10 Killer Songs About Murder That Totally Slay
Contrary to popular opinion, the world’s greatest pop songs aren’t always about love, heartbreak, boning, beer, black velvet (remember Alannah Myles?) or roses (with or without thorns).
Don’t believe us? Here’s just a small sampling of CrimeFeed’s favorite ditties about death. Or more specifically … murder. We know your dark side is intrigued…
1. The Dixie Chicks, “Goodbye Earl”
This tune from the Dixie Chicks’ 1999 album Fly is notable for its insidious subject matter — it describes an abused woman who kills her estranged husband with the help of her best friend from high school. A classic revenge anthem, the song describes how these bad ass biddies team up to poison Earl’s black-eyed peas (hey, why not?). It’s the aural equivalent of Thelma and Louise, and it is fantastic.
SAMPLE LYRICS: “She held Wanda’s hand as they worked out a plan/And it didn’t take ’em long to decide/That Earl had to die, goodbye Earl…You’re feelin’ weak? Why don’t you lay down and sleep, Earl?/Ain’t it dark wrapped up in that tarp, Earl?’
2. Guns N’ Roses, “Used to Love Her”
When I was a kid, a budding feminist and a raging GnR fan, I couldn’t help but be alarmed by the disconcerting lyrics of this song, from the band’s 1988 album Lies. I didn’t feel much better when I heard rumors that the song, which sounds like it’s about some guy killing his girlfriend, was actually about some guy putting his dog to sleep and burying the pooch in the backyard. Is it about murder or euthanasia? YOU BE THE JUDGE. Random aside: According to SongFacts, the song made an appearance during the murder trial of Justin Barber, a man accused of killing his wife who’d allegedly downloaded the song hours before the murder.
SAMPLE LYRICS: “I used to love her/But I had to kill her/She bitched so much, She drove me nuts/And now I’m happier this way, yeah.”
3. Nirvana, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”
Nirvana made this song famous on MTV’s “Unplugged” in 1993, but its origins are unclear. The band credited Leadbelly with writing the tune, but in fact, it dates way further back, and in its prior incarnations it was known as “In the Pines.” The song is a slow, meandering warbler about jealousy, murderous rage, and dead bodies, all of which goes down in a dark, deep forest “where the sun don’t shine.”
SAMPLE LYRICS: “Her husband was a hardworking man/Just about a mile from here/His head was found in a driving wheel/But his body never was found.”
4. Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
This oldie/goodie struck a nerve with a new generation of kiddos when it made a starring appearance in the 1992 hit Wayne’s World – and it’s considered a classic for a reason. The soaring harmonies, operatic feel, and overall drama make it incredibly fun to sing along to (poorly, we might add — Freddie Mercury, most of us are not). But the song, for all its giddy fun, is also pretty dark – it’s actually about a kid who offed someone by shooting him in the head.
SAMPLE LYRICS: “Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead/Mama, life had just begun/But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.”
5. Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues”
Ahhh, Johnny Cash. Nearly everybody loved the Man in Black; he was a country outlaw, a gritty rebel, and a proud emblem of the working class, and his songwriting skills were to die for (pun intended). This song was perhaps his most famous, and it told the tale of a miserable California prisoner paying his dues for shooting a guy for fun.
SAMPLE LYRICS: “I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die/When I hear that whistle blowin’/I hang my head and cry.”
6. The Smiths, “Suffer Little Children”
You might not have heard this one unless you’re a Morrissey-phile like yours truly, but this is arguably one of the most melancholy songs known to humankind — and it’s all about a pair of vile, real-life British serial killers. “Suffer Little Children” tells the story of the Moors Murders, which occurred in Manchester, England (The Smiths’ hometown) between 1963-1965. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, a couple of young lovers, were arrested for sexually assaulting and murdering five kids between the ages of 10-17. The kids’ bodies were found buried atop the Saddleworth Moor.
SAMPLE LYRICS: “Oh John, you’ll never be a man/And you’ll never see your home again/Oh Manchester, so much to answer for/Fresh lilaced moorland fields/Cannot hide the stolid stench of death.”
7. Bob Marley, “I Shot the Sheriff”
This legendary 1973 reggae hit is a favorite of both dedicated Rasta-lovers and wastoid frat boys everywhere. On the surface, its lyrics sound pretty straightforward, right? The song is about a man who — duh — shot the sheriff, but “did not shoot the deputy.” Um, not so fast. According to the Miami New Times, there might have been a deeper meaning at work. Marley’s longtime girlfriend, Esther Anderson, has said Marley was upset that she was taking birth control pills. He apparently felt “it was sin to kill his seed.” The New Times writes, “The doctor who prescribed those baby-killing pills became the sheriff,” as reflected in the song here: “Sheriff John Brown always hated me/For what, I don’t know/Every time I plant a seed/He said kill it before it grow.”
SAMPLE LYRICS: “All of a sudden I saw sheriff John Brown/Aiming to shoot me down/So I shot him down and I say/If I am guilty I will pay.”
8. Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”
Anyone with a pulse should be able to appreciate the sonic wizardry of this song — hearing it instantly brings me back to childhood. (It came out the same year I was born, though, so unless I heard it in utero, I probably didn’t truly grasp its awesomeness until later in life.) Anyway, “Psycho Killer” puts to music a murderer’s stream of consciousness – and it was supposedly inspired by none other than Norman Bates of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho. Lead singer David Byrne reportedly didn’t expect the song to become a hit, but hit it did.
SAMPLE LYRICS: “I can’t seem to face up to the facts/I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax/Psycho killer/Qu’est-ce que c’est/Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better run run run run run run run away.”
9. Snoop Dogg, “Murder Was the Case”
This 1994 hit — also part of a short film and a concept album — by California’s own Snoop Doggy Dogg (as he was known back then) is a lyrical narrative chronicling his own murder as he made a deal with the devil. After selling his soul, our gifted protagonist is granted another life, one filled with greatness and riches. Alas, he still wants more. According to Genius.com, Snoop selling his soul to the devil was a metaphor for the “music industry illuminati.”
SAMPLE LYRICS: “My body temperature fails/I’m shakin’ and they breakin’ tryin’ to save the Dogg/Pumpin’ on my chest and I’m screamin’/I stop breathin’, damn I see demons/Dear God, I wonder can ya save me?”
10. Eminem, “Stan”
“Stan,” which was released as Eminem’s third single off 2002’s Marshall Mathers LP, tells the sordid tale of a crazed fan named, yes, Stan, who sends heaps of obsessive fan mail to Eminem (aka Slim Shady). When Stan doesn’t hear back from his idol, the fan gets more and more deranged, ultimately sending Slim a disturbing audio cassette of him driving off a bridge with his pregnant girlfriend tied up in the trunk. Ack.
SAMPLE LYRICS: “Hey Slim, that’s my girlfriend screaming in the trunk/But I didn’t slit her throat, I just tied her up, see I ain’t like you/’Cause if she suffocates she’ll suffer more, and then she’ll die, too/Well, gotta go, I’m almost at the bridge now…”