingInLJ at 5:02 AM on July 14, 2005

What do You Hear in These Sounds by Dar Williams.

Adam's Song by Blink 182.
posted by schnee at 5:03 AM on July 14, 2005

They're Coming to Take Me Away (I am always so very creeped out by this song) and a long list of songs with a mental illness theme and another list.
posted by iconomy at 5:05 AM on July 14, 2005

The collected works of Joy Division. And after Ian Curtis did himself in, the newly reconstituted sans-Curtis New Order turned his suicide into art and cash with "Blue Mondays."
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:14 AM on July 14, 2005

"Schizophrenia" by Sonic Youth? I guess it's more about Philip K. Dick than schizophrenia itself...
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:15 AM on July 14, 2005

Jeremy by Pearl Jam
Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm by Crash Test Dummies
posted by iconomy at 5:16 AM on July 14, 2005

Manic Depression, by Jimi Hendrix. Paint it Black, by the stones is also about manic depression. other songs about being bipolar.
posted by pissfactory at 5:16 AM on July 14, 2005

"Sunny Skies" by James Taylor.
posted by alms at 5:19 AM on July 14, 2005

Tell Me Why (I Don't Like Mondays) by the Boomtown Rats.
Lotion (It Puts The Lotion On Its Skin) by the Greenskeepers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 AM on July 14, 2005

The Ballad of Barbara Allen, one of a number of Civil War songs about women who fall in love ---their sweeties go off to war and die and the women go crazy and walk around at night in graveyards. New Chrisy Minstrels sang a bunch of em.
posted by lois1950 at 5:53 AM on July 14, 2005

Perhaps "Teenage Lobotomy" by the Ramones.
posted by abingham at 5:54 AM on July 14, 2005

"Sanitarium (Welcome Home)" - Metallica
"Lady Jane" - Queensryche
"Lunatic to Love" - Presudents of the United States of America
"Am I Going Insane" - Black Sabbath
"I'm Going Slightly Mad" - Queen

Dunno if they're *really* of the same nature as the ones you've listed, but they all describe people who aren't quite all there...
posted by Chunder at 5:55 AM on July 14, 2005

"War On Drugs" by Barenaked Ladies.

And their song "I'll Be That Girl," while not explicitly about psychiatric illness, does deal with a sexual obsession leading to autoerotic asphyxiation.
posted by anthom at 5:56 AM on July 14, 2005

I'm not 100% positive, but I'm pretty sure the song "Carrying Cathy" by Ben Folds is about a girl that commits suicide. Ben's song "Late" is a tribute to Elliot Smith, who killed himself, and "Zak and Sara" seems to be about a schizophrenic girl.
posted by geeky at 6:01 AM on July 14, 2005

"You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor is a letter written to a friend he met while a patient at the McLean Hospital (Suzanne); she apparently committed suicide.
posted by briank at 6:02 AM on July 14, 2005

"Crackle and Drag" by Paul Westerberg off 'Come Feel Me Tremble' is about Sylvia Plath offing herself and "No Place For You" is about a friend of his that killed herself.
posted by jodic at 6:07 AM on July 14, 2005

Megadeth - Sweating Bullets
posted by soplerfo at 6:14 AM on July 14, 2005

briank reminded me of this one: Fire and Rain by James Taylor
posted by iconomy at 6:15 AM on July 14, 2005

Pretty much any song off of Quadrophenia by the Who (especially Four Faces off of the 1979 soundtrack).

Melancholia, by the Who (or Pete Townshend's demo on Scoop).

Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies certainly is associated with mental illness after its use in a certain high profile movie a few years back.

The Kinks' Acute Schizophrenia Paranoid Blues, I presume, would count, as should any number of blues songs.

Eddie & the Hot Rods: Teenage Depression

Count Five: Psychotic Reaction

The Sonics: Psycho

Elvis Costello: Psycho

Talking Heads: Psycho Killer

The Kinks: Killer's Eyes

The Adverts: Gary Gilmore's Eyes

Gilbert O'Sullivan: Claire (about pedophilia and/or incest)

Willie Nelson/Patsy Cline: Crazy

The Police: Mother

The Eels' entire Electro-Shock Blues album was E's way of dealing with his depression after his mother died and his sister killed herself.

