We can go through plenty of emotions in our lives. Some are good, others not so good. But, of all the bad emotions, betrayal could be the worst. It can leave us lost, dazed, and confused. Was it our fault? Something we said or did? Quite often, it isn’t; it is the other person.
And it need not be a lover or partner. This could be a long-time friend or a business partner; it could even be a family member. It’s that betrayal of trust that hurts the most. And, we have likely all been the victims of trust at some point.
Songwriters Are Not Slow To Use The Theme
Songs about betrayal have been around ever since people started writing music. In some ways, for some, it is a therapy. A way of relieving the anger. Soo, I’ve decided to take a look at a few of them.
Whatever the reason, they often stir up plenty of emotion. Did I say Dazed and Confused? Let’s start there.
Top 110 Songs About Betrayal
Dazed and Confused (Remaster) by Led Zeppelin
If, as some people say, Led Zeppelin II was their best album, then it is possible that Led Zeppelin I is not far behind. This is a track from that album.
Unfortunately, it is another of these seemingly endless examples of Jimmy Page, shall we say, “borrowing” the basis of the song from elsewhere. Not as blatant as “Whole Lotta Love,” which still makes me cringe today.
The original song…
Written by Jake Holmes in 1967. It was played by The Yardbirds in their stage set. It was also on their album Yardbirds 68. At the time, Page was a member of the Yardbirds. Then a couple of years later, it appears on Led Zep One with a few minor lyrical and vocal changes, but not enough to warrant claiming writing credits.
It ended up in court, and Holmes was given credits. It is a song about a girl having thoughts about ending a relationship and the indecision and confusion she feels.
The First Cut Is The Deepest by PP Arnold
PP Arnold had been a member of the “Ikettes,” backing singers with Ike and Tina Turner. After a UK tour, she decided to stay in the UK, where she said she was respected more as a person than in the US.
She had some success, with this song perhaps being the most memorable. She had a brief fling with Steve Marriott while he was with the Small Faces, and she sang on “Tin Soldier.”
The Best Version…
“First Cut” is a track from her 1967 album New Masters. The song was written by British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens and was later released by Sheryl Crow. In my view, it is the PP Arnold version that is the best, which reached number 18 in the UK chart.
It is a song about someone wanting to love someone again but is frightened to get involved after being betrayed by a former lover. A great song with a very good performance from a grossly underrated singer.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
If ever there was the archetypal song about betrayal by a partner, then this is probably it. Getting cheated by someone is quite bad enough. But hearing it come from someone else seems to make it that much worse.
That is the subject of this enormous Motown classic. A song about a man who hears that his girl or wife, it doesn’t specify, is going back to her ex. Originally recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye made it a signature betrayal song.
It was written for Motown by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Marvin Gaye’s version was released in 1966, a year after Gladys Knight had seen success with it. It became Motown’s biggest selling record for many years. And one of the greatest songs about betrayal ever recorded.
You Won’t See Me (Remastered) by The Beatles
It isn’t usually very long in any list of songs before you come across a song from The Beatles. This one is from the album Rubber Soul. At the time, at three and a half minutes, it was the band’s longest ever recording.
The album came out in 1965, and this was one of the last songs they recorded. It was written by Paul McCartney, and there is plenty of contempt evident for his then-girlfriend Jane Asher.
The relationship was coming to an end…
That much was clear. Asher had gone off to Bristol to work in a Charles Dickens play, and McCartney couldn’t reach her on the phone. “Act your age,” he tells her. He felt she had betrayed him by just going off as she did and then refusing to speak with him.
Roadie Mal Evans would keep people amused by stories of his contribution. He held a solitary note during the final verse on a Hammond Organ. “I played organ with the boys,” he would say. He got his credit for his illustrious performance. A good bloke was Mal.
In the Air Tonight (2015 Remaster) by Phil Collins
Yes, that song with “that” drum break in it. Phil was touring with Genesis at the time of his marriage breakup in 1980, and their schedule was pretty hectic. He was, and some would say still is, prone to slightly erratic behavior. His ex-wife claimed that is what caused the split.
There is a certain amount of cynicism in some circles about the split. I read one commentator say that when people get divorced, it usually costs the man a fortune. But, with all the songs he wrote about it, Phil actually made a fortune.
Nevertheless, it must have been a traumatic time for him as he watched her go off with a painter and decorator. For a while, when he performed the song, he would play his keyboard with a pot of paint and a brush beside him. Either very strange or very funny.
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson
Very little comes from these “idol” or “got talent” programs. But she did. And she proved to be a worthy winner. With good songs and voice, and powerful stage presence, she bucked the trend. She certainly didn’t disappear into obscurity like most and gave music something worthwhile.
