Songs about shame
December 6, 2005 10:31 PM   Subscribe

What songs are about shame?
posted by Korou to Media & Arts (48 answers total)
Madonna's Nobody's Perfect.
( a Madonna kind of way)
posted by extrabox at 10:50 PM on December 6, 2005

Beatles - I'm a loser. It isn't quite perfect...

Pink Floyd - Have a Cigar. Again, not exactly perfect, but...
posted by Chuckles at 10:54 PM on December 6, 2005

Jimmy Cliff: Shame and Scandal.
"You can't marry that girl / I have to say no / That girl is your sister but your momma don't know"...
"His momma she laughed / she said go man, go / your daddy ain't your daddy, but your daddy don't know."
posted by Triode at 10:55 PM on December 6, 2005

Johnny Cash - I Hung My Head. That's definately shame.
posted by Chuckles at 10:56 PM on December 6, 2005

Oops, the song predates the version I'm familiar with.
posted by Triode at 10:58 PM on December 6, 2005

Beck - Nobody's Fault But My Own
posted by Rothko at 11:02 PM on December 6, 2005

"Running Dry," Neil Young - "I'm sorry for the things I've done, I've shamed myself with lies..."

"If Mama Knew," Leo Kottke - "If momma knew where I'd been goin'/My life would be a bed of pain/And my father's name be my mother's shame"

"Shame," Depeche Mode - "Soap won't wash away your shame"

There's got to be a million, but that's what comes off the top of the head...
posted by nanojath at 11:04 PM on December 6, 2005

um, Living in Shame, the Supremes
posted by Good Brain at 11:21 PM on December 6, 2005

lennon - jealous guy
radiohead - creep
madness - embarrassment
posted by ori at 11:35 PM on December 6, 2005

Greg Brown - Ashamed of Our Love
posted by panoptican at 11:41 PM on December 6, 2005

Shame - Matchbox 20
Light of Some Kind - Ani Difranco (kindof)
posted by nile_red at 11:45 PM on December 6, 2005

No mention of Shame by Evelyn "Champagne" King?

No mention of Shame On You by various artists over the years, with it's lyric "Shame shame shame shame shame shame shame, shame on you, if you can't dance too"? It's subtle, but you know, I think it's about shame.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:59 PM on December 6, 2005

I went Googling for the lyrics of Elvis Costello's Hidden Shame, and found this interesting snippet:
The impetus for [Elvis Costello's] The Delivery Man is "Hidden Shame", a song Costello had written for Johnny Cash in the mid-'80s. The song's character (assuming the name Abel for this record) was inspired by a real-life story of a man who confessed to the murder of a childhood friend after a prison stay for lesser crimes. "Hidden Shame"'s lyrical twist ("They locked me up here for the ideas in my head / They never got me for the thing I really did") is an appropriate starting point for one of The Delivery Man's central themes: the idea that one can find a sort of substituted redemption for a past crime by paying for a lesser one. That concept is echoed from Abel's point of view in the title track: "When they let me out, I had a brand new identity".
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:00 AM on December 7, 2005

Where Happiness Lives -- Magnet
posted by nenequesadilla at 12:09 AM on December 7, 2005

I suppose some of these weren't intended to express shame, but I find it anyway.

The Cardigans - "Live and Learn"
David Gray - "Please Forgive Me"
The Cure - "Never Enough"
Ginny Owens - "Something More"
Chris Isaak - "Wicked Game"
Jem - "They"
Led Zeppelin - "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do"
Led Zeppelin - "Nobody's Fault But Mine"
Loretta Lynn - "Van Lear Rose"

I don't own much (nearly zero) country music, but I bet that'd be a gold mine. Could be you'll find some good shame-like themes in gospel music, too.
posted by Mike C. at 12:24 AM on December 7, 2005

There's "Shame on You" by the Darling Buds, which outlines the reasons why the person the song's addressing should be ashamed (it's arguable if it makes a compelling case; but hey, it's the Darling Buds -- lyrics were never their strong point.)

