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Country music has dramatically evolved throughout the years. But at the heart of it are themes about regular people trying to make it in an often-challenging world. Uniquely American, country music songs range from love and relationships to life, death, and money.
Believe it or not, there are quite a few country songs about money, and they aren’t just about spending it (although there is plenty of that too). Some of the greatest country songs about money seek to teach valuable life lessons.
If you didn’t grow up with country music, as I did, you probably think all country songs are about losing things: Losing your girlfriend or wife, truck, or your dog.
While regret and loss are common country music themes, there is often much more to a country song than meets the ear.
So, sit back, relax, and give these 20 country music songs about money a chance. You might even like a few of them and learn something.
“9 to 5” – Dolly Parton (1980)
“9 to 5” is a song that most Americans, and people for that matter, can relate to.
Written and performed by Dolly Parton for the 1980 movie of the same name (which she also starred in), both song and film were inspired by the 9to5 organization founded in 1973 that sought fair pay and treatment for women in the workplace. The music has since become somewhat of an anthem for 9 to 5ers in the U.S.
The song begins by outlining the daily struggle of getting out of bed and ready to face a job you don’t love. Further lyrics discuss many workers’ struggles in dead-end jobs, including bad bosses, lack of compensation, and dreams of something better.
“Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind” – Confederate Railroad (1994)
The band name is outdated, but the song’s theme isn’t.
“Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind,” tells the story of a young man who grows up to understand his father’s lessons about what matters in life. The young man goes from being immature and jealous of others and their material things, to buying material things of his own, to finally realizing that none of those things matter.
Take the lesson of this song to heart and remember that some things “just glitter and shine.”
“(This Thing Called) Wantin’ and Havin’ It All” – Sawyer Brown (1995)
“Rich man grew old, owned a mansion on the top of the hill” starts off Sawyer Brown’s song. Although this is not one of the country band’s most famous songs, it is perhaps the most meaningful.
The song tells the story of an old rich man preparing for the end of his life. His children don’t come around because they’re waiting for him to die. He realizes that money may have given him power, but it hasn’t given him what he wants. There is a lesson here about how wanting for nothing has shaped his children.
Money is a tool, but make sure you do things the right way so you don’t fall into the “well called wantin’ and havin’ it all.”
“Goin’ Through the Big D (And Don’t Mean Dallas)” – Mark Chesnut (1994)
This song has a serious message set to an upbeat and carefree tune.
It warns of the dangers of jumping too soon without planning and forethought. This mantra is true of almost everything: relationships, careers, businesses, money. You will need to take risks, but it’s also important to shield yourself against setbacks.
You may not be able to avoid goin’ through the big D (aka, divorce) but try not to jump into things without planning for the worst-case scenario.
“Ka-ching!” – Shania Twain (2003)
Shania Twain was one of the first country music artists to go a little pop with her music. This is true of her song, “Ka-Ching.”
“Ka-Ching” deals with the consumerist culture in the U.S., with the recurring line “all we ever want is more” as its central theme. The message is clear: the goal has become to make as much money as possible, then spend it all thinking that “lots of money and things” will make you happy.
Shania doesn’t agree, and neither do we.
“People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington (2009)
“People Are Crazy,” like many country songs, is sung in story form.
It follows the conversation between the singer and an old man he meets in a bar. They talk about women and younger days, to life and death. They part ways at the song’s closing, never to see each another again. Little does the singer know that the man he talked to was a millionaire and that he would leave his fortune to him.
It shows you can never judge a book by its cover and never know how much you can touch someone with a simple conversation.
“Fancy” – Reba McEntire (1990)
Often referred to as the Queen of Country, Reba is known for her edgy music style. But no song is edgier than “Fancy.”
A cover of the Bobbie Gentry song of the same name, this is the song Reba is most known for. You should listen to it at your first opportunity if you haven’t heard it.
“Fancy” tells the story of a young woman named Fancy who uses prostitution to escape poverty at her mother’s urging. While not the path anyone wants to follow, Reba’s soulful performance speaks to people everywhere who go to desperate lengths for a better life and to break free of the systems that hold us back.
“Cost of Livin’” – Ronnie Dunn (2011)
We all know the cost of living (COL), but Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost of Livin’” is about so much more.
Written after the Recession in 2008, the song tells the story of a man presenting his skills and qualifications to a potential employer. The man has lost his previous job due to closure, and his family is struggling. The song speaks to the precarious situation most Americans find themselves in when they lose a job and how many are willing to do almost anything to pay the bills.
Unfortunately, this is a situation all too many Americans are finding themselves in today. For those without money, the “cost of livin’s high and goin’ up.”
“Shuttin’ Detroit Down” – John Rich (2009)
Similarly to the song described above, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” was also written in response to the recession and the corporate bailouts that saved companies yet left many Americans struggling.
The song explicitly criticizes the bailout of financial institutions and the auto industry crisis, speaking to how the government response benefited the wealthy while front-line workers lost their jobs.
Whatever your thoughts on the current political climate and voting trends among various groups of people, it’s true that blue-collar workers and laborers are often hit the hardest during an economic downturn. Most of them don’t have extra money and savings; they cannot afford to be let go.
