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Sunday Song Lyric:
As I've noted before (though it hardly needs mentioning), songs about drugs are nothing new. Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and LSD have all appeared and influenced classic song lyrics, but what about antidepressants or other modern pharmeceuticals? Are there (m)any great lyrics about Prozac?


Lithium's made at least two notable appearances in contemporary music. Nirvana scored a hit with "Lithium" off of Nevermind. It's a good song, and quite something live. I wonder whether it was a substance with which Kurt Cobain had some experience given his battles with depression.

"Lithium" is also the latest single from Evanesence. Like Cobain, Amy Lee is a powerful performer and songwriter. (Has she suffered similar emotional troubles?) Lee possesses an amazingly affecting voice of the sort rarely heard in pop music (particularly live). (See, e.g., "My Immortal.") "Lithium," off of The Open Door, features a characteristicly powerful vocal performance from Lee and quite melancholy lyrics. Here's a taste:

Lithium - don't want to lock me up inside
Lithium - don't want to forget how it feels without
Lithium- I want to stay in love with my sorrow

Don't want to let it lay me down this time
Drown my will to fly
Here in the darkness I know myself
Can't break free until I let it go
Let me go

Darling, I forgive you after all
Anything is better than to be alone
And in the end I guess I had to fall
Always find my place among the ashes

I can't hold on to me
Wonder what's wrong with me
Hattio (mail):
What has amazed me is learning how old some of the cocaine songs are. I have always thought of it as a 60's and 70's drug. But apparently there are traditional cocaine songs from the 20's and before...who knew.
1.7.2007 4:21pm
BT:
The late great Root Boy Slim of Root Boy Slim &the Sex Change Band had a song called Dozin' &Droolin' with the opening line "They gave me thorazine, they gave me stelazine, they gave me every zine they could think of. Kept em under my tongue, spit em out later on, I was crazy not just on the brink of."

I happened to work at a mental hospital at the time this came out (1980 or so) and it was an amazingly accurate look at involunatry hospitalization.
1.7.2007 4:58pm
S o t W (mail):
For less of a downer:

http://www.jonathancoulton.com/lyrics/i-feel-fantastic

Better yet, it's a free download.
1.7.2007 5:01pm
mb88:
"Mother's Little Helper" by the Stones comes to mind.
1.7.2007 5:35pm
Waldensian (mail):
Lithium was a great live performance, but there's a vastly superior Nirvana tune available on Youtube.
1.7.2007 5:36pm
Huh:
Okay, so MAYBE her performance and vocal capabilities are stunning. I don't see it, but it's clear a lot of YouTube viewers believe Amy Lee is a talented and affecting performer. Even so, a passing familiarity with Joni Mitchell or Tori Amos should expose one glaring weakness: Amy Lee's lyrics are terrible. Junior high poetry. Eighth grade journal material. A little worse than Jewel, even.

Also, I realize it's popular to substitute strings for genuine emotional heft, but if it didn't work for Aerosmith or Guns 'n' Roses, it's even less convincing here.

Come on, if we're only getting one lyric a week, I think you can do better.
1.7.2007 5:43pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
I think its time for lyrics about CJ Rehnquist and the CIA is out to get him.
1.7.2007 5:47pm
Tacitean:
Not to be too cheeky about substance references, but the lead single off the latest Evanesence album wasnamed "Call Me When You're Sober."
1.7.2007 6:02pm
Michael M.:
Huh: A little worse than Jewel, even.

Ouch!!
1.7.2007 6:09pm
Fearmonger (mail):

My favorite song about anti-depressants is Ween's "Zoloft." The drug apparently influenced the brothers when making their album Quebec.

Gimme that z, o-l-o-f-t
Gimme a grip, make me love me
Suckin' 'em down, I'm happy man
Can feel it inside, makin' me smile

...realize that the sky's not made of gold
don't disguise the nature of your soul

Gimme that z, o-l-o-f-t
No longer pissed and you don't bother me
I'm makin' it through, I'm givin' my all
When base are loaded, I'm whacking the ball

...don't suck the mind, don't drain the source
the path of life's not so easy to course, buddy
1.7.2007 7:06pm
Nick L (mail) (www):
This is loosely related..

Amy Lee has become involved with the Epilepsy Foundation and started a sister charity called Out of the Shadows. Her brother suffers from seizures, so she is using her fame to raise money and awareness about epilepsy.

Pretty neat in my opinion.
1.7.2007 8:33pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
I agree that this song is a strange choice for a series dedicated to showcasing lyrical content. Its "poetics" are average at best.

On the other hand, I'm sure someone like Soundheim would have scoffed at Joni Mitchell's lyrical efforts (far too much imperfect rhyme!), and in any case I'm inclined to think that in pop music too much attention to lyrics is a vice. I think the only meaningful criterial question for a pop music lyric is: Are the mouth noises pleasing, and do they fit convincingly into the track? The answer on this particular tune is "yes," and did the lyrics show signs of high craft, it would merely be a bonus.

On the other hand (if I had three), I've got to give credit to Amy Lee for having the audacity to try to make "Lithium" a key repetition in the chorus and (moreover) actually finding a way to make it singable.
1.7.2007 10:12pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
Er, that'd be Sondheim.
1.7.2007 10:13pm
Lev:
Manic depression is touching my soul
I know what I want but I just dont know
How to, go about gettin it
Feeling sweet feeling,
Drops from my fingers, fingers
Manic depression is catchin my soul

Woman so weary, the sweet cause in vain
You make love, you break love
Its all the same
When its, when its over, mama
Music, sweet music
I wish I could caress, caress, caress
Manic depression is a frustrating mess

Well, I think Ill go turn myself off,
And go on down
All the way down
Really aint no use in me hanging around
In your kinda scene

Music, sweet music
I wish I could caress, caress, caress
Manic depression is a frustrating mess
1.7.2007 11:07pm
Lev:

What has amazed me is learning how old some of the cocaine songs are.



