Songs of Revenge and Forgiveness

Senior producer Mitch Hanley chooses the music for each week's SOF program. He posted a blog entry on Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog and we received more than a hundred suggestions. We included many in the program and have selected a few more for your listening enjoyment. Somewhat surprisingly, we received more songs about revenge than forgiveness. Add your own.

Jason Pitzl-Waters recommended:

Track: "Dead Man Walkin"
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: Dead Man Walking: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture

"Just about anything from the "Dead Man Walking" soundtrack would fit."

John recommended:

Track: "Goodbye Earl"
Artist: Dixie Chicks
Album: Fly

Mitch included:

Track: "Lweny Dongpe (Chantsinging & Lamellaphones Lokeme)"
Artist: Ensemble Watmon Amone
Album: Ouganda: Musique des Acholi Uganda (Music of the Acholi)

Erin recommended:

Track: "Prodigal Son"
Artist: Sam Amidon
Album: All Is Well

"'Prodigal Son' by Sam Amidon is a really wonderful and haunting folk song about admitting guilt and the resulting forgiveness."

Mitch included:

Track: "Prodigal Son"
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Album: Beggar's Banquet

"Yesterday morning I was making breakfast, cleaning the kitchen, and listening to the Rolling Stones' Beggar's Banquet, one of my favorite of their albums (includes 'Sympathy for the Devil,' 'Street Fightin Man,' etc.). This record has a great rendition of the story of the prodigal son, a biblical parable with a message that I have never appreciated, until yesterday."

(Read more of Mitch's thoughts on this song on Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog)

Tamara recommended:

Track: "Rain"
Artist: Patty Griffin
Album: A Kiss in Time

kenwolman recommended:

Track: "These Boots Are Made For Walking"
Artist: Nancy Sinatra
Album: Boots

"The worst song ever written from point of view of both words and performance: Nancy Sinatra singing 'These Boots Are Made for Walking.' I wish I was joking…"

Peg Ryan recommended:

Track: "All Things Must Pass"
Artist: George Harrison
Album: All Things Must Pass

Nathan S. recommended:

Track: "Angry Any More"
Artist: Ani DiFranco
Album: Carnegie Hall

Jesse Benedict recommended:

Track: "Beethoven: Piano Sonata #14 In C Sharp Minor, Op. 27/2, 'Moonlight' - 1. Adagio Sostenuto"
Artist: Andre Watts
Album: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas #13, 14 & 23

"Personally, I find that while forgiveness is so difficult, the act of revenge usually brings me back to... forgiveness. In moments of forgiveness, I find myself surrounded by the comforting tones of Moonlight Sonata: the repetition brings dark tones, but the higher accents leave a sense of neutrality. I am left with a piece that saturates my anger and brings light to the next breathing moment.


In angered passion, I find the eccentric sounds of Nine Inch Nails' album "Only", specifically "Why do you get all the love in the world" to be a track that, through sound, helps amplify and subdue any emotions of anger or revenge. I can live out the moment during the span of this song and by the end, I am completely through the range of emotion: revenge only begins another cycle for anger."

Karen_Z recommended:

Track: "Anyway"
Artist: Suzzy and Maggie Roche
Album: Zero Church

Ilona Piotrowska recommended:

Track: "Cry Me A River"
Artist: Justin Timberlake
Album: Justified

Sarah N. recommended:

Track: "Digging In the Dirt"
Artist: Peter Gabriel
Album: Us

Mitch included:

Track: "For Jan"
Artist: Dave Hagedorn
Album: Solidliquid

Mitch included:

Track: "Hey Joe"
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Album: Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix

Trent Gilliss recommended:

Track: "The Mercy Seat"
Artist: Johnny Cash
Album: American III: Solitary Man

Mitch included:

Track: "O Lord There Is Noone Save You (Ma Li Fi L-Wujudi Siwaka)"
Artist: Cheikh Mohammed El Helbawy
Album: La Chadhiliyya: Sufi Chants from Cairo

Jenel Farrell recommended:

Track: "A Quick One, While He's Away"
Artist: The Who
Album: A Quick One (Happy Jack)

"Patti Smith has a song called 'Revenge,' and 'A Quick One (While He's Away)' by The Who ends with a chorus of 'You are forgiven,' but I can't think of any single song that features both revenge and forgiveness ('I'll have my revenge, but I forgive you'?)."

Mitch included:

Track: "We Can Work It Out"
Artist: The Beatles
Album: 1962-1966

Mitch included:

Track: "Barber: Agnus Dei , Op. 11"
Artist: The Choir Of New College Oxford
Album: Agnus Dei: Music Of Inner Harmony

Earlygirl (and several others) recommended:

Track: "You Oughta Know"
Artist: Alanis Morissette
Album: Jagged Little Pill

"MUST include Alanis Morrisette's 'You Oughtta Know.' Very angry, very cathartic. For months after I was betrayed by my (now ex) husband, I played this repeatedly in my car while driving and shouting the lyrics. I'm much better now. :-)"


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is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami in Florida, where he directs the Laboratory for Social and Clinical Psychology. He's the author of Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct.

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