Phil Collins had a song about voyeurism: Thru These Walls. Kim Carnes had one called Voyeur.

Buzzcocks: Orgasm Addict

Green Day: Basket Case

Garbage: I Think I'm Paranoid

The Kinks: Destroyer

Knoxville Girl, as covered by any number of people.
posted by kimota at 6:16 AM on July 14, 2005

Lou Reed's Berlin is the most depressing album in the world. It chronicles the last days of a drugged-out woman. The first song, "They're Taking Her Children Away" sets the tone, the last, "Sad Song" is her suicide, I think.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go look at some pictures of kittens or something.
posted by LarryC at 6:18 AM on July 14, 2005

Fromt the country canon:

John Conlee - "I Don't Remember Loving You."

If you'll hand me my crayons
I'll be glad to take your name
In case I run across that guy you knew
But I don't remember loving you

Second runner up: Johnny Paycheck's "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone to Kill."
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:21 AM on July 14, 2005

Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon

Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd
posted by TedW at 6:25 AM on July 14, 2005

Oh, and of course Black Sabbath's Paranoid
posted by TedW at 6:27 AM on July 14, 2005

Where the Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave - another one that always freaks me out
posted by iconomy at 6:31 AM on July 14, 2005

OMG, you guys,
Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies!!!
posted by ibeji at 6:31 AM on July 14, 2005

la raza!
posted by ibeji at 6:34 AM on July 14, 2005

Saving Ellen West by Throwing Muses

(eating and personality disorders)
posted by crush-onastick at 6:39 AM on July 14, 2005

Not exactly my cup of tea, but "(I Don't Know Why) I Go to Extremes" by Billy Joel
posted by grateful at 6:44 AM on July 14, 2005

Paul Simon -- Paranoia Blues

Almost everything in Pink Floyd's The Wall is about a man with some serious issues to work through.

And, though you could argue it's more posturing than sincere, Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Brain."

I find "Bob" by Primus an obsessive, pained, and oddly compelling song. It's about a friend who hung himself while his girlfriend (wife? "his woman," it says) and brother were out gettting groceries.

"Richard Cory," incidentally, is from a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
posted by Tuwa at 6:48 AM on July 14, 2005

Robyn Hitchcock's "Uncorrected Personality Traits"
posted by bibliowench at 7:06 AM on July 14, 2005

In the "I'd rather chew glass than listen to this song" category, try "I'm Going Bananas" by Madonna, from the Dick Track-insipred album "I'm Breathless".

Also, "Losing My Mind" by Liza Minnelli is particularly amusing.

"Screaming" by the Pet Shop Boys is a good one too -- talks about stalking and obsessiveness.

I think that's it for now. And yes, since my response includes Madonna, Liza Minnelli, and the Pet Shop Boys, what you're thinking about me is true. :)
posted by superboy422 at 7:12 AM on July 14, 2005

The entire second disc of Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence double-album is about a bi-polar woman and a schizophrenic man.
posted by LordSludge at 7:17 AM on July 14, 2005

Charmless Man by Blur.

Alcohol by Barenaked Ladies.

She's Losing It by Belle and Sebastian. Okay, really damn near anything off of Tigermilk.
posted by amandaudoff at 7:26 AM on July 14, 2005

Delicate Cutters by Throwing Muses
posted by matildaben at 7:35 AM on July 14, 2005

On a much lighter note than most of the others listed, Crazy by Barenaked Ladies.
posted by wallaby at 7:55 AM on July 14, 2005

"She Cracked" by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers:

Well she cracked, I won't / She did things that I don't / She'd self destroy

"Everytime I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think of You" by the Ramones:

She had a very bad affair with some cat from
Hiroshima / she turned into a head of lettuce /
She eats Thorazine in her farina

Oh, and "Mommy Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" by the Misfits.
posted by scratch at 8:07 AM on July 14, 2005

