The risk and gain excitement of gambling has regularly lent its themes to the world of music over the years, with which many classics have been penned. Whether it’s handing down life lesson metaphors, the glamour and excitement of Sin City, the highs of a big win, the plummeting lows of a heavy loss or simply the who-gives-a-damn thrills of whatever happens, happens, music and gambling go together perfectly. Here are five songs that prove it.
Poker Face – Lady Gaga
We’ll get this one out of the way early doors because technically, it’s not about gambling at all. Rather just the mad ramblings of a wannabe weirdo whose expressionless face renders her opponents unable to tell what she’s really thinking. Or if she’s even thinking at all, which she probably isn’t which may or may not be the point. It is however the most famous song of recent times to feature poker in the title, thus it has been included. Given that the poker face is an important part of any grinder’s game, we’ll go ahead and make the connection that while this song is not about gambling, it comes so close to poker that the 2008 number one hit fully deserves of its place in this here list.
Frankly we think Lady Gaga would suck at the poker table in real life, with the garish costumes causing a scene and annoying other players. Like many of us who would struggle to keep our cool against established pros, she may be better off playing online. (Incidentally, tons of US poker sites are still available – LegalPoker.com is worth a visit for more information on that). Online it’s way easier to maintain a poker face!
Ace of Spades – Motorhead
From poker face to mole face as the recently departed and much loved Lemmy, front man to motorhead, shouted his way through this song which, unlike the above, is very much related to gambling. Despite coming across as more of a queen of hearts, contrary to popular opinion, Lemmy actually preferred the Ace of Spades and goes out the way to prove it in this 1980 classic. “If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man” declares a confident Lemmy (RIP) who goes on to admit that winning and losing are all the same to him, so little does he care anyway. Rock on Lemmy!
The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
While the beginnings of this gambling classic are uncertain, the most successful recording of the song was made by Manchester’s not-as-good as the Beatles, answer to The Beatles, otherwise known as The Animals. This version is however very good and was even used by Martin Scorsese for his traditional everybody winds up getting whacked montage near the end of a movie moment in his 1995 epic, Casino. And, heck, if it’s good enough for Marty, then it’s good enough for us. The vibe and view point of the song seems to emanate from that of a remorseful young boy who had a drunken gambler for a dad. “My father was a gamblin’ man, down in New Orleans” we are told before, “Now the only thing a gambler needs is a suitcase and trunk. And the only time he’s satisfied is when he’s on a drunk” – ouch. One considered opinion is that the song, originally folk, may have been bought to the US by British settlers and the lyrics altered to New Orleans, from “Basildon”. Not really, it was actually Lowestoft, but that doesn’t improve things much.
Luck be a Lady Tonight – Frank Sinatra
Ol’ Blue eyes gives it his all for this Vegasian classic. It’s typically schmoozy and crooning and was originally recorded for a 1950’s film about a casino and wants his luck to act in the same manner as lady might were she in the situation. While some might assume that to mean that you should never ask luck how old it is, the song does clarify that what Frank actually means is ” a lady never leaves your side” and that it would be handy if luck were to behave in the same polite manner. Whether somebody with Frank’s “connections” really needed luck at all is another matter altogether.
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
Mr Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers’s song “The Gambler” contains the classic chorus lines, “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em”. It’s called The Gambler, is about a gambler and yet, it is supposedly a metaphor about handling what life gives you. What life gave this song however, was a 1980 spin off TV movie starring Chicken Roaster, Kenny himself which was also called The Gambler and was about, you guessed it, a gambler. Their hot streak continued some years later when Rogers reprised the character in four more made-for-TV movies in 1994, while a spin off “The Gambler” slot machine was sold to casinos around the US, proving that this gambler truly was a winner.