I'm just going to say it -- the inspiration for this post is that for my entire life up until now, for some reason, I've attracted unavailable men. The last one was married (I did not meet up with him in person, but still, it was a doozy of an experience for me.) But, after doing much soul searching since the whole thing happened, I discovered what was wrong with my mindset that attracted it in the first place, and have since changed it. No more...and if by some chance it does happen again I know better now to nip it in the bud immediately.
But...people are human, and that includes songwriters and musicians. Sometimes people just can't help themselves; the attraction of another person outside of a marriage or relationship is so strong, as is the unavailable party. Sometimes it's single men that get involved with a taken woman. If you're looking for a serious relationship, I would personally advise against letting it happen because it almost always ends in a broken heart, especially for the person that was unattached and entered into it. Don't put yourself into a position of being used, because you deserve way better than that. But if you do and it implodes (as it will), you need to learn to forgive yourself and the other person. (Oh, and it goes without saying...if you're married or have a significant other, PLEASE don't try to drag another person into YOUR mess because you're unhappy with your relationship. Work on your marriage or get a divorce!)
Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I guess this is a long, roundabout way of introducing several retro songs that have been written about infidelity and cheating. I suppose some of these make such scenarios seem glamorous, but when Billy Paul was singing about "Me and Mrs. Jones" I bet he wasn't taking into account what may have become of him had Mr. Jones found out about the affair; now that would have made for an enticing "answer" song! Anyways, here's ten songs about cheaters.
"Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams (1953)
Inspired by Williams' rocky marriage at the time to Audrey Sheppard and subsequent divorce, it became a country standard, especially as Williams died shortly after recording it.
Most shameful lyric: "Your cheatin' heart // Will pine some day // And crave the love // You threw away."
"Lipstick On Your Collar" by Connie Francis (1959)
One of the more upbeat songs in this list about cheating, despite the double blow delivered to the singer; not only was she cheated on, but her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend. (Kick that "friend" to the curb, Connie.) George Barnes performed the guitar solo on this track, which impressed a young Eric Clapton at the time.
Most shameful lyric: "Who walked in but Mary Jane // Lipstick all a mess // Were you kissing my best friend? // Guess the answer's yes."
"Backstreet Girl" by the Rolling Stones (1967)
This underrated gem by the Stones (featuring vibraphone by Brian Jones) used to make me a bit peeved -- until I realized that it could serve as a warning not to get mixed up with a married man. The harsh reality is that when you lover is married, you can't have a real relationship with them; you can't be seen in public and you don't really get much of his time. And that's exactly what Jagger is singing about in this song; "Don't want you part of my world. Just you be my backstreet girl." Uh...no thanks.
By the way, Bobby Darin recorded a version of this song (he was a Stones fan) which was actually the first time I heard it.
Most shameful lyric: "Please don't be part of my life // Please keep yourself to yourself // Please don't you bother my wife // That way you won't get no hell."
"(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" by Luther Ingram (1972)
My, Luther Ingram's got a lot on his plate...a mistress that he needs in addition to a wife and two kids at home. What's interesting is how many times this song has been covered by other artists, including women, with lyrics changed to reflect the point of view of the other woman in the song. And although I haven't listened to it yet, Millie Jackson recorded an 11-minute long version of the song that includes a middle monologue portion where she defends her position as the mistress.
Most shameful lyric: "Am I wrong to fall so deeply in love with you // Knowing I got a wife and two little children depending on me, too?"
"Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul (1972)
What can I say? This song made cheating sound sexy. This was the only hit for Billy Paul, but it ended up becoming a classic and covered numerous times.
Most shameful lyrics: "And now she'll go her way, I'll go mine // But tomorrow we'll meet at the same place, the same time."
"Dirty Work" by Steely Dan (1972)
Man, was there something about 1972 (the year I was born, by the way) that inspired so many songs about cheating?
Most shameful lyric: "Like the castle in its corner in a medieval game // I foresee terrible trouble, and I stay here just the same."
"No Tell Lover" by Chicago (1978)
I've been on a Chicago kick lately and it always amuses me when many fans complain that the band became too ballad-laden in the 80s when Peter Cetera was mostly the frontman. The truth is, while Chicago's sound has changed drastically through the decades, the group had released a lot of ballads that charted during the 1970s, when Terry Kath was still alive (PHENOMENAL forgotten guitar player, by the way...watch for a post coming soon here about Kath and the documentary of his life his daughter is putting together.) "No Tell Lover" is an underrated one sung by...who else...Cetera from the excellent Hot Streets album (which, OK, was the band's first album after Kath's death but it's still a good one.)
Most shameful lyric: "Walk away if you see me coming // even though it's you I'm loving."
"I Know There's Something Going On" by Frida (1982)
While watching the music video, all I could think of was anyone who would cheat on the lovely Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA must have rocks in their head. Phil Collins produced and played the drums on this hit single as well as the entire solo album it came from, Something's Going On.
"Careless Whisper" by Wham! (1984)
Although sad, "Careless Whisper" is one of the '80s' most beautiful and haunting ballads, especially with that piercing saxophone rift which is reminiscent of someone crying. It's funny now to think back on how many couples at my junior high danced to this one on Friday night dances, apparently thinking it was a romantic love song.
Most shameful lyric: "To the heart and mind // Ignorance is kind // There's no comfort in the truth // Pain is all you'll find."
"My Heart Can't Tell You No" by Rod Stewart (1988)
OK, this isn't really about cheating, but it is about a love triangle, and not long ago I could so relate to the lyrics.
Most shameful lyric: "There's only one solution I know // You gotta stay away from me."