50 of the Best Opening Lines in Music

A while back, we posted a selection of our favorite opening lines from literature -– everything from Albert Camus from Mark Twain. The whole thing stirred some healthy debate in the comments section (as did the follow-up post about closing lines), and we liked the idea so much that we thought we’d extend it to the world of music. So here’s a selection of our favorite opening lines of songs. As ever, feel free to add your own in the comments section!

The attention-grabbers

“They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom/For trying to change the system from within”Leonard Cohen, “First We Take Manhattan”
Leave it to Leonard Cohen, one of the finest lyricists ever to grace the face of our planet, to pen an opening line that captures your attention.

“I’ve been contemplating suicide/But it really doesn’t suit my style”The Boys Next Door, “Shivers”
Similarly attention-grabbing is this line from the 1979 debut single from The Boys Next Door. Fronted by a young Nick Cave, the band would soon move to London and evolve into The Birthday Party, but arguably never again produced anything quite as perfect as “Shivers.” Cave didn’t write it, either – it was guitarist Rowland S. Howard, who wasn’t particularly impressed with Cave’s interpretation of his song.

“I don’t believe in an interventionist God”Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Into My Arms”
Speaking of Nick Cave, only he could start a tender love song with a meditation on theology, and still make it sound beautiful.

“Jesus died for somebody’s sins/But not mine”Patti Smith, “Gloria”
Yes, it’s a predictable choice, but this is a classic for a reason.

“In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection”Silver Jews, “Random Rules”
We rhapsodized about Silver Jews frontman David Berman’s poems recently, and his lyrics are just as wryly amusing and keenly observed. This account of ending up in hospital after some unspecified binge is both sad and self-deprecatingly funny.