Been listening to songs of a particular genre, it was certainly not possible to make a complete list. However, I went through several forums and websites in the internet and tried my best to make a good list. Please suggest other songs about medical conditions or illness by commenting.
1. “Learning to Live” by Dream Theater
Once again we dance in the crowd
At times a step away
From a common fear that’s all spread out
It won’t listen to what you say
Once you’re touched and you stand alone
To face the bitter fight
Once I reached for love
And now I reach for life
Another chance to lift my life
A freedom sensation in my heart
To ride the wings of dreams into changing horizons
It brings inner peace within my mind
It is about a man living and struggling with AIDS and the entire scene in the ’90s. AIDs, and living with it. This song reflects the life of a man who is learning to live differently and become hopeful despite of the illness.
2. “Fear is the key” by Iron Maiden
We live our lives in fever
In a choking sweat of fear
In the heat of the night you can
feel so much
In the heat of the night I scream
This song is about AIDS, and about how before AIDS everyone used to have unprotected sex, but afterward everyone was scared of catching the HIV virus. The line “nobody cares ’til somebody famous dies” is a reference to Queen singer Freddie Mercury, who died from AIDS the year before this song was released and spread awareness of how devastating the disease is.
3. “Ballad of the boy in the red shoes” by Elton John
Give me my red shoes I want to dance
They search for an answer
But that old man wouldn’t listen
Back then I was handsome
Back then he was ignorant
This song is about a dancer who contracted AIDS around the time when the disease first boomed. “That old man wouldn’t listen” is a reference to the ignorance of late US president Ronald Reagan in helping to fight the disease.
4. “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsten
I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face.
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away
On the Streets of Philadelphia.
The night has fallen, I’m lyin’ awake,
I can feel myself fading away,
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss,
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the Streets of Philadelphia
“Streets of Philadelphia” is an Oscar winning song, written and performed by Bruce Springsteen for the first mainstream film on HIV/AIDS in the 1993 film, “Philadelphia”.
5. “The last song” by Elton John
Cause I never thought I’d lose
I only thought I’d win
I never dreamed I’d feel
This fire beneath my skin
I can’t believe you love me
I never thought you’d come
I guess I misjudged love
Between a father and his son
This song was written in the memory of Ryan White, a young AIDS patient who died at age 18, with whom Elton John was close. This song is a personal story relating to the father/son dynamic of homosexuality, HIV and acceptance; a great example of unconditional love. The song is about a young man re-uniting with his father who had disowned him due to homosexuality years before. They re-unite on his death-bed, when the son is dying of AIDS. This song was featured in the movie “And The Band Played On”.
1. “The Sound of Failure” by The Flaming Lips
Cause she’s too scared and she can’t pretend
To understand where it begins or ends
Or what it means to be dead
It’s just a sound going through your head
Let them go on
The song was inspired by a friend of the band who was dying of cancer. They were fed up with pretending to be optimistic, and also with having to hear fake enthusiastic pop music everywhere they went. This song is about a girl whose friend is dying of cancer.
2. “Cancer” by My Chemical Romance
Now turn away,
‘Cause I’m awful just to see
‘Cause all my hairs abandoned all my body,
Oh, my agony,
Know that I will never marry,
Baby, I’m just soggy from the chemo
But counting down the days to go
It just ain’t living
And I just hope you know
This song is narrated from the perspective of a dying cancer patient especially about his/her grief attached to departure from the loved ones. The lyrics describe symptoms that are typical of a cancer patient, such as hair loss, chapped lips and grogginess resulting from chemotherapy.
3. “Until it sleeps” by Metallica
Where do I take this pain of mine
I run but it stays right by my side
So tear me open and pour me out
There’s things inside that scream and shout
And the pain still hates me
So hold me until it sleeps
Just like the curse, just like the stray
You feed it once and now it stays
Now it stays
The lyrics of the song, written by James Hetfield, address his father’s battle with cancer. They can be seen as either describing the emotional pain he feels for the loss, or the physical pain his mother was feeling while she was ill. Both of his parents were Christian Scientists, and did not believe in medicine.
