Saturday Night Jukebox: Songs about Assholes

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Thanks for being an asshole. That’s right, thanks for being an asshole. If you’re an asshole, you’ll probably know it’s a thankless vocation. If you’ve been an asshole to someone, and that someone’s a musician, there’s a good chance you’ve inspired a great song or two. Not that I have any real interest in supporting assholery, but in some circumstances, good can come from it. To be fair, more credit goes to the songwriter than the asshole. Taking a shitty situation and making into music, into art, is exceptional, but let’s give the assholes a little something. Being treated badly has birthed some awesome songs. Powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking, angry, kick ass songs. Who doesn’t love those?


Lucinda WilliamsLucinda Williams’ beautiful ballad “Greenville,” is a song inspired by loving someone who wasn’t always that lovable. I love this song, it’s so raw and honest... like most of her stuff. She gets pretty specific about this asshole:


“You scream and shout, you make a scene,

when you open your mouth you never say what you mean...”


“You drink hard liquor, you come on strong, 

you lose your temper someone looks at you wrong...”



Things don’t get much better:



“Out all night playing in a band, 

looking for a fight with a guitar in your hand...”


“Empty bottles and broken glass, 

busted down doors and borrowed cash.


“Lookin’ for someone to save you, 

lookin’ for someone to rave about you,

to rave about you... Go back to Greenville, 

just go on back to Greenville.”


“Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” - by Martha Wainwright sounds (by title alone even), like a pretty damn angry song. Which it is, but it’s more than just angry. She reaches beyond the anger here for something a little deeper, and hits it. This song isn’t necessarily about one specific asshole (despite the
title), this gem was produced by the pressure of many assholes. I get choked up every time I hear it:


Martha Wainwright“Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish I was born a man

So I could learn how to stand up for myself

Like those guys with guitars

I've been watching in bars

Who've been stamping their feet to a different beat

To a different beat

To a different beat


I will not pretend

I will not put on a smile

I will not say I'm all right for you

When all I wanted was to be good

To do everything in truth

To do everything in truth


You bloody mother fucking asshole!!”


Seeing her sing it live is incredible...


Neko Case“Running out of Fools” was originally an Aretha Franklin song, which makes perfect sense, but the version of it I know is sung by Neko Case. That’s just another great thing about ‘asshole songs,’ we can share them. Just like assholes. Neko sings the hell out of this song and I’m sure she had a special asshole in mind:


“You left me all alone right here

Your goodbye was even colder than ice

Didn't bother you I was cryin'

Now you wanna break my heart twice


Is that why you got in touch with me,

Ohhh, guess you must be runnin’ out of fools.”



Bessie SmithBessie Smith, 'Empress of the Blues,' sure can sing about assholes. She’s got all kinds of great asshole songs, so it was hard to choose, but “Sweet Mistreater” wins because there’s a special place in music for the cheating asshole:


“When you’re out there no doubt, you as smart as can be,

But how come you so dumb when you easin' home to me?

Oh you lowdown cheater!

Oh you red-hot mistreater!

Oh sweet mistreater, don't mistreat me so!


Oh you mistreater!

Oh you dirty mistreater!

No one can be so sweeter when you are lovin' you.

Oh you look so willin',

But this way it is killin',

Tell me how come you save it the way you do?”


Sweet Mistreater or Foolish Man Blues - Bessie Smith


As much as it feels good hear a musician really givin’ it to some asshole, the reason I love these songs is because of how effective they are. They mean what they’re singing. We can feel, experience, and relate to what’s being expressed, and you can’t fake that.  


Thanks for listening!  Please share your favourite asshole songs.

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  • Comment Link Michael Milano Monday, 02 July 2012 16:53 posted by Michael Milano

    OK so solidifying my un-coolness and geeky obsession with old school R&B performers... I'm going with Gladys Knight's "I don't want to know" off her second solo album, circa 1990.

  • Comment Link Michael Milano Monday, 02 July 2012 16:54 posted by Michael Milano

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Monday, 02 July 2012 22:53 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    To add a little gender flip, I'd have to go with Led Zeppelin's 'Your Time is Gonna Come':

    Lyin', cheatin', hurtin, that's all you seem to do.
    Messin' around with every guy in town,
    Puttin' me down for thinkin' of someone new.
    Always the same, playin' your game,
    Drive me insane, trouble is gonna come to you,
    One of these days and it won't be long,
    You'll look for me but baby, I'll be gone.
    This is all I gotta say to you woman:

    Your Time Is Gonna Come [X4]

    Made up my mind to break you this time,
    Won't be so fine, it's my turn to cry.
    Do want you want, I won't take the brunt.
    It's fadin' away, can't feel you anymore.
    Don't care what you say 'cause I'm goin' away to stay,
    Gonna make you pay for that great big hole in my heart.
    People talkin' all around,
    Watch out woman, no longer
    Is the joke gonna be on my heart.
    You been bad to me woman,
    But it's coming back home to you.

    And maybe an honorable mention for Tom Petty's 'Don't Do Me Like That'.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 03 July 2012 18:38 posted by TJ Dawe

    A Shell of a Woman, by Doris Allen, a great heart-torn-in-half full tilt soul ballad:

    I did all the givin' baby,
    you did all the takin'
    and all you left me
    was a shell of a woman...

    your evil schemes
    destroyed my dreams
    and left me crying
    all torn and tired

    to have your fun
    was all that mattered, oh yeah

    you took everything, baby
    and all you left me
    is a shell of a woman!!
    without a heart, I can't survive

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 03 July 2012 18:38 posted by TJ Dawe

    here's the url for that song:

  • Comment Link Lindsay Robertson Thursday, 05 July 2012 01:51 posted by Lindsay Robertson

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for adding more great asshole songs!! It's always great to hear what comes to mind for other people. Michael, I'm not really familiar with Gladys Knight, or any 90's R&B really, so thanks for sharing.

    Trevor, I love that Zeppelin song! I've heard it so much I almost didn't listen to it, but I'm glad I did. I forgot about the church organ at the beginning, and it just rocks! So many of their songs (if not all??) - are about love, or getting hurt by love. It never gets old with them somehow!

    TJ, I really dug that song! And I've never heard it! I'll have to listen to more Doris Allen.

    Thanks again folks!

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