Candy says, After Hours, by the Velvet Underground.
posted by sic at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2005

Garbage - #1 Crush - "I will burn for you, Feel pain for you, I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart, I'll tear it apart"

Totally a song about obsession with another human being. Don't think it's on any of their albums, but it is on the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack.
posted by lockle at 8:29 AM on July 14, 2005

A lot of Elliott Smith's songs seem to have overtones of mental illness to me. Sure, people may say, it's probably just drug addiction, but I don't think so.
Check out Bled White, Condor Avenue, Needles in the Hay (used to soundtrack the attempted suicide scene in The Royal Tenenbaums), and many, many more.

What about some of Cat Power's songs, too? I'm not as big a fan of her work, so I can't reference specific ones.

There's always the late Wesley Willis and Daniel Johnston. Devandra Banhart?

Jandek seems to have agoraphobia or something along those lines.

OH! And what about Ol' Dirty Bastard?
posted by lalalana at 8:40 AM on July 14, 2005

James Taylor's Rockin' Round the Zoo is about his stay at McLean's Hospital.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:52 AM on July 14, 2005

Funniest of the lot (great version by Bette Midler - short clip avail on Amazon).
posted by johngumbo at 8:54 AM on July 14, 2005

"Fixing My Brain" by Brad Sucks - and it's free!
posted by nicwolff at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2005

"Where it Ends" by Barenaked Ladies
posted by bryanzera at 9:04 AM on July 14, 2005

Tom Lehrer: The Masochism Tango
posted by KRS at 9:12 AM on July 14, 2005

She's Gone Mad Again-- The Flaming Lips
Can't Get You Out Of My Head-- Kylie Minogue
Crazy-- Patsy Kline
Depression-- Black Flag
Talking To Myself-- Blind Willie McTell
Insane In The Brain-- Cypress Hill
Zoloft-- Ween

and I can't believe no one's mentioned it yet:
Paranoid-- Black Sabbath
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:15 AM on July 14, 2005

"A Fond Farewell" by Elliott Smith always gives me the shivers.

You might also want to check out anything by Syd Barrett, as well as the album "Thank God for Mental Illness" by the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Oh, and of course "You May Be Right" by Billy Joel.
posted by myeviltwin at 9:16 AM on July 14, 2005

Oops-- somehow my searching didn't reveal TedW's mentioning of 'Paranoid.' I knew someone had to mention it. Sorry, TedW. I stand stupid.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:19 AM on July 14, 2005

"Sanitarium Blues", by Townes Van Zandt is great.

The folks, they just can't take no more
Throw you in the back seat, slam the door
No stoppin' as down the road you go
Go not time to lose

Gigantic one way gate ahead
You're thinkin' man I'd as soon be dead
They decided to give you life instead
The sanitarium blues

Big ole nurse all dressed in white
Slaps you on a table in the middle of the night
Then he straps you down real tight
You're wonderin', what'd I do?

They hose you down, make sure you're clean
Wrap you up in hospital green
Shoot you full of Thorazine
The sanitarium blues....
posted by sdinan at 9:39 AM on July 14, 2005

The Nurse Who Loved Me by Failure. A Perfect Circle covered it on Thirteenth Step. I like the cover and the original pretty much equally.
posted by sublivious at 9:42 AM on July 14, 2005

The End - The Doors
White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
posted by doctor_negative at 9:44 AM on July 14, 2005

19th Nervous Breakdown by the Rolling Stones.

Obsession by Animotion.
posted by kimota at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2005

James Taylor - "Fire and Rain." - with references to his time at the Austin Riggs psychiatric hospital (Stockbridge, MA) or at McLean Hospital (Belmont, MA). Background info.
posted by ericb at 10:01 AM on July 14, 2005

Blue Chicago Moon by Songs: Ohia.
posted by dobbs at 10:05 AM on July 14, 2005

-Patty Larkin's "Johnny Was a Pyro" and Freedy Johnston's "Gone to See the Fire" are both about pyromaniacs.

-Joan Osborne's "Crazy Baby" seems to be about a guy with some sort of anxiety disorder.

