Friday, March 8, 2019

The Most Brutal Song Ever Recorded

It’s a topic that’s been debated and discussed by dickheads and bros everywhere for all time: What is the most brutal song ever?

As self-proclaimed King of the Dickheads today, I have the final answer.

It’s not some machismo-fueled crap from Disturbed, Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch or some other butt-rock band favored by energy drink-swilling former Juggalos. It’s not from an emo-infused, screamo, metlacore bullshit band. It’s not from some obscure grindcore band or corpse-painted, church-burning black metal band from Norway. It’s not even a song from some legitimately badass bands — Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Celtic Frost — known for their brutality.

It’s not about corpses or demons or plague or genocide or raping dead puppies or any of the bullshit topics that so many bands beat to death trying to prove how hard they are. 

It’s a song about the real fucking world and how it can beat you the fuck down.
Bill Withers: Sexy, Funky, and Brutal As Fuck

And it’s from Bill Fucking Withers.

Yes, that Bill Withers. The funky soul master responsible for songs like “Use Me,” “Grandma’s Hands,” and everyone’s favorite, “Lean on Me.”

Bill is a badass to be sure. An incredible musician and songwriter. And if you don’t have room in your cold, dark heart for Bill, there’s just no way we can be friends.

But brutal? Fuck Yeah.

Before you listen to the song I’m talking about, consider it’s context.

 “Lean on Me” was released in 1972, reached No. 1 on both the Soul Singles and Billboard charts and was named one of the top 500 songs of all time by Rolling Stone. It’s an uplifting song of friendship, hope, compassion, and brotherhood (or sisterhood).

The opening lines for example:

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow
Lean on me!
when you're not strong
and I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on…

Its good stuff. Have a quick listen.

Sweet, right? Of course. That’s why it was a smash fucking hit. This line, however, was a hint of darker things to come:

… for it won't be long
'till I'm gonna need
somebody to lean on.

If you owned this single on 45 you might have ended the song feeling uplifted and hopeful for mankind. You might have expected that you could flip the record over to the B Side for some more heart-warming, life-affirming cheeriness.

You’d be wrong.

Bill apparently had other ideas in mind and created “Better Off Dead” — the B-Side that should define what it means to be a B-Side. Where “Lean on Me” is uplifting, hopeful, and inspiring, “Better Off Dead” is dark, hopeless, and utterly despondent. That it’s also funky and swampy and rhythmic and catchy as hell makes it all the more brutal.

Where “Lean on Me” provides hope. “Better Off Dead” tells us that, sometimes, there is just no hope to be found. It’s a hard look at real life, depression, despondency, and consequences, which is harsh enough in itself. When placed directly opposite “Lean on Me,” it’s just, well, fucking brutal.

It’s not just brutal, though. It’s a great damn song. Listen through to the very end and you’ll see how desperate and harsh it truly is.


She couldn't stand me anymore
so she just took the kids and went.
You see, I've got a drinkin' problem,
all the money that we had I spent.
Now I must die by my own hand
'cause I'm not man enough to live alone.
Hey, hey, she's better off without me
and I'm better off dead now that she's gone.

Ah, she gave the most, took the least,
she even had the priest come to our home.
And I cried and prayed and promised
that I'd leave the stuff alone.
Now I must leave what I can't face,
I hope she finds the kids a happy home.
Hey, hey she's better off without me
and I'm better off dead now that she's gone.

She used to call her friend and cry,
then the man cut off the telephone.
She'd sit and cry while I went out
and pawned the things we owned.
Now I must die by my own hand
'cause I'm not man enough to live alone.
Hey, hey she's better off without
me and I'm better off dead..

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