With the Sons of Anarchy series finale coming up on December 9th, it’s hard to not get nostalgic over the last seven seasons of mayhem, machismo, brotherhood, love, dysfunction, loyalty and betrayal. Instead of getting depressed over the end of Jax Teller, I thought I would remember one of the things that surprised me the most about this show: the music. Nobody does a musical montage like SOA. Kurt Sutter and Bob Thiele have found a way to weave new or re-interpretated music into some of the most pivotal scenes of the show. The music on Sons of Anarchy elevates the drama, the lyrics provide a deeper prospective to the turmoil on screen and the musicians chosen are rarely known beyond their smaller, niche markets. I would have never heard of The Forest Rangers, White Buffalo, Noah Gundersen, Joshua James or Greg Holden without Sons of Anarchy and now all these artist are in heavy rotation on my iTunes.
I’m dreading the series finale on Tuesday but I’m super curious to see what song Kurt chooses for his last SOA musical montage.
12. Lullaby for a Solider – Maggie Siff. This song is from Season 6, episode 9, “John 8:32.” Juxtaposed with all the anxiety and stress of the episode which culminates with a terrifying scene between Jax and Lowen when Jax finally realizes what Tara has done. Maggie’s sweet voice reads like a collective sigh for the audience. Something wicked this way comes. She’s resigned to it. It’s extremely sad and somewhat haunting. What more can the caged bird do but sing. She sings for her hopes, her mistakes and her sons.
May you always be brave in the shadows
‘Till the sun shines upon you again
Hear this prayer in my heart, and we’ll ne’er be apart
May you stay in the arms of the angels
11. Till It’s Gone – Yelawolf This song was in the Season 7 premiere, “Black Widower.” SOA has featured Yelawolf before, but I was so happy to hear this newest song on my favourite show. The beat is like Jax’s frenetic heartbeat. Hard and fast – driven by a deep-rooted pain and thirst for revenge that he can’t comprehend. Jax thinks he is being a man by trying to avenge Tara’s death but he is too clouded by his pain to realize that he is basically being coward- avoiding his kids; avoiding his wife’s grave and suppressing his feelings with violent bravado and rash decisions.
You handle your own when you become a man And become a man when you handle your own Ain’t much I can do, but I do what I can But what can I do if I do till it’s gone? Oh oh
10. Forever Young – Audra Mae. It’s so rare to see a happy moment in Sons of Anarchy but this cover of the Bob Dylan classic was used in the beginning of Season 1, episode 12, the “Sleep of Babes.” Baby Abel is finally coming home from the hospital, Clay and Gemma are being all cute in the kitchen; Tara tells Jax she loves him sleepily – Jax is worried and stressed but you can’t have everyone happy at the same moment – this is Sons of Anarchy after all. I love this cover because the singer’s voice is angelic but also a bit gritty and sleepy. This song humanizes the SOA family because it illustrates that despite the extreme lives they live; they still want the same fundamental things for their children.
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
To be honest, I never really thought about the lyrics of Forever Young before I heard this cover on SOA. Jax obviously wants his newborn son Abel, to grow up surrounded by love, be strong, righteous and true. But as the series unfolds, we see that Jax’s pursuit of the truth about his club, about Tara, and about his Father lead him to make some terrible, terrible choices. Ultimately, the truths break him.
09. Family – Noah Gundersen. This song was used for the musical montage at the end of Season 4, episode 6, “With an X.“ There’s a lot that happens: Jax beats up Ima, Unser leaves a death threat in Tara’s car; Juice is a fucking mess. But everything that everyone is doing is in the name of their “family,” either their biological family or their chosen family.
And someone lies bleeding
Someone got violent and did not think twice
And I watched you my brother
Making a fool of the moon tonight
If you don’t know Noah Gundersen, I strongly urge you to get into him. He writes some of the most heartbreaking and truthful lyrics I have ever heard. I know this song is the same music as Day is Gone, but it’s a testament to how beautifully painful this song is to me that I’ve basically included it twice. For me, this song is about how family can be so cruel, and reckless and crazy, but you stay with them because you feel it’s the right thing to do or you’re scared to forge ahead alone. So you numb yourself to dull the pain and pass the time until it’s all over.
8. Can’t Make it Through the Night – Deadstring Brothers. This song is from Season 2, episode 11, “Service.” I can’t find anything about this band online; I’m not even sure if they are still together. Actually when I first heard this song, which plays when Clay and Gemma get it on at the Teller-Morrow office, I thought it was the Rolling Stones.
She hold me close and life looks easy
Well, Im still cropped by her sight
The pain never leaves me
And I still can’t make it through the night.
I love this song so much because the lyrics are so straightforward and it sounds like something someone would get up to sing after a few to many drinks and a rowdy drunken fight with your partner.
7. Goodbye Dear Friend – Deer Tick. Technically this song is not from a Sons of Anarchy episode but since the cast seems to blur the lines between their real lives and their acting lives, I will too. I first learned about this song from this Goodbye Opie video, that still makes me cry every time I watch it. Deer Tick wrote this song about a friend that died in a house fire. For me, it makes me think about a certain friend, who was one of my closest friends for a brief but intense period of my life. She didn’t die or anything but we just burned out of each others lives. But sometimes, I’ll see an old photo or hear an old song and think about her and how inseparable we were and now I’m not sure I would recognize her if she was standing right in front of me.