-Suzanne Vega's "Blood Makes Noise" is about some sort of insanity and a failed attempt to treat it. She also has a song called "Cracking" which is about a woman going through a breakdown. Oh yeah, and then there's "Fifty-Fifty Chance" which is about suicide and "Institution Green" which could be about a mental hospital.

-Another one about suicide: "Out the Window" by the Violent Femmes.

-Nirvana's "Lithium" is about manic depression and, obviously, the drug most commonly used to treat it.

-"One in a Million" by Guns N' Roses is about a guy who's paranoid, withdrawn, and either homicidal or suicidal.

-Peter Gabriel's "Digging In The Dirt" concerns, I'm told, his experiences with psychotherapy.

-The main character in "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull is probably a homeless man suffering from schizophrenia or another psychiatric disorder.

-"Belong" by REM concerns a psychologicial meltdown of some description.

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch more, but I hope this helps.
posted by Clay201 at 10:31 AM on July 14, 2005

Eminem's "Stan"
posted by blindcarboncopy at 11:00 AM on July 14, 2005

Firstly, I have no idea why somebody said "Orgasm Addict" was about psychiatric illness. It's about standard teen horniness, that's all.

Now, you could do worse than trawl pretty much all of Nick Cave's back catalogue for this. Anything off "Murder Ballads" would do. They don't come much more psycho than Stagger Lee. Oh My Lord is also delightfully mental.

For light relief there's always Neil Innes' "The Idiot Song."
posted by Decani at 11:11 AM on July 14, 2005

"Even Though You Don't" by Ween off White Pepper
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:15 AM on July 14, 2005

"Thorazine Shuffle" by Penn Jillette's band, Bongos Bass & Bob.
posted by jtron at 11:31 AM on July 14, 2005

"Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush and "When I Fall" by Barenaked Ladies both concern depression and suicide.
posted by joaquim at 1:01 PM on July 14, 2005

Seconding "I Don't Remember Loving You" by John Conlee and "Even If You Don't" by Ween (always liked that one; on the face, it's funny, but it's actually a really sad song if you listen to the lyrics... hm, same goes with the Conlee song, really.)

I also liked M's (the guy who did "Pop Muzik", not the guy who did the score for The Triplets of Belleville) "Relax" from The Official Secrets Act -- it's a paranoid song about a man who thinks he sees something that the government has done and they put him in an institution and lobotomize him; it's basically from the POV of the paranoiac. In fact, most of M's output, but especially that album, has a deeply paranoid sensibility.

In a strange sort of way, They Might Be Giants' "Absolutely Bill's Mood" from their self-titled album. Although I'm not really sure if that counts.

On the Violent Femmes tip, "Kiss Off" is also about using a suicide to get back at everyone (also maybe a bit of a perscecution complex).

John D. Loudermilk's "Break My Mind" uses the threat of going insane to keep his special ladyfriend with him, but I don't think that counts either. (But it is an awesome song.)

Also, to piggyback on the "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa" suggestion, Napoleon XIV (a/k/a Jerry Samuels) had an entire album of songs about mental illness (Rhino released a compilation of all the Napoleon stuff about 10 years ago, including the complete first album and the about half-or-so-of-an-album's-worth of recordings from the scrapped followup), however the track that'd probably fit this the most is "Goofin' On The Job", about manic-depression, which has one of the creepier endings I've heard on a pop song.

I'm trying to think of a few others. I'm sure there are some, but I'm drawing a blank other than these.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 1:15 PM on July 14, 2005

Umm I'm not quite sure that either Barbara Allen (at least how I know it) or Knoxville Girl qualify as songs about psychiatric illnesses. But that may be my own special kind of nitpicking.

