Since this blog is focused on helping others achieve financial freedom, I figured if I was going to put together my personal list of the greatest money songs of all time, I at least owed it to my five loyal readers to ensure that the list was more than just a compilation of “money songs”. In other words, the lyrical content had to avoid these ubiquitous money themes: 1) “I want to be rich!”; 2) “Look at how rich I am!”; 3) “I work so hard! So why ain’t I rich?”
To make my list, a money song had to teach a lesson about money. Rankings were based on a composite score based on: 1) the quality and presentation of the overall message within the song; and, 2) overall musical composition.
Songs that failed to make the list because they scored low in the money message department included: Opportunites ( Pet Shop Boys); Gold Digger (Kanye West); Bills,Bills,Bills (Destiny’s Child); Take the Money and Run (Steve Miller Band); She Works Hard for the Money (Donna Summer); If I Had a Million Dollars (Bare Naked Ladies); Money for Nothing (Dire Straits).
On the other hand, Wu Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. didn’t crack my list for the opposite reason: Great message (the path to wealth was better served via an honest day’s work rather than drug dealing) but, in my opinion, weak musically.
Overall, you’ll notice a dearth of tunes from the last decade or two. I assure you it wasn’t for lack of trying. The evidence strongly suggests that they just don’t make educational money songs like they used to! 😉
I also invited my wife and Penzo family household CFO, The Honeybee, to make a guest appearance and provide color commentary on my selections.
So, without further ado, I now present to you (in reverse order)…
The Top 12 Songs That Teach A Lesson About Money (Part 1)
12. Everything She Wants (Wham!)
Music: 75 (out of 100)
Message: 75 (out of 100)
Total Score: 150
Money Moral: Those who can’t control their spending eventually become indentured servants
Some people work for a living
Some people work for fun
But girl, I just work for you
Len: I still don’t understand why any guy would allow his girl to recklessly run up the bills on frivolous stuff while he was working his butt off at the office. I mean, who would stand for that? Clearly, the character in this song did not understand the value of running his household like a business until it was too late. Was George Michael writing from personal experience here? If so, I’m sure the royalties from this song got him off the hook. I just hope he learned his lesson because, as I’ve preached before, wealth does not guarantee financial freedom.
The Honeybee: You’re lucky that you don’t have a wife that’s out spending money like that! Believe me, I know there are woman out there that spend, spend, spend while their men are out working their butts off.
11. Taxman (The Beatles)
Total Score: 153
Money Moral: Taxes suck.
Should five percent
Appear too small,
Be thankful I don’t
Take it all
‘Cause I’m the Taxman
Len: Taxes are a necessary evil. Although today’s top marginal effective tax rates in the United States are not as bad as George Harrison complains about in his song (currently in the mid 30% range), did you know that they did reach 91% on income over $400,000 as late as 1963? In fact, it was even higher back in 1944 when it reached 94% on income over $200,000!
The Honeybee: You don’t want to get me started on how I feel about the tax man.
Len: That’s my girl!
10. You Never Give Me Your Money (The Beatles)
Total Score: 155
Money Moral: If you intend to go to college, make sure you get a degree that ensures a decent income
Out of college, money spent
See no future, pay no rent
All the money’s gone, nowhere to go
Len: This classic from the iconic Abbey Road album is one of the strongest musical entries on the list. You know, every time I can’t help but think about the old parable that goes something like this:
The engineer asks “how does it work?”
The scientist asks “why does it work?”
The accountant asks “how much does it cost?”
And the liberal arts major asks “Would you like fries with that?”
So sue me — you know it’s true! But, seriously… How many people do you know that spend over $100,000 on a college education only to get a degree that offers an average starting salary of $30,000 per year? It boggles the mind.
The Honeybee: Cute, honey!
Len: Thank you.
The Honeybee: Just to be clear, I’m talking about the parable.
9. Rich Girl (Hall and Oates)
Total Score: 156
Money Moral: Just because you are rich doesn’t mean you are “all that”, girl!
You’re a rich girl
Say money , money but it wont get you too far,
Get you too far
Len: I love these guys. In fact, I’m ready to catch them in concert next time they come to town. They are still together aren’t they? And am I the only one who wonders just what was it that made Daryl Hall stick with John Oates? I mean, really, would those songs have sounded much different if Oates wasn’t in the band? But I digress…
The Honeybee: In high school I knew a few rich girls and boys that thought they were “all that” because of the money their parents had (we called them “The Quadsters”).
