One Last Song, but Then I have to Die

Whole collections are made of last words, but what about last songs? Below are a few examples of songwriters who, possibly knowing the end was near, wrote an song epitaph. One can never know what is on a dying mind, but we submit these for your consideration.

Hurt, by Johnny Cash

Cash recorded hundreds of songs, 60 after he recorded his award winning cover of Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt (At Top). Nevertheless, the song is considered the epitaph to his long career.  The video itself is ingenious. Cash, a man who self-defined through his religiosity, sings hard-core atheist Trent Reznor’s song without irony.  He changes only two things: the line “crown of shit” to “crown of thorns” and the intended audience.  Reznor’s presumable audience was angry teenagers wearing black; Cash’s is Jesus. Since Jesus is picking up the tab for Cash’s sin, he has let him down, and he has made him hurt.

Ceremony by Ian Curtis

Before hanging himself, Ian Curtis performed the song Ceremony for the first at what would be his last show. Joy Division where already on their way to becoming New Wave legends, but it was not to be. The song itself ended up being the fist single for New Order, a reformed post-Curtis version of the band. Curtis often told his wife he had no intention of reaching 30.


All Apologies by Kurt Cobain

“All alone is all we are.”

Before being murdered by Courtney Love his suicide at the age of 27, Cobain left a note addressed to his childhood imaginary friends where explained how guilty he felt. He felt like a fruad. The note itself, however contains no apology.He was not sorry, because, according to his calculation, his daughter Fransic was better off without him.  That is probably not the case. The letter closes with the infmaous quoting of Neil Young. “It is better to burn out than to fade away.”

Black Eyed Dog by Nick Drake

Master of quietude Nick Drake died from an overdose of antidepressants in 1974. It is not known if this was his intention, but what’s clear is he was feeling kind of down,in the dumps if you will. You know, depressed. Samuel Johnson called depression The Black Dog. This terminology was popularized by Winston Churchill when he described his own struggle with it. The song; clear, quiet, and precise, as much of his work, expresses his desire to go home. Drake didn’t like it at home, but despised everywhere else. His long drives and long silences worried the few people close to him. Some speculated that it was his lack of success that really wounded him, but it hard to image some money or recognition changing such a withdrawn person. Pink Moon, his final album recorded just before his death, included the song Black Eyed Dog, and the song Pink Moon itself. The latter was used in a car commercial in the 90’s, and that brought Drake the commercial success he never enjoyed in life.

Over Now by Lane Staley

“We pay our debts sometime,” goes the refrain from Staley last album, the self titles Alice in Chains.  After their MTV unplugged performance (video below) they performed only four more shows, cancelling the tour due to Staley’s drug problems. The next six years were a downward spiral for Lane. In early 2002, he gave an interview in which he explained: “I know I’m near death, I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way.” 

A few months later, he was found dead in his apartment from a mix of heroin and cocaine. In 1996, he told Rolling Stone that drugs had always worked for him, and only now were they turning against him.  Like Kurt Cobain, many close friends speculated that the musicians drug addiction was both the result and exasberator of other, unrelated, health  problems.


A Fine Farewell to A Friend by Elliot Smith

Elliot Smith, while cutting his last album, included the song “A Fond Farewell to a Friend” which includes the line a little “less than a happy high, a little less than a suicide, the only things that your really try…”

After (or during)  a fight with his girlfriend, Smith got stabbed in the heart twice. Some of Smiths old friends and lovers suspect he was murdered by his girlfriend, but she claims she found a suicide note. A post-it note hastily written.