Well, that and the song I'm about to write about my shame in knowing that much about the Darling Buds.
posted by Opposite George at 12:31 AM on December 7, 2005

"Dang Me" by Ray Stevens (aught'a take a rope and hang me)
posted by hortense at 12:32 AM on December 7, 2005

"Dang Me" by Ray Stevens
Roger Miller, no? Though I guess it's been covered a lot.

/Boo-woo Boop boop boop boop boo -ba-oo-ba boo boo bow

Also the other song I'm going to write about my shame in owning Ray Stevens' Comedy Video Classics.
posted by Opposite George at 12:40 AM on December 7, 2005

Embarrassment by Madness.
posted by jontyjago at 12:48 AM on December 7, 2005

Butthole Surfers - The Shame of Life
Wu-Tang Clan - Shame on a Nigga'
PJ Harvey - Shame
posted by sophist at 12:54 AM on December 7, 2005

Timbuk 3 had one called "Shame On You."

In the final verse of "Old Country Death Song" by the Violent Femmes, the narrator announces his intention to "hang myself in shame."
posted by Clay201 at 2:16 AM on December 7, 2005

Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" is about the shame and regret a father feels after missing much of his kid's lives while traveling on business. I've seen grown men in airport bars cry when they heard this.
posted by paulsc at 2:49 AM on December 7, 2005

"Dan's Underpants" by the Macc Lads. A poignant tale about defactating in one's underwear after a curry.
posted by Pericles at 3:38 AM on December 7, 2005

In a more minimalist, haiku-like vein, one might also mention "Shame" by Minnesota's evergreen Low.
posted by mykescipark at 4:24 AM on December 7, 2005

Richard Thompson, For Shame of Doing Wrong.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:35 AM on December 7, 2005

Sony Music Finder used to be great for finding songs on a particular topic (it's meant for use by people who are looking to license a song for use in a commercial, film, whatever), but it seems they're no longer letting the general public wander in.
posted by dmd at 4:53 AM on December 7, 2005

A Quick One, While He's Away is a long epic by The Who about a woman who has an affair and then owns up to it. Issues of shame and forgiveness and it goes on forever. The Rolling Stone's Rock and Roll Circus is my favorite version.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:04 AM on December 7, 2005

Not exactly on point, but Uncle Tupelo's Steal the Crumbs features the lyric, "...working in the halls of shame..."
posted by mikel at 5:33 AM on December 7, 2005

Fiona Apple's Criminal
posted by gai at 5:57 AM on December 7, 2005

Well, it uses the word anyway.
A Murder of One by Counting Crows.
posted by Octaviuz at 6:16 AM on December 7, 2005

I think that Mike C. is right, and that country music would be a gold mine of songs about shame. I listen to some, and the one that sprang immediately to mind was: Mama Tried by Merle Haggard:

And I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
No-one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried.
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading, I denied.
That leaves only me to blame 'cos Mama tried.

I used to listen to this when I was in college and thought that I was bad, and have fits of melodramatic regret.
posted by ND¢ at 6:25 AM on December 7, 2005

"Regret" by Ben Folds Five?
posted by unknowncommand at 7:26 AM on December 7, 2005

"Pink Frost," by the Chills. "How can I live when you see what I've done?"
posted by escabeche at 8:04 AM on December 7, 2005

Shame about Ray- Lemonheads.
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2005

Train Song-Tom Waits
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:15 AM on December 7, 2005

There's "Eat For Two" by 10,000 Maniacs, about a secret pregnancy.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:33 AM on December 7, 2005

"The Shame" by Blood Brothers
posted by lorbus at 9:40 AM on December 7, 2005

John Lennon, "Jealous Guy"
James Carr, "The Dark End of the Street"
Clarence Carter, "Slip Away"
posted by kirkaracha at 9:54 AM on December 7, 2005

The best song about shame is Wire's "I should have known better." Really. It's the aural equivalent of smashing, crashing shame. It doesn't mention shame, but that's what it's about: the physical, psychic experience of shame ripping through and intensifying everything to a breaking point.