“Rich and Miserable” – Kenny Chesney (2016)
Kenny Chesney likes to have a good ole time, and his songs generally reflect that attitude. “Rich and Miserable” takes a decidedly different tone and, like Twain’s “Ka-Ching!,” serves as a critique of the American culture of consumerism.
The song challenges the listener to consider what makes them happy and to look beyond the “rich and miserable” habits and beliefs that we are fed growing up.
“Money Isn’t What Really Matters” – Kenny Rogers (1998)
The legendary “The Gambler” singer, Kenny Rogers, is known for his unique vocals and powerful lyrics. While not one of his more popular songs, “Money Isn’t What Really Matters” still delivers a great message.
This song steers the listener away from the pursuit of money and toward the pursuit of love as the thing that matters the most in life. Of course, you need enough money to live comfortably, but you shouldn’t live for money.
“A Good Run of Bad Luck” – Clint Black (1994)
“A high roller, even when the chips are down” begins this hit song by Clint Black, featured in the Mel Gibson movie “Maverick.” The film, which also featured Black in a minor role, is a western song about gambling.
While the song compares gambling to love using metaphors, the lyrics can also be applied to money and life. While we wouldn’t encourage gambling to the point of going broke, being persistent and having “a never give up” attitude is essential for success. The trick is to know when to give up on a specific venture and move on to something else.
“Hard Workin’ Man” – Brooks and Dunn (1993)
“Hard Workin’ Man” is an upbeat song with typical country themes. As the title suggests, it’s about a hard-working man and the struggles and fun that often come with a blue-collar lifestyle. This song also marks our transition to less severe country songs about money.
This song is a snapshot of the lives of many Americans. While the work-life balance is something to strive for, the lower wages of blue-collar jobs often don’t allow people to get ahead easily. They work hard with their hands and backs all week, but when the weekend comes, they have a good time.
“Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous” – Tracy Byrd (1994)
This song is somewhat of a satire that pokes fun at the more traditional music and the television show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Full of stereotypes about country people, this song essentially seeks to make fun of America’s fascination with the lives of the wealthy.
Would people be interested in the lifestyles of the not-so-rich and famous? Probably not.
“Money in the Bank” – John Anderson (1993)
Another feel-good country song about money, John Anderson’s “Money in the Bank,” is about a man taking his girl out for a night on the town after getting his paycheck.
On first appearance, this song seems to be about spending all your money and having a good time. But in reality, it has a pretty good subtle message. Anderson sings about some the’ds he’d like to have but he’d he’d instead save for the things that help him further develop his relationship.
In this case, he’d rather spend his money on the things he needs to help grow his relationship rather than save it all or spend it on material things he’d like to have. He’s chosen his relationship over “money in the bank.”
“Workin’ for a Livin’” – Garth Brooks With Huey Lewis (2007)
You may know this song from the original by Huey Lewis and the News, but the cover duet by Garth Brooks and Huey Lewis is also pretty good.
Like “9 to 5,” this song is a familiar story for many Americans who put up with many things from their employer because they need the money. Like the song says, most of us are just working for a living because we have to, not because our work fulfills us.
If you’re able, see if you can start to break that cycle of working for a living by living within your means, saving more, and investing more. At the very least, focus on what matters.
“If I Could Make a Living” – Clay Walker (1994)
Another feel-good country song about money, “If I Could Make a Living” is about a man who breaks his back at his day job but fantasizes about making a living loving his girlfriend. The rest of the song talks about all the benefits he and his girl would reap if he could make a living loving her, including that he’d “be a millionaire in a week or two.”
While kind of a silly song, the message is good. You should devote as much time and dedication to your relationship as most do their jobs.
“All My Ex’s Live In Texas” – George Strait (1987)
This is a pretty ridiculous song, but there is a lesson to be learned here. The song is about a man who wishes he could be in Texas, but unfortunately, he has a record of broken hearts and exes across the state, so he must now reside in Tennessee.
The message is simple: don’t burn your bridges, or you may find yourself on an island. This can be applied to your finances as well.
“Buy Me a Boat” – Chris Janson (2015)
“Buy Me a Boat” is the debut single of country singer Chris Janson. Like most more contemporary country songs, it has a pop/old-school country feel.
The singer talks about how he wishes he had more money and everything he would buy with it, like most of us wish for.
This is a bit of a different take on money and consumerism, as this song contends that there are some material things you can buy that will make you happy. At least for a little while.
“Beer Money” – Kip Moore (2012)
Like other songs on this list, “Beer Money” talks about the ordinary lives of many Americans who work hard yet still struggle financially. Also, like other songs, this one talks about what many spend their money on to cope with their struggles.
For country folk, spending a night with your girl or guy is the most common way to kick back and relax. For some, that beer money may be all they have to look forward to.
Moral of the Story
Love or hate it, or somewhere in between, there is no doubt that country music tells a story. You may not think these stories are relatable, but they often are. Especially in older country music, it’s all about the lyrics and the stories they tell. It’s nice to get money perspectives in genres like this, in addition to rap and hip hop. They’re all entertaining with underlying moral themes and lessons!
This article is originally on Savoteur.