13 Songs About Poverty And Hard Times

Music, like art, often reflects the harsh realities of the human condition. One of these realities is financial hardship, a struggle that many people face.

Songs about poverty and hard times dive deep into the experiences of struggling to make ends meet. They shed light on the challenges of living paycheck to paycheck, facing eviction, or not having enough to eat. These songs capture the stress, pain, and resilience of those living in poverty.

In this playlist, you’ll find 13 songs that intimately explore the theme of poverty and hard times.

13 Songs About Poverty And Hard Times

1. “Like A Rolling Stone” By Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” is a timeless classic. It tells a compelling story from the perspective of someone who knows a person called “Miss Lonely.” She used to mock others but now finds herself in a similar situation.

The song suggests that Miss Lonely has been robbed, leaving her homeless and struggling to make ends meet. As Dylan sings, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” highlighting the harsh reality of poverty.

Despite being over 50 years old, “Like a Rolling Stone” remains captivating thanks to its haunting organ and guitar music. Dylan’s poetic lyrics add to its enduring appeal, even if his voice isn’t to everyone’s taste.

2. “Another Day In Paradise” by Phil Collins

“Another Day In Paradise” by Phil Collins is a timeless song that still holds relevance today, despite being over three decades old. With Phil Collins’ soothing voice leading the way, the song starts with the memorable lines, “She calls out to the man on the street/Sir can you help me?”

The song talks about poverty, telling the story of a woman who shows the marks of her hardship and asks for help from people who ignore her. Even though she begs, those nearby act as if they can’t hear her, as shown in the lyrics: “He walks on, doesn’t look back / He pretends he can’t hear her.”

One poignant line from the song is “Oh, think twice, it’s another day for you and me in paradise,” showing the stark contrast between the everyday lives of those who have enough and the harsh reality faced by those living in poverty.

3. “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran

“The A Team” by Ed Sheeran might sound cheery, but it’s actually about some heavy stuff like addiction, poverty, and shattered dreams. Despite that, Ed Sheeran’s lyrics are thoughtful and strike a good balance.

He wrote this song when he was just 18, inspired by a woman he met at a homeless shelter named “Angel.” She told him about her life as a homeless drug addict, which became the inspiration for the song.

In the lines like “White lips, pale face /Breathing in snowflakes /Burnt lungs, sour taste /Light’s gone, day’s end / Struggling to pay rent,” Sheeran vividly depicts the woman’s financial hardships. 

Many of us know someone struggling with addiction, like “Angel,” who’s trying to turn things around but feels weighed down by bad luck. It’s like they want to fly, but the air around them is just too cold.

4. “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen

The song “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen talks about being poor and desperate. The person in the song owes a lot of money and can’t keep up. They talk about crime in the city and how it’s affected them.

They tried to save money but it didn’t work out. They end up buying tickets to Atlantic City with their partner, but it’s not for a fun trip. As Bruce Springsteen sings, “I got a job and tried to put my money away / But I got the kind of debts that no honest man can pay.” The song suggests they’re forced into doing illegal things to survive because they’re so poor. It’s like they have no other option.

5. “I Need A Dollar” By Aloe Blacc

Aloe Blacc’s song “I Need A Dollar” speaks to a common experience: needing financial help. He wrote it when he got fired from his job as a business consultant, feeling like his world was falling apart. Many could relate to the struggle of needing just a dollar and working hard to make ends meet.

The song struck a chord with listeners, resonating with those who knew what it was like to be in tough situations. As the lyrics reflect, “And if I share with you my story, would you share your dollar with me?” – capturing the plea for assistance in times of poverty.

Thankfully, Aloe Blacc found success in music and didn’t have to go back to another job. He continued to make great music, giving us more memorable songs beyond “I Need A Dollar.”

6. “Fast Car” By Tracy Chapman

Have you heard of Tracy Chapman? She’s known for her powerful lyrics in alternative rock. One of her standout songs is “Fast Car” from 1988.

In the song, the narrator wants to get away from her alcoholic father and seeks freedom anywhere she can find it. She runs off with her partner, but their relationship starts to fall apart. They find themselves stuck in a cycle of struggling to make ends meet and longing for escape. As Tracy sings, “You got a fast car, but is it fast enough so we can fly away? We gotta make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way.”