Here are lyrics, though they really don't do it justice. As always with a tremendous band like Wire, it's really more about the sound and the delivery.

In an act of contrition
I lay down by your side
It's not your place to comment
On my state of distress
For this is for real
I've tears in my eyes
Am I laughing or crying?
I suggest I'm not lying

I haven't found a measure yet to
Calibrate my displeasure yet so

To ignore my warning
Could be your folly
The judgment is harsh
I offer no plea

Valuing the vengeance which you treasure
I've redefined the meaning of vendetta

The procession's disordered
You protect your possessions
In light of your actions
I question your love

May I make an observation
Your bite is worse than my aggression

I should have known better
I should have known better
Than to become a target
Albeit a target which moves

No offer of terms or concessions
For statements or confessions

You don't feel warm, I pass close by
You shiver, I whisper
Excuse me, what's your problem?
Oh, I see
I should have known better

It sort of makes your head hurt when you hear it. And irritates you at how empty and distant it is. I think that's what a song about shame should do. Really, go out and buy a copy of Wire's 154, the record it's on, right now. You'll see.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on December 7, 2005

"Do You Believe in Shame" by Duran Duran. (Post-80s, not synthpop... much.)
posted by headspace at 10:32 AM on December 7, 2005

No mention of the Spinners' It's a Shame (written by Stevie Wonder)?
posted by trip and a half at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2005

Randy Newman has a song called "Shame" which is about his shameless affection for a younger woman who he tries to "woo" back with pity, threats of violence and promises of wealth. There's a hilarious point in the song where he gets so worked up he tells his background singers to be quiet. Damn, that's intelligent.
posted by quadog at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2005

"House of the Rising Sun" (the Animals, but covered by more or less everyone) is a classic that comes to mind.
posted by The Bellman at 11:07 AM on December 7, 2005

Shame by the Smashing Pumpkins?
posted by zerolives at 11:18 AM on December 7, 2005

Oh, and speaking of Stevie Wonder, the song "So What the Fuss" is pretty much about, um, shame:

So What the Fuss

If I'm caught at a dance party without my dancin shoes
And everybody dances on my bare feet
Shame on me
If I'm mindin my business just doin the right thing
And you try to front me off in the street
Shame on you
If a family's waiting for that special blessing to
come their way
But they ain't tryin to get on their knees and pray
Shame on them
And if we live in a time where every nation's fightin
'round the world
Yet we can't all agree that peace is the way Shame on us
Shame on me, Shame on you, Shame on them, Shame on us
So what the fuss

If I gotta get up early in the morning for a job
And I forget to set the stupid alarm
Shame on me
If my children are playin outside like little children
And you come 'round there tryin to bring them some
Shame on you
Should I be drivin thru a klantown, find a restaurant
to get me some food
And someone says "hey boy, we don't serve your kind"
Shame on them
And if we live in a democracy and you don't use your
power to vote
Knowin some would like to turn back the hands of time

Shame on us
Shame on me, Shame on you, Shame on them, Shame on us
So what the fuss

If I'm hooked on a habit knowin damn well it could
cost me my life
Yet I keep doin what I should do without
Shame on me
If you're locked in a marriage and your other half
just gives you abuse
Yet you've convinced yourself that there's no way out
Shame on you
If we're jammin the music and somebody's got the
To say that they can jam it better than us
Shame on them
And should there be just a handful that believe that
we are totally free
And there's no need to fight for equality

Shame on us
Shame on me, Shame on you, Shame on them, Shame on us
So what the fuss
posted by trip and a half at 11:19 AM on December 7, 2005

Love Child by Diana Ross touches on the shame of being an illegitimate child...
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:04 PM on December 7, 2005

Big second for Neil Young's Running Dry - a seldom played but exquisite song about shame.
posted by Neiltupper at 5:55 PM on December 7, 2005

Usher's "Confessions Part II". In the video he's so ashamed of getting another girl pregnant he RIPS OFF HIS SHIRT.

....Yeah, I got nothing.
posted by SoftRain at 7:22 PM on December 7, 2005

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