20 Songs About Steel

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Written By Julia Mehalko

Julia is a music journalist with a passion for retro songs. She holds a degree in journalism from University of Nevada.

Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of songs about steel! Often, songwriters discussed steel in their songs to help describe just how strong and cold something — or someone — is. However, artists also wrote about steel in the literal, physical sense, especially in old country and blues songs!

Below, you’ll find 20 songs about steel, all from a variety of different genres!

1. “Heart of Steel” by A Flock of Seagulls

In A Flock of Seagulls’ 1984 song “Heart of Steel”, the band talks about someone who has a heart of steel. They also compare this person’s heart to stone! They explain, “A heart of steel breaks a heart of glass”.

So, they’re talking about how this person with a heart of steel doesn’t feel anything — and can hurt others just because of who they are. Elsewhere in the song, the band also explains that this person can do whatever they want, as they have no major fear as other people do.

2. “Legend of John Henry’s Hammer” by Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash released his song “Legend of John Henry’s Hammer” on his 1963 album Blood, Sweat and Tears. In this song, Cash tells the story of John Henry and his steel hammer. When he uses this hammer, he gets work done — and everybody knows what good of a worker he is.

As a result, everybody respects John Henry in town. However, things change for him when his boss says that machines are going to take over his job!

3. “Rags and Old Iron” by Nina Simone

In Nina Simone’s song “Rags and Old Iron”, Simone talks about an old man, heartbreak, and more. She explains how an old man is buying “Rags and Old Iron”. However, through discussing this man, she also describes her own heartbreak and how she would like this sadness to be sold off to someone else.

4. “Cabinessence” by The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys’ 1969 song “Cabinessence”, which appears on their album 20/20, discusses iron. The band sings about American expansion back in the day while also discussing the building of railroads around the country. Therefore, they also talk about the many Chinese immigrants who built these railroads in the west.

This song is broken up into different parts. However, the band repeats the lyrics, “Who ran the iron horse?”

5. “Iron Horse / Born to Lose” by Motorhead

Motorhead’s 1977 song “Iron Horse / Born to Lose” discusses bikers — and iron, as you can tell from the song title. Therefore, the phrase “Iron Horse” refers to motorcycles. Throughout this song, the band discusses a biker’s mentality about riding their motorcycle and seeing the world.

The band sings, “On iron horse he flies / On iron horse he gladly dies / Iron horse’s his wife, iron horse’s his life”.

6. “Heart of Steel” by Lykke Li

Lykke Li released her song “Heart of Steel” on her 2014 album I Never Learn. In this song, Lykke Li sings to her own “Heart of Steel”. She sings, “Oh, heart of steel, don’t kill thy song / That sings so we can heal the harm inside”.

Here, she’s begging her own heart to not close up and become a heart of steel. Instead, she wants to feel the pain of her heartbreak, as she knows that she’ll be able to eventually heal this broken part of her.

However, if her heart closes up to everything, she also knows that she won’t feel love or pain — and she doesn’t want this to happen.

7. “Summer’s Cauldron” by XTC

XTC’s song “Summer’s Cauldron”, which appears on the 1986 album Skylarking, talks about bronze! Now, there are many meanings in this song. As a result, every listener can find a new meaning or interpretation! However, the band has mentioned in the past that the song does describe the moments before a baby is born when they are safe and protected in their mother’s body.

They sing the lyrics, “Me, I’m found floating round and round / Like a bug in brandy / In this big bronze cup”.

8. “Steel Claw” by Tina Turner

Tina Turner released her song “Steel Claw” on her 1984 album Private Dancer. Turner discusses a lot of different things in this song. However, she mainly sings about how difficult it can be for people to get ahead in life, especially those from the working class.

As a result of these feelings, she sings, “Cold law, steel claw / Try to get on board you find the lock is on the door / Well I say no way, no way!”.

9. “Steel and Glass” by John Lennon

John Lennon’s 1974 song “Steel and Glass” also, obviously, talks about steel! In this song, Lennon sings negatively about a lot of different people — including The Beatles’ former manager! Then, throughout the song, he repeats the chorus, “Steel and glass”.

10. “Magnet & Steel” by Walter Egan

In Walter Egan’s 1978 song “Magnet & Steel”, Egan sings about how much he likes his romantic partner. Therefore, this love song follows him as he expresses his love plainly and clearly. He explains in the lyrics how he feels, stating, “For you are a magnet and I am steel”.