My story is much too sad to be told,
But practically evrything leaves me totally cold.
The only exception I know is the case
Where Im out on a quiet spree
Fighting vainly the old ennui
And I suddenly turn and see
Your fabulous face.

I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesnt thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?

Some get a kick from cocaine.
Im sure that if I took even one sniff
That would bore me terrificly too,
Yet I get a kick out of you.

I get a kick evrytime I see
Youre standing there before me.
I get a kick though its clear to me
You obviously dont adore me.

I get no kick in a plane.
Flying too high with some guy in the sky
Is my idea of nothing to do,
Yet I get a kick out of you.
1.7.2007 11:08pm
just me:
I like the classic "Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?" I think it's from the 1930s or so.
1.8.2007 12:51am
plunge (mail):
Put me down as another one scratching his head. Great voice, sure. But the lyrics? They are PAINFULLY bad. I love the music to the song Broken, for instance. But the lyrics are just awful, AWFUL.

Yeah, pop music isn't Sondheim. But it shouldn't make you cringe either.
1.8.2007 3:56am
plunge (mail):
Also, I like Tori Amos, and her first few solo albums are brilliant, but her lyrics go downhill into bizarre fairy froofiness pretty fast.
1.8.2007 4:03am
Agt (mail) (www):
Infrequent reader, first-time poster...

I was excited to see the weekly lyric delve into a song that was not only modern but also from one of my favorite groups.

For me, good (non-instrumental) music is generally about compelling music coupled with a good voice (or voices) and interesting lyrics. I'm not looking for Byron, just an overall package that is pleasing to me. My favorite group is The Cranberries but I'll be the first to admit that some of their lyrics are downright ugly. Even so, that group and their music resonates with me.

Lithium is far from my favorite song by Evanescence. "Going Under" perhaps, or maybe one of the last 3 tracks off their "Origin" album.

If you want an interesting dissonance of loud/harsh (but great) music and interesting (often times *excellent*) lyrics, check out Rammstein - my latest craze. (e.g., http://herzeleid.com/en/lyrics/sehnsucht#engel ) If you want *amazing* lyrics (and passion) with more minimalistic music (piano, drums, occasional guitar), check out The Dresden Dolls. Just two newer ones for me.

Cheers!
1.8.2007 9:26am
Steve in CA (mail):
I generally like The Artist No Longer Known as Mr. Non-Volokh's musical taste, but this sentence made me gag: "Like Cobain, Amy Lee is a powerful performer and songwriter ..."

Any sentence that starts, "Like Cobain," and then mentions the singer from Evanesence, is automatically wrong. Even if the end of the sentence is, " ... Lee is a member of the species homo sapien."
1.8.2007 1:20pm
MichaelF (mail):
The lyrics are pretty much a spot on, shooting-from-the-hip description of the Lithium lifestyle. The chief thing they lack is probably subtlety. But if your goal was to write a song that directly resonates with people who have at one point or another suffered from old fashioned soul cancer, you could do worse than this.

Much of her target audience likely appreciate having this song. It's probably pretty unremarkable that many others would prefer more sophisticated or sublime writing on the topic of such feelings. And hopefully without creating a new stereotype out of whole cloth, I think it's also likely (with exceptions, of course) that many people who can anticipate Justice Breyer's likely positions on pending cases based on his past opinions with greater than 50% accuracy might also tend to be people who demand a bit more from the written word than a lamentation to Lithium can provide. :-)
1.8.2007 1:33pm
Steve in CA (mail):
OK, I can't let this go. Seriously, if you're Evanesence, how would have the balls to write a rock song called "Lithium," when you know all of your fans are familiar with the Nirvana song? You're just setting yourself up to look bad. Evanesence is like Creed with a cuter singer.
1.8.2007 1:43pm
gjp27:
The Foo Fighters (fronted by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl) mention some pharmaceuticals in their song "This is a Call"

Minocin is pretty
Minocin is good
Seems that all the cysts and mollusks(?) tend to barter

Ritalin is easy
Ritalin is good
Even all the ones that watered down the daughter
1.9.2007 4:00pm
ziemer:
The 2000 King Crimson album, "the construKction of light" contains a song entitled "ProzaKc Blues."

here's a fine verse:

[My physician] said, 'The thing about depression is,
well you just can't let it get you down,
you have to see the world for what it is;
a circus full of freaks and clows
and you'll never please everybody,
it's a well established fact',
he said, "I recommend a fifth of Jack
and a bottle of Prozac."
1.9.2007 10:06pm
Jack Schaedel (mail) (www):
To answer Mr. Adler's question:


I'm just sippin' on my whiskey
I'm just suckin' down some valium
And I'm not thinkin' about the side effects of the PROZAC
I'm just drivin' in my car


Henry Phillips
Drivin'
On the Shoulders of Freaks
http://www.henryphillips.com/v2/cd/index.htm
1.10.2007 1:49am
jmwfan (mail):
Just catching up...excuse the late post.

I can't believe Evanescence and Nirvana were compared on this blog. My confidence is shaken.
1.12.2007 1:18am