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Tax songs

23rd Dec 2009
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There's a long history of songs being written about tax, but some lyrics ring truer than others.

In wartime, people are generally more positive about taxes. For example, witness the following lyrics by Irving Berlin:

I paid my income tax today
I never felt so proud before
To be right there with the millions more
Who paid their income tax today

When you look, nearly all the internet listings of songs about taxes appear on stridently right wing sites, often accompanied by explanations about the rampant socialism of European countries.

All of them start with the Beatles’ Taxman ("Should 5% appear too small, be thankful I don’t take it all"), or possibly the Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon ("The taxman’s taken all my dough…"), both of which are lyrically something of a whinge. There’s something not quite right about very rich rock stars taking time out for this. A common theme seems to be the shock to the newly wealthy that they have to pay tax, just like other people!

Following the earlier example of the Rolling Stones, or indeed Gracie Fields, U2 didn’t sing about taxes; instead they seemed to just avoid them with a strategic change of residence.

There is a long history of complaints about tax, mostly to be found in the music of the USA during the depression, like Ralph Willis’s Income Tax Blues. Robert Cray joined the whining later with 1040 Blues (named of course from a US tax form). Johnny Paycheck recorded Me and the IRS, but of course the country singer who got closest was Willie Nelson.

In 1990, the Internal Revenue Service told Nelson he owed them $16.7 million in back taxes and seized most of his assets to help pay the charges. He released The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories? as a double album, with all profits going straight to the IRS. Many of his assets were auctioned and purchased by friends, who gave his possessions back to him or rented them at a nominal fee. He then sued PriceWaterhouse, contending that they put him into tax shelters that were later disallowed. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount, and his debts were paid by 1993.

Some of the lists seem to make some odd picks. It had never occurred to me that Chris de Burgh’s Don’t Pay the Ferryman was about tax avoidance, but since I would have run out of the room if it came on, I may not be best placed to comment on the lyrics. However, research demanded it and so I listened. Is "the hooded old man at the rudder" really a tax inspector? You tell me.

As for me, my personal favourite is Taxman, by the marvellous South African reggae singer Lucky Dube (who was murdered in 2007). You can listen to this track using the player below.

 

Do you have a favourite tax related song? Share your favourites below.

Replies (4)

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By User deleted
02nd Dec 2009 11:58

Gershwin

'They can't take that away from me'?

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By Mark Lee
05th Jan 2010 18:18

No wonder taxes are high

This is a song performed in a 1958 musical comedy version of Aladdin written especially for television with a book by S.J. Perelman and music and lyrics by Cole Porter.

Not a lot has changed in 50 years!

I heard this on Elaine Paige on Sunday 6/12/09 but have sadly been unable to trace the lyrics despite various references to the song eg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aladdin_%28TV_special%29  and http://www.answers.com/topic/aladdin-film-1
 

Who can rise to the challenge?

Mark

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By Belarieq
30th Jan 2013 19:09

Interesting take on a tax song

An artist I've seen perform back when I lived in Amsterdam, Frank de Boer, wrote a song about taxes from the perspective of Jack in 'Jack and the Beanstalk.'

I couldn't find it on iTunes, but I found a recording of the song. It's called The Blood of a Tax-Paying Man.

I thought it was pretty interesting. It says that he wrote it when the Dutch government almost passed a law that would make burglary tools deductible for thieves. Wow. That's just hard to believe, even for that country.

 

 

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By houten
19th May 2016 13:47

Interesting article, I also found this song was quite special : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTGko5inWaI

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