This is a song from her album of the same name released in 2011. It continues the theme of strength and empowerment in women. Something that was always there but was forcibly hidden by some.
It tells us about a relationship that wasn’t at the end as she makes the cutting remark that “the bed is warmer since you left.” She is seemingly intent on letting him know that she is going to be fine and better off without him. A great performance from a very good singer.
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) by Cher
This was taken from her second album from 1966 and was also her second single. It was written by Sonny Bono, who was her husband at the time, and became her biggest selling single of the 60s.
This demonstrated two things. First, Sonny Bono was a better songwriter than many at the time were giving him credit for. And second, it showed what some people suspected – she was going to be a big attraction in the future.
It is one of those songs about looking back on life and recognizing things are not always that happy. That people are going to let us down. A very good song about betrayal with a good performance.
Whiskey In The Jar by Thin Lizzy
This is a traditional Irish folk song that has been recorded many times over. The mention of the Cork and Kerry mountains tells us that it is set in Southern Ireland. It is a song that tells the story of a highwayman who is betrayed by his partner.
He has robbed a government official to get her money, but she is not interested in him, just the cash. She keeps it and betrays him. The song never identifies her as his wife or lover.
It is unclear exactly where the song came from. Although it is possible that it loosely refers to a highwayman, Patrick Fleming. He was executed in 1650. Whoever it is referring to is not important.
The song was made popular by the Dubliners in the 60s and then by The Highwaymen in 1962. But, it was the 1973 Thin Lizzy version that everyone remembers, and rightly so. They turned it into more of a folk-rock song, and it established them as a potent force in rock music. Other rockers have also performed it, including Metallica and Bryan Adams. But, it is the ‘Lizzy’ version that stands supreme.
Back Stabbers by The O’Jays
Back to the Philadelphia sound, “pop-soul” music of the 70s for this one from the O’Jays. A hit at the time, it was taken from their album of the same name.
This song might have coded references to people that you come across in the music business. It talks about people who smile in your face and then stab you in the back. The music industry is full of those. It was then and still is today, though maybe not so much.
It was intended to be a disco-type dance track which was the vogue at the time. Later, it was covered by Tina Turner. Not going to win too many literary or songwriting awards, but it does emphasize a type of betrayal that is very common.
Lyin’ Eyes (2013 Remaster) by The Eagles
I suppose we have all heard the stories. Young girl snares old man to lead a comfortable life. It has its strings attached, though, doesn’t it? And, it is interesting to me that some women think that while they are being unfaithful with a younger man, the older man doesn’t know. Of course, he does.
The Eagles were still a fledgling band when the idea for the song came from Glenn Frey. A lot of the places they would play had these women on the lookout for their sugar daddy. Glenn remarked that they didn’t even bother to hide their lying eyes.
A Common Scenario…
Of course, it isn’t limited to California; it goes on all over the world. And, I dare say, the deceit does as well. It is a sad and lonely life that she wasn’t expecting despite the house, probably the car, and the money. Every form of refuge has its price.
The lyrics from Glenn Frey and Don Henly capture the situation perfectly. Showing a little understanding but no sympathy. Simply, one of the best songs about betrayal.
Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan
This may well have been the song that changed the writing capabilities of so many. Bob had often called people to task over the years. Some, in those early days, called him rude. But only those he was talking about.
This song changed attitudes. Joni Mitchell said it was a revelation to her. Suddenly, she realized you could write about anyone and anything.
The intended recipient of the cutting remarks has never been formally identified. There are suggestions as to who it might be, but there always will be. But there are lines such as:
“I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, You’d know what a drag it is to see you.”
Someone that may have been close to him at some point, maybe? Ouch. Dylan is at his best. One of those backstabbing songs we mentioned a few songs ago.
You Oughta Know by Alanis Morrisette
This is a track from her third studio album, Jagged Little Pill. Her previous two albums had not had too much of an impact. This album, however, introduced this Canadian singer to the world. Most people will know the song “Ironic” from that album, but this will come a close second.
An Attempt To Change Attitudes
Released in 1995, it had an impact in more ways than one. Women had always been dictated to by the music bosses. This was a slap in the face for those that tried with her. She wasn’t having it anymore, and she wanted to let them and everyone else know she was angry.
She never did identify the person who the song was aimed at. It is just very clear that something happened, which she portrays as cheating and a betrayal. A great song from a great album.
Reason to Believe by Tim Hardin
Undoubtedly, one of the great songwriters of his generation who, in many ways, stayed under the radar. He wrote some great songs, including this one, but he also wrote the much-recorded “If I Were A Carpenter.”
