Nick Cave: Six Definitive Songs

As Nick Cave celebrates his birthday, we believe he is around 356 years old including his past lives, we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate some of the music which has defined him.

With such a vast discography, it is incredibly hard to choose just 6 songs that make Nick’s career one of the most iconic in the industry, but we thought we owed it to the sweetest demon you’ll ever meet to give it a try.

We will only be looking at Nick’s eponymous work, i.e. no Birthday Party or Grinderman, before you start sending in your letter-bombs. After all, it’s his birthday.

There She Goes, My Beautiful World’ (2004)

Delving straight into the 21st Century Nick we have all come to love, this track was a definition not only of his epic ability to score an operatic-pop-tinged-beauty but of his transcendence from sprawling punk brat to bonafide musical legend.

The track is taken from Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, an absolutely astounding album, and shows Nick‘s handling of a concept as well as his ability to wield a gospel choir at will should he need to.

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Henry Lee (1996)

A romantic diversion for Cave on his Murder Ballads album saw PJ Harvey jump into the hot seat to sing across from Nick. Apart from the obvious tension between the two in the video, the complimenting vocals are what push this track beyond the pale.

Lilting piano and Harvey’s vocal are perfectly juxtaposed by Cave’s drawl, which offers the dark night to the breaking dawn.

Red Right Hand (1994)

The iconic clang of the bell is now the highlight of many a playlist across the world, and rightly it is considered one of Nick’s best efforts. A typical morbid and dusty setting is vividly imagined, performed and delivered on this track.

When you add to this a video more befitting a horror film you are left with one of the most iconic moments of Nick’s career. It’s Nick Cave, all over, head to… red right hand. Sorry.

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Stagger Lee (1996)

Ooof, Nick at his ugliest and most brilliant, saw the creation of one of the vilest protagonists in musical history – excluding Brandon Flowers, of course. The titular character of the track Stagger Lee was a gun-wielding, whore-abusing, dirt-clad, disgusting excuse for a human.

Nick, creator, and deliverer of such a character, manages to narrate this song and experience with such equal measures of venom and nonchalance that he almost created his own genre in one single song.

The Mercy Seat (1988)

An ode to the electric chair, a simple concept expertly delivered by a ferocious Nick Cave, ready to stomp out the heads and minds of anyone in his way. Lyrically poignant and performed with his iconic drawl, the song fills every crevice you allow it to.

5 minutes of impending fear and dread is what Nick does best and on ‘The Mercy Seat’ he does it better than ever. Imagine a poem from the Romantic era then imagine it being devoted not to the sublimity of nature but the beauty of execution… and you’re there.

The Ship Song (1990)

A lullaby of sorts in comparison to some of the aforementioned work of the sweetest demon you’ll ever meet, this track sees Nick open his heart a little more than we’re used to, and because of it, we can’t help but feel cradled and cared for.

A sweet song with a weirdly sweeter video, the track is Nick showcasing the beginning of his change from punk to icon, it’s worth every single note of its conception.

Hit us in the comments with your top picks

Arthur McCallaghan 

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