4. “Skin (Sarabeth)” by Rascal flatts
Sarabeth is scared to death
Cause the doctor just told her the news
Between the red cells and white
Something’s not right
Sarabeth closes her eyes
And she dreams she’s dancing
Around and around without any cares
And her very first love is holding her close
And the soft wind is blowing her hair
Sarabeth is scared to death
As she sits holding her mom
Cause it would be a mistake
For someone to take
A girl with no hair to the prom
This song is about a girl who is scared after she hears her diagnosis as a Blood cancer. She dreams of dancing in the prom but feels that she wouldn’t have a boy to dance with in the prom because she is bald. But in the end, her boyfriend shaves his head for her and her dream comes true.
5. “Save you” by Simple Plan
Sometimes I wish I could save you
And there’re so many things that I want you to know
I won’t give up till it’s over
If it takes you forever I want you to know
The frontman Pierre Bouvier said: “It’s about my brother, he went through a two year battle with cancer and he went through numerous chemotherapy sessions and went through a bone marrow transplant and it was really tough time for my family and I. Just going through that and seeing someone so close to you go through that kind of stuff is very difficult. The song is about how I felt powerless in that whole situation. Now he’s better, which is great news, but that is probably the song that I feel most connected to.”
About Mental Illness
1. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” by Metallica
Welcome to where time stands still
No one leaves and no one will
Moon is full, never seems to change
Just labeled mentally deranged
Dream the same thing every night
I see our freedom in my sight
No locked doors, No windows barred
No things to make my brain seem scarred
Like most Metallica songs, this song can be interpreted from various angles. According to the frontman James Hetfield, the idea for that song came from the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. The song relate the life and thoughts of a man trapped in a Sanitarium or mental asylum. The seemingly insane don’t think they’re insane. In fact, they see through the eyes of their oppressors: “He’s getting better, can’t you tell?”
2. “Lithium” by Nirvana
I’m so happy.
Cause today I found my friends.
They’re in my head.
I’m so ugly.
But that’s ok.
‘Cause so are you.
We’ve broke our mirrors.
Is everyday for all I care.
And I’m not scared.
Light my candles.
In a daze cause I’ve found god.
As the title suggests, the song is about Bipolar disorder. Lithium is a drug used to treat this illness. The lyrical content narrates mood swings in such patients.
3. “Schizophrenia” by Blue October
And I love it when you’re holding me
You have a gentle way of calming
You know, I haven’t felt that way since, since 1993,
When my mother held me
I bet you’re waiting for the long sob story
Of how I was mistreated again
No, ’cause now I wasn’t built that way
I was strong and desperately brave,
And I didn’t mean to scare ya
This song explains how it feels to have schizophrenia. Many times, mental illness is associated with a history of some form of trauma in childhood. But in this song, the illness takes over the subject suddenly while he grew up happily. The frontman of the band, Justin himself is believed to be suffering from depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He talks about the song: ” My name was whispered over and over, soft as my mother’s voice, then louder than a thousand screams. It scared me. I want foil to chew on. I remember wanting to chew foil.”
4. “Still life” by Iron Maiden
Take a look in the pool and what do you see
In the dark depths, their faces beckoning me
Can’t you see them it’s plain for all to see
They were there, oh I know you don’t believe me.
I’ve no doubt that you think I’m off of my head
You don’t say, but it’s in your eyes instead
Hours I spend out just gazing into that pool
Something draws me there, I don’t know what to do.
Now it’s clear and I know what I have to do
I must take you down there to look at them too
Hand in hand then we’ll jump right into the pool
Can’t you see not just me they want you too.
“Still life” painting brings life to inanimate objects. As the title suggests, the man in the song sees faces inside the pool of water calling him. As he begins to stare into the pool, he goes insane and jumps into the pool along with his partner.
5. “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth
True enemy or false friend?
Anxiety’s attacking me, and
And my air is getting thin
Like the walls are closing in
Blood stains on my hands and
I don’t know where I’ve been
Once you committed me
Now you’ve acquitted me
For your stupidity
I’m chomping at the bit
I’m sharpening the axe
The term “sweat bullets” means to be very worried or frightened. Lyrically, the song is about Dissociative Identity Disorder. The song is about a man trying to handle his psychotic dark side. When the darker side dominates, he wakes up with blood stains on his hands. In the video, Dave Mustaine (frontman of the band) is in a mental asylum. While looking at the mirror someone grabs him, revealing it is himself. As the other Dave Mustaine talks to him, other Dave Mustaines pop out and talk.
6. “From his window” by John Smith
He stands beside the window, he watches cars go by
He waves at everybody, he’s just a friendly guy
He doesn’t know what day it is, he doesn’t talk much anymore
Sometimes he cries when he means to laugh
The doctors say he can’t help that
John Smith says: “This song was inspired by my late father’s time in an Alzheimer’s
disease unit. He always would wave good-bye to me from his window as I drove away
and it broke my heart.”