Anhow the Handsome Family has quite a few songs about mental illness (Brett Sparks is bipolar), "My Ghost" is the most dead on about the experience, Possibly the obsessive killer in "Arlene", Anorexia in "The Woman Downstairs", "Lake Geneva" mentions a crazy Aunt and electroshock...and I will stop myself before I list almost their whole catalog...
posted by mrs.pants at 1:29 PM on July 14, 2005

Andrew Bird - Tea and Thorazine (autism)
Slim Cessna's Auto Club - Dear Amelia (incest)
posted by mrs.pants at 1:33 PM on July 14, 2005

Two songs by yours truly about depression:
Holden's Fairwell

posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:09 PM on July 14, 2005

Check the collected work of David Bowie: "All the Madmen," "Rock n' Roll Suicide," "Panic in Detroit," "Always Crashing in the Same Car," "Scream Like a Baby," "I'm Deranged," etc. Now that I think about it, you could probably generate an entire mental mix of Bowie songs--depending on how far you wanted to stretch the theme.
posted by Vervain at 2:48 PM on July 14, 2005

Lots and lots of hip hop tracks deal with craziness - including Mind Playing Tricks On Me by the Geto Boys, and lots of stuff by ODB (as mentioned above).

Elvis Costello's I Want You features a pretty crazy narrator who's either crazy with lust/envy or just a homicidal stalker. Ditto for Urge Overkill's Stalker.
posted by sluggo at 2:57 PM on July 14, 2005

Nine Inch Nails "Hurt"
posted by QIbHom at 5:17 PM on July 14, 2005

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks a lot, everybody! A guy who is so inclined would have more than enough for a doctoral dissertation on Songs of Psychiatric Disorders, maybe referencing them to DSM IV. All responses are best answers, seeing as to how it adds to the list. Thanks once again. Terima kasih, as we say it here in Malaysia.
posted by kryptos at 8:31 PM on July 14, 2005

Since no one else has mentioned it (not even in the linked lists), Black Box Recorder's Child Psychology is a pretty good albeit twisted song. I heard it was actually banned in UK radio and MTV until the band agreed to scramble the lyrics of the chorus.

I stopped talking when I was six years old
I didn't want anything more to do with the outside world
I was happy being quiet
But of course they wouldn't leave me alone

My parents tried every trick in the book
From speech therapists to child psychologists
They even tried bribery
I could have anything, as long as I said it out loud

Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it
Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it

Of course this episode didn't last forever
I'd made my point and it was time to move on
To peel away the next layer of deceit
And see what new surprises lay in store

My school report said I showed no interest
'A disruptive influence'
I felt sorry for them in a way
And when they finally expelled me, it didn't mean a thing

Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it
Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it

("At that time, she stopped what she was doing, she stopped playing.
She stared, she had the facial grimacing and then the psychiatrist was saying,
'Julie, Julie, can you hear me? Can you open your eyes? Can you stick out your tongue?'
All of a sudden, Julie struck out.")

The November day I came home
The Christmas decorations were already up
Spray on snow, coloured flashing lights
And an artificial tree that played Silent Night over and over again

My parents welcomed me with loving arms
But within an hour were back at each others throats
Normal, happy childhood back on course
Batteries not included
posted by Lush at 3:17 PM on July 15, 2005

(02) the lemonheads - it's a shame about ray [suicide]
(03) k's choice - everything for free [insanity, institutionalization]
(04) the cure - watching me fall [???]
(05) filter - hey man nice shot [kurt cobain's suicide]
(06) red hot chili peppers - my friends [depression, loneliness]
(07) miss kittin - rippin kittin [homicide, suicide]
(08) die warzau - all good girls [child abuse, suicide reference]
(09) kill hannah - sick boy [addiction]
(10) ministry - burning inside [angst? insanity?]
(11) david bowie - i'm deranged [self-explanatory]
(12) pink floyd - brain damage [insanity]
(13) skinny puppy - addiction [self-explanatory]
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 6:44 PM on July 15, 2005

"Moments" by Red House Painters. Or maybe "Medicine Bottle."
posted by ifjuly at 10:37 AM on July 22, 2005

Oh, and Suzanne Vega's "Fifty-fifty Chance."
posted by ifjuly at 10:40 AM on July 22, 2005

Oh, and "Sick Of Food" by American Music Club is about Karen Carpenter's eating disorder.
posted by ifjuly at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2005

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