Some stories break your heart
And some with such applaud
Buried deep inside, where it’s ok to cry
Some boys won’t shed a tear
Oh, but I tell it like this here
It can break down and get me where it hurts the most
Deer Tick is a pretty amazing rock band. They even have a Nirvana cover band called Deervana. The lead singer’s voice is so gravelly and solemn that I was pretty surprised to discover that the band does a lot of cool, happy, rockabilly songs too. One of my favourites is called In Our Time, which is about how cool they used to be before they had kids and responsibilities.
6. John the Revelator - The Forest Rangers. This song is featured in Season 1, episode 13, “The Revelator,” and is arguably the most iconic song from the series. I don’t know much about the Bible so this song was completely new to me when I heard it on the show. I was instantly intrigued. The melody and the bluesy twang are basically begging you to tramp around your house failing your arms around looking for John the Revelator. What I really love about the song is the sense of defiance in the delivery of the lyrics. It mirrors the defiance in Jax, who now knows what Clay and Tig have done.
5. The Lost Boy – Greg Holden. This song is from Season 5, episode 4, “Stolen Huffy.” This is the episode with Opie’s funeral. It’s sad but in true SOA fashion, the main storyline is juxtaposed with some random car chases, fights and a random guest starring turn for Disney princess, Ashley Tisdale. It’s a testament to how perfect this song fits the character of Opie,that I have read two books about the Lost Boys of Sudan, read countless articles, watched the documentary, and still this song, which was written about the Lost Boys of Sudan, makes me think of Opie’s skull getting crushed; Jax’s horrified reaction; that old photo of Jax and Opie that Jax places in Opie’s kutte pocket and not the real heroes that actually inspired this beautiful song. Oh you beautiful manipulative bastard, Kurt Sutter!
A hero into the masses, to those born without chances
There’s a freedom that everyone deserves
I know there’s greed and there’s corruption
I’ve seen death and mass destruction
But I’m telling you, and I hope that I’m heard
4. Come Healing – Leonard Cohen. This song was used in the musical montage at the end of Season 6, episode 1, Straw. I got into Sons of Anarchy a bit late- I think Season five was airing and we were given the season 1 DVD which we devoured in like two days. Then we bought all the DVDs and were embarrassingly hooked. So much so, that I started getting my BF to shave his beard like Jax and he ‘suggested’ I get highlights and wear my boots more often. Season six was the first season we watched live and to be honest, I didn’t realize how popular it was. But when I heard this Leonard Cohen song in the episode (which is one of my favourite Cohen songs of all time), I was shocked. First I was surprised that Leonard Cohen let his music be on Sons of Anarchy. Then I was shocked that SOA could afford to get the rights to his music. He’s probably the most famous person to have his music on the show (not including artists who have allowed their music to be covered). This song is so beautiful and poignant that it helps the audience understand (somewhat) why Jax cheats on Tara. He is not doing it out of malice or lust or bitterness. He is looking for solace in the midst of the chaos of his life. He needs healing.
Oh gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow
3. Make it Rain – Ed Sheeran. This song is from the musical montage at the end of Season 7, episode 12, “Red Rose.” I don’t know if there’s another song that so succinctly conveys the emotional turmoil woven throughout the whole series. I love Ed Sheeran but had no idea that he could be so bluesy. I had never heard of Foy Vance (the songwriter) but I can say definitively that I am now a fan. After an emotionally tumultuous episode that saw the death of three major characters, this song was a catharsis. This rain is a baptism on my soul, anyone?
Well I know there can come tears from their eyes
But they may as well be in vain
Even though I know these tears come with pain
Even so, I’m just the same.
2. Day is Gone – Noah Gundersen. This song is really too sad for me to listen to that much. It is from season 6, episode 13, “A Mother’s Work.” There is a beautiful cover of this song by Brittany Myers that I listen to more than the original because it doesn’t make me as sad. This song is about regrets the lyrics are so painstakingly honest and so true to what Jax must have been feeling. I find this song so sad because although I’ve never come across my partner murdered on my kitchen floor; I have been confronted with the pain I’ve caused to someone I love. I’ve hurt people sometimes due to rash decisions; sometimes due to petty grudges I can’t seem to shake; sometimes due to my own closed-mindedness or unwillingness to listen. To face that truth can be life altering. Nobody wants to see the people they love in pain, and when you know it’s because of your actions, it’s impossible to stomach.
But its too late, to go back.
I can see the darkness, through the cracks.
Daylight fading, I curse the breaking.
The day is gone.
1. Crash This Train – Joshua James. This song is from Season 6, episode 7, “Sweet and Vaded.” I relate to this song so much. The way it plays in this SOA episode is like a train wreck. Tara plays Unser; fakes her miscarriage; manipulates Jax. It’s all too much to take. Tara was the morale centre of the show and now she has become what she despised. It’s inevitable that all her lies will come crashing down around her. Even she shows signs of wavering when she watches Jax from her hospital bed; when she makes eye contact with Unser in her office. But she can’t stop now. She can’t crash the train. She’s on it now and there’s nothing anyone can do to help her.
To the mothers and to the fathers who’ve done the best they could.
Cuz raisin’ youngins in a messed up world, it ain’t so understood.
So I’ll cover my ears, and my eyes, pretend that love’s the same.
Cuz with one court’s signature, it all becomes erased.
There you have it. Thanks Kurt and co. for the memories. I’ll miss SOA for sure, but the music I found through the show, will keep it on my mind and in my heart always!