Len: The Quadsters, huh? Sounds like a movie that should be starring Kevin Bacon. Your story is all well and good, but you still haven’t answered the real question here: are we going to see Hall and Oates next time they come to town?
The Honeybee: Of course we are.
8. Money (Pink Floyd)
Total Score: 157
Money Moral: Unethical lending practices will lead to collapsing financial markets that ultimately result in severe recessions and crappy raises
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today.
But if you ask for a raise its no surprise that they’re
Giving none away.
Len: Who knew that Pink Floyd would be so prescient as to be able to predict the mess we currently find ourselves in? Amazing. Yes, I know that is a stretch but many folks have made a career of turning Nostradamus’ writings into prophecies too. Bonus points for the 7/8 time signature — come to think of it, I’d actually pay money to see Wu-Tang Clan try to rap to that beat.
The Honeybee: I agree with your money moral.
Len: That’s all you’ve got for this one?
The Honeybee: Don’t push it. How often do you hear me agree with you?
7. Material Girl (Madonna)
Total Score: 165
Money Moral: Sometimes money CAN buy you love
They can beg and they can plead
But they cant see the light,
cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always mister right, cause we are
living in a material world
Len: Poor Madonna. I liken her career to Joan Rivers’ face — Madonna has had so many career reinventions that she is really no longer recognizable. Anyway, this song from the fresh-faced Madonna era underscores the sad truth that, in many cases, money can buy love. Just remember, as Wham! warned us, there usually are nasty consequences down the road for those who choose to go this route. You didn’t marry me for my money, did you Honeybee?
The Honeybee: What money?
Len: Good point.
We’ve still got a few more songs to go before we get to the top money song of all time. To see the top six money songs, you’ll want to click this link for Part 2 of the The Top 12 Songs That Teach a Lesson About Money. 🙂
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Len Penzo says
Thank you for your support, Zman! You have almost doubled my traffic numbers all by yourself. Your official Len Penzo dot Com fan number is 4! 🙂
Hi, I popped in to visit as part of the Festival of Frugality. I enjoyed reading some of your articles, and especially enjoyed the Hall & Oates paragraph above since I also enjoy their music. You’ll be happy to hear that they must still be together as I just saw them on TV the other night – I think it was my mom’s Dancing with the Stars? 🙂
Nice to meet a fellow compadre in the goal to save money!
PS – Oh my, I must look in a mirror more often. I had NO idea my hair was looking so frazzled! (Cute avatars :))
Len Penzo says
Thanks for stopping by Birdie! That’s awesome that Hall & Oates are still in touring mode. I’m officially putting them on my Ticketmaster watch list!
(UPDATE 9/12/09: The Honeybee and I saw Hall & Oates last night in Cabazon, CA. Awesome show! And I take it all back, John Oates is definitely an integral part of the duo, his vocal fills are truly under-appreciated by many people – I was only kidding up above, John. They played two well-deserved encores. Their 6-piece supporting band was incredible, led by T-Bone Wolk and their sax player, whose name escapes me at the moment. They played all of their hits: Rich Girl, Sara Smile, Out of Touch, One on One, Private Eyes, Kiss on My List, Say It Isn’t So, She’s Gone, You Make My Dreams, I Can’t Go for That, Maneater. The only hits they didn’t play were Adult Education, Method of Modern Love, Wait for Me and Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid. What a great catalog – somebody please tell me how these guys NEVER won a Grammy?)
As for the avatars, don’t worry. Counting you, all five of my readers seem to have a similar appearance! 😉
I’m now off to visit your site…
This is interesting. Maybe you can embed the link to iTunes or Amazon. Or embed the youtube video. I think it will make your article even more interesting.
Len Penzo says
You know, KC, I briefly considered trying to do something like that when I wrote this piece, but I was too distracted with other things (not too mention lazy) to figure out how. So I left the music links out! Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to do that! 🙂
What about my boy out of St. Louis, Nelly with, “Hey, must be the money!” That’s inspirational! 🙂
Len Penzo says
Did I mention I like St. Louis? I’ve had more than my fair share of beers down at Lacledes Landing. 🙂
Bebe Kumalaa says
i love your style of writing 🙂