7. “Six degrees of inner turbulence” by Dream Theater
The boy is simply crazy
Suffering from delusions
We honestly think that maybe
He might need an institution
He lives in a world of fiction
And really could use some help
We have just the place to fix him
To save him from himself
This 42 minutes long song explores the stories of six individuals suffering from various mental illnesses in 8 different tracks.
- Overture (Instrumental)
- About to crash (Bipolar disorder)
- War inside my head (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
- The test that stumped them all (Schizophrenia)
- Goodnight kiss (Postpartum depression)
- Solitary shell (Asperger syndrome)
- About to crash (Reprsie – Bipolar disorder)
- Losing time (Dissociative identity disorder)
8. “Erotomania” by Dream Theater
This is a beautiful instrumental song but we will explore the meaning of the title “Erotomania” here. Erotomania is a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that another person, usually a stranger, is in love with him or her. During an erotomanic episode, the patient believes that a “secret admirer” is declaring his or her affection to the patient, often by special glances, signals, telepathy, or messages through the media.
About Drug addiction
1. “Low man’s Lyric” by Metallica
My eyes seek reality
My fingers seek my veins
There’s a dog at your back step
He must come in from the rain
The trash fire is warm
But nowhere safe from the storm
And I can’t bear to see
What I’ve let me be
So wicked and worn
So as I write to you
Of what is done and to do
Maybe you’ll understand
And won’t cry for this man
cause low man is due
Please forgive me
The song describes the thoughts of a drug addicted homeless man who is suffering through his life but finds no way to return although he desires of sanity. It is a suicide note of the addicted person begging for forgiveness.
2. “Master of Puppets” by Metallica
Taste me, you will see
More is all you need
You’re dedicated to
How I’m killing you
Needlework the way, never you betray
Life of death becoming clearer
Pain monopoly, ritual misery
Chop your breakfast on a mirror
This song is about how drug addiction destroys you. The title “Master of Puppets” is a reference to the drugs that control the victims like its slave. James Hetfield in Thrasher magazine: “‘Master of Puppets’ deals pretty much with drugs. How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you’re taking and doing it’s drugs controlling you.”
3. “Not an addict” by K’s choice
It’s not a habit, it’s cool, I feel alive
If you don’t have it you’re on the other side
The deeper you stick it in your vein
The deeper the thoughts, there’s no more pain
I’m in heaven, I’m a god
I’m everywhere, I feel so hot
This is about drugs and addiction. It’s sung in the first person with a voice of desperation and denial.
4. “Junkhead” by Alice in Chains
You can’t understand a user’s mind
But try, with your books and degrees
If you let yourself go and opened your mind
I’ll bet you’ll be doing like me
And it ain’t so bad
This song is about a drug junkie and how people who are not cannot relate to this lifestyle and understand the mind of a drug user no matter what their books might say.
1. “Cardiac Arrest” by Madness
His hand dives in his pocket, for his handkerchief.
Pearls of sweat on his collar, his pulse-beat seems so brief.
Eyes fall on his wristwatch, the seconds pass real slow.
Gasping for the hot air, but the chest pain it won’t go.
Tried to ask for help, but can’t seem to speak a word.
Words are whispered frantically, but don’t seem to be heard.
It tells the story of a workaholic who suffers a fatal heart attack on his way to work. The funny music video for “Cardiac Arrest” featured Chas Smash as a person having a heart attack and the remaining band members playing roles of people advising him not to work so hard.
2. “T.B. Blues” by Jimmie Rodgers
Tryin’ to make me believe
I ain’t got that old TB
I’ve got the TB blues
This song is about Tuberculosis as suggested by the title. In 1924 Jimmie was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was hospitalized and nearly died. At that time, T. B. was incurable and a leading cause of death in America.
3. “A little bit longer” by The Jonas Brothers
Waitin’ on a cure
But none of them are sure
A little bit longer and I’ll be fine
But you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
And you don’t know what it’s like to feel so low
And everytime you smile, you laugh, you glow
You dont even know, know, know
This songs is about Nick Jonas’ sufferings due to Type I Diabetes Mellitus. The line “But you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone” means that he never realized that he had something great in life until he suffered from the disease. You can actually relate this song to any disease you are suffering from.