The ten most brutally honest songwriters

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10. Cody ChesnuTT The Roots covered Cody ChesnuTT's song "The Seed" on Phrenology, telling the story of a man on a mission to gain some kind of immortality by impregnating multiple women. The lyrics on ChesnuTT's recent album, Landing on a Hundred, are every bit as raw: "I used to smoke crack back in the day/I used to gamble rent money and lose/I used to dog the nice ladies, used to swindle friends/But now I'm teaching kids in Sunday school, and I'm not turning back."

9. Lyle Lovett Lyle Lovett has a kind of whimsical charm that takes him effortlessly from sad country ballads to goofy gospel numbers. However, when he gets serious, his lyrics are surprisingly ruthless: "Thank you, my friend. I sincerely appreciate the words you say about how she'll cry, and how she'll grieve and miss me when she goes away... But she's leaving me because she really wants to, and she'll be happy when she's gone. She'll be happy. She'll be so very happy."

8. Marvin Gaye Marvin Gaye broke new ground when Motown Records issued "What's Going On," with its political lyrics decrying war and police brutality. His most painfully personal and poignant lyrics, however, appeared on 1978's Here, My Dear, chronicling his messy breakup with Berry Gordy's older sister Anna. Among other things, he accuses her of using their son to manipulate him: "You don't have the right to use the son of mine to keep me in line."

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Jesse Livingston
Contact: Jesse Livingston