“Fast Car” has been covered by many artists because it speaks to the universal desire to break free from tough situations like dead-end jobs, poverty, and challenging circumstances.

7. “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z

“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z is a song about the tough realities of life. Jay-Z cleverly samples from the Broadway play Annie, with children singing “It’s the hard knock life for us” in the chorus.

In the song, Jay-Z shares his American dream story and sheds light on life in New York City’s ghetto, especially for black people. But what sets this song apart is its message of hope.

Jay-Z talks about how determination helped him overcome challenges in his childhood and achieve success, while also acknowledging the struggles of poverty with lyrics like “From standin’ on the corners boppin’ / To drivin’ some of the hottest cars New York has ever seen.”

8. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

This song talks about poverty in a different way. It’s not what you’d expect. But it’s a famous rock song.

In the chorus, the singer shouts, “It ain’t me! It ain’t me! I ain’t no senator’s son, no!” This means he’s not rich or connected like politicians’ kids who could avoid going to war.

The song is from 1969, written by John Fogerty. He’s saying that poor people like him had to fight in the Vietnam War, while rich people could dodge it.

In simple terms, “Fortunate Son” shows that when there’s a war, it’s usually the poor who end up fighting, even today. One line in the song says, “Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand,” highlighting the divide between rich and poor.

9. “If There’s A God In Heaven” By Elton John

Elton John’s song “If There’s A God In Heaven” may not tell a strong story, but it still makes you think.

The song talks about hungry children because of poverty. Right from the start, John asks, “If there’s a God in heaven, what’s he waiting for?”

He’s pointing out how unfair it is for children and poor people to suffer. He compares them to innocent “lambs” being led to slaughter. With powerful imagery and John’s voice, this song becomes a classic tackling a tough, sad topic. As he sings, “As the years went by, they learned to say ‘I’ll survive.'”

10. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band Aid

This song might feel like it’s all about Christmas, but it’s actually about something deeper. Bob Geldof brought together famous musicians to help raise money for the Ethiopian famine in the early 1980s. He also organized Live Aid concerts and was part of Boomtown Rats.

People still love this song because it reminds us of something important during the holiday season. It’s easy to forget about those who are struggling when we’re surrounded by festive lights and cheer.

But not everyone gets to feel that Christmas joy. The song asks us to remember those who are less fortunate and to think about them during the holidays. With lyrics like “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas,” it highlights the harsh reality of poverty in other parts of the world. 

11. “Is This The World We Created?” by Queen

Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, always paid attention to the world around him. He wrote this song after watching a documentary about poverty in Africa, hoping to raise awareness.

In the song, Mercury asks important questions like, “Is this the world we created?” and “Is this what we’re living for today?” He wants listeners to think about their role in helping others, as expressed in the lines, “You know that every day a helpless child is born/ Who needs some loving care inside a happy home.”

Even though the song talks about serious issues, when Queen performed it at Live Aid, the crowd cheered. Mercury wanted to remind everyone about the global poverty problem in a positive way.

12. “The Borders” By Sam Fender

Sam Fender’s song “The Borders,” released in 2019, channels the spirit of iconic artists like Springsteen and Dylan. Fender drew inspiration from his own childhood, marked by his parents’ separation when he was just eight.

The song tells the story of two boys growing up as close as brothers in Northeast England. Both come from families struggling with poverty, which fuels a cycle of anger, violence, and fractured relationships. As Fender sings, “We ain’t got a penny between us / Holding up this tin that we live in.”

Since its release, “The Borders” has become a regular feature in Fender’s performances, with audiences enthusiastically joining in on the poignant lyrics.

13. “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam’s singer, Eddie Vedder, faced challenges head-on. In “Even Flow,” he sings about a homeless person who can’t read.

The song tells the story of a man who sleeps on hard concrete and prays to a God who never helps. It shows how society often misunderstands those living in poverty. One line in the song says, “Freezin’, rests his head on a pillow made of concrete.”

Although things might be better in Seattle since 1992, homelessness is still a big issue there. The song reminds us to have empathy for people going through tough times.

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