He’s explaining that they are both like magnets and steel. So, even if he tried to leave or not be with his partner, he’d always find himself coming back in the end!

11. “Skin to Bone” by Linkin Park

Linkin Park’s 2012 song “Skin to Bone”, which appears on the band’s album LIVING THINGS, opens with the lyrics, “Skin to bone, steel to rust / Ash to ashes, dust to dust”. Here, the band is describing the circle of life, which is that life leads to death — or steel begins to rust.

Elsewhere in the song, the band discusses issues with people they do not like. They will be happy to no longer associate with these people. Therefore, comparing steel to rust may be suggesting that their once-blooming relationship is now dead.

12. “Making Plans For Nigel” by XTC

In XTC’s 1979 song “Making Plans For Nigel”, the band narrates parents who are trying to set up and plan their child’s future. As a result, they think they’ll plan their whole life for this child — and they expect him to be happy.

When they talk about his future career, they discuss steel. They sing, “We’re only making plans for Nigel / He has his future in a British Steel”.

13. “The Hardest Part” by Blondie

Blondie released their 1980 song “The Hardest Part” on their album Eat to the Beat. This song opens with the lines, “Twenty-five tons of hardened steel rolls on no ordinary wheel / Inside the armored car ride two big armed guards / In a bullet-proof vest, shatterproof glass, overdrive, we’re going to pass”.

As the song goes on, listeners finally learn what’s happening. Blondie is describing a robbery where people are attempting to steal a lot of money! Therefore, in the lyrics, the band describes the hardest part of this job.

14. “Gates of Steel” by Devo

Devo’s 1980 song “Gates of Steel” also discusses steel, as you can see! Devo talks about human nature and how we should act. In this song, they explain that we shouldn’t act in a certain way — or as if we are made of steel.

Instead, we should feel emotions. After all, that is what makes us human. Devo explains this idea, singing, “Twist away the gates of steel / A man is real / Not made of steel”.

15. “Waiting For the Snow” by Of Monsters and Men

In Of Monsters and Men’s 2019 song “Waiting For the Snow”, the band thinks back on their past, as well as on their future. The singer explains that she has a few mistakes and questions what she did in the past.

They sing, “Have I said too much? / Did I love too hard? / This steel can’t carry me now that things are rough”.

16. “I’m Not Made of Steel” by Michael Bolton

Michael Bolton released his 1993 song “I’m Not Made of Steel” on his album The One Thing. Bolton sings about how he’s not made of steel. He’s human. Therefore, he feels emotions and pressure and definitely has his own doubts and worries.

In this song, Bolton also rails against the idea of becoming steel and refusing to show emotion or refusing to cry. He explains that if you live like this, you won’t be human.

He sings the lyrics, “As I stumble on this journey / Along the road to what is real / I’m not made of steel”.

17. “Freezing Steel” by Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens’ 1972 song “Freezing Steel” opens with the lyrics, “I’ve flown the house of freezing, the house of freezing steel / And though my body’s back I know it can’t be real”.

Now, there are many meanings and interpretations of this song to be found! Cat Stevens sings about how he’s worked to flee a house of freezing steel, as he knows this isn’t where he belongs. He’s human — and he works to return to warmth.

18. “Steel Rail Blues” by Jim Croce

Jim Croce released his song “Steel Rail Blues” on his 1966 album Facets. Croce sings about how he’s received a letter and a train ticket from the girl he loves. Therefore, he’s on his way home to her.

Throughout the song, he talks about how he’s been drinking a lot in this new town he’s living in. As a result, he’s been completely alone. However, now that he has this ticket, he’s hopeful and excited. He sings, “The big steel rail gonna carry me home to the one I love”.

19. “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi’s hit 1986 song “Wanted Dead or Alive”, which appears on the band’s album Slippery When Wet, also talks about steel! In this song, the band sings about life as rockstars, though they tell the story as if they’re cowboys.

In the chorus, they sing, “I’m a cowboy / On a steel horse I ride / I’m wanted dead or alive”. This “steel horse” is likely a motorcycle!

20. “Steel Guitar and a Glass of Wine” by Paul Anka

Finally, we have Paul Anka’s 1962 song “Steel Guitar and a Glass of Wine” to discuss! This song opens with the lines, “Just give me a steel guitar, a glass of wine / And let me drink to a love I thought was mine”.

Anka sings about how this woman he loved ended up not being the one for him. He thought she would be true, but it turns out she wasn’t. This has left him completely heartbroken. However, toward the end of the song, he admits that even though he’s sad, he’s still in love with her!