A tortured soul, like so many others, he died from a heroin overdose in 1980, aged just 39. He left us with his work, though, one of which was “Reason To Believe.”
It was covered, and I suppose you could say “made famous” by Rod Stewart on the album, Every Picture Tells A Story. But, it was Tim’s version that resonated most with some people. His sincerity is evident in the singing, especially when he plaintively sings:
“Knowing, that you lied, Straight-faced, while I cried”
Great song and straight-to-the-point lyrics. Telling someone he just can’t believe in them, he needs a reason.
Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri
No Scrubs – TLC
Foolish Games – Jewel
Shadow of the Day – Linkin Park
Cold Cold Heart – Hank Williams
You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
Rolling in the Deep – Adele
Lovefool – The Cardigans
I Heard You Were Looking for Me – Hank Williams Jr.
How to Save a Life – The Fray
Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
Cryin’ – Aerosmith
The Break-Up Song – Greg Kihn Band
Behind Blue Eyes – The Who
Careless Whisper – George Michael
I Don’t Care Anymore – Phil Collins
A Face In The Crowd – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
I Don’t Want To Know – Fleetwood Mac
November Rain – Guns N’ Roses
Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt
Say It Ain’t So – Weezer
Take A Bow – Madonna
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go – Bob Dylan
I Heard Love Is Blind – Amy Winehouse
Part-Time Lover – Stevie Wonder
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – Journey
Used To Love Her – Guns N’ Roses
Changes – Tupac
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams
Every Breath You Take – The Police
Kerosene – Miranda Lambert
I Knew You Were Trouble – Taylor Swift
Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) – Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand
Dirty Laundry – Don Henley
More 60 Songs About Betrayal
- Irreplaceable – Beyoncé
- Used to Love You – Gwen Stefani
- Cry Me a River – Justin Timberlake
- Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
- Love Stinks – The J. Geils Band
- Brokenhearted – Karmin
- Blank Space – Taylor Swift
- Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood
- Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles
- It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy (feat. Rikrok)
- Call Out My Name – The Weeknd
- I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan
- Poker Face – Lady Gaga
- Gave Up – Nine Inch Nails
- Love Bites – Def Leppard
- Hurt – Nine Inch Nails
- Tainted Love – Soft Cell
- Love Lies – Khalid & Normani
- Say My Name – Destiny’s Child
- One Way or Another – Blondie
- The One That Got Away – Katy Perry
- Same Old Love – Selena Gomez
- Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
- Love Interruption – Jack White
- You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone – Brooks & Dunn
- Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
- Treat You Better – Shawn Mendes
- If You Could Read My Mind – Gordon Lightfoot
- Ghost of Love – David Lynch
- Lips of an Angel – Hinder
- Love Is a Battlefield – Pat Benatar
- So Much To Say – Dave Matthews Band
- Gold Digger – Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx
- Smokestack Lightning – Howlin’ Wolf
- Judas – Lady Gaga
- No More Tears – Ozzy Osbourne
- Don’t Speak – No Doubt
- Black Hearted Woman – The Allman Brothers Band
- Love Is A Losing Game – Amy Winehouse
- Bad Blood – Taylor Swift
- One – U2
- Beds are Burning – Midnight Oil
- Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone – The Temptations
- Sorry – Justin Bieber
- Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks
- Song Cry – Jay-Z
- The End – The Doors
- Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
- Promiscuous – Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
- Can’t Trust Thots – Wash featuring French Montana
- Estranged – Guns N’ Roses
- Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
- Cold Hearted – Paula Abdul
- Toxic – Britney Spears
- Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!) – Blu Cantrell
- Picture to Burn – Taylor Swift
- Gives You Hell – The All-American Rejects
- Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
- I Don’t Want You Back – Eamon
- She Used to Be Mine – Sara Bareilles
Searching for Songs with Substance?
We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs about Fighting, the Best Songs About Walking, the Best Songs About Change, the Best Songs About Dreams, the Best Songs About Friendship, and the Best Songs about Friday for more great song selection.
You’ll need to listen to all these great tracks. So check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Best Headphones for Music, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
Songs About Betrayal – Final Thoughts
I’m out of time. As usual, when creating these lists, there are always some great songs on the subject you have to exclude. It’s always difficult deciding which. But when it comes to songs of betrayal, a few others should be mentioned:
- “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge.
- “Evil-Hearted You” by The Yardbirds.
- “Games People Play” by Joe South.
There are others, of course. It is a subject that understandably has inspired some great music and some even greater lyrics.
Until next time, let the music play.