Saturday, April 09, 2011

Eight Songs Narrated By Murderers

By no means a complete list of all songs written in the first person and from the perspective of the killer, this resulted from me wondering how many I could come up with on my own.

One: “Country Death Song,” by The Violent Femmes

Sample lyrics: “I gave her a push, I gave her a shove / I pushed with all my might, I pushed with all my love / I threw my child into a bottomless pit / She was screaming as she fell, but I never heard her hit.”

Does he get away with it? As far as the song states, yes.

Two: “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia,” by Vicki Lawrence (which I write about at length here)

Sample lyrics: “They hung my brother before I could say / The tracks he saw while on his way / To Andy’s house and back that night were mine / And his cheating wife had never left town / And that’s one body that’ll never be found / You see, little sister don’t miss when she aims her gun.”

Does she get away with it? Probably. She at least seems proud of how well she hid what she did.

Three: “The Rake’s Song,” by The Decemberists (which I wrote about at length here)

Sample lyrics: “Charlotte I buried after feeding her foxglove / Dawn was easy, she was drowned in the bath / Isaiah fought but was easily bested / Burned his body for incurring my wrath”

Does he get away with it? I don’t think so. “The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)” seems to indicate that the ghost of Isaiah comes back and drowns the rake. Right?

Four: “I Did What I Did for Maria,” by Tony Christie

Sample lyrics: “And he fell to the ground / Raising dust all around / But I knew he was dead / Long before he went down”

Does he get away with it? Nope. The song is narrated moments before he is hanged.

Five: “The Wedding List,” by Kate Bush

Sample lyrics: “I got him on the wedding list! / I got him and I did not miss. / I pinned him on the wedding list!”

Does she get away with it? Not really. Moments after she shoots the man who murdered her husband, she commits suicide.

Six: “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue

Sample lyrics: “On the last day I took her where the wild roses grow / And she lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief / And I kissed her goodbye, said, “All beauty must die”

Does he get away with it? Unsure. The Nick Cave-narrated parts explain the murder, and the Kylie Minogue parts hint about the fallout, with people remembering her as “The Wild Rose,” which seems to indicate that people at least found her body near the roses.

Seven: “Doubt,” by The Cure

Sample lyrics: “Tear at flesh / And rip at skin / And smash at doubt / I have to break you”

Does he get away with it? Maybe. I’m actually thinking the “murder” may not be literal, at least based on the song’s concluding lyrics “I stop and kneel beside you / Knowing I'll murder you again tonight.”

Eight: “Folsom Prison Blues,” by Johnny Cash

Sample lyrics: “But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die / When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry”

Does he get away with it? Decidedly not. That’s kind of the point of the song.

Honorable mentions: “Possum Kingdom” by The Toadies almost made the cut, but he never actually kills the woman he’s addressing during the span of the song. He just threatens to do it, and even then it’s not made explicitly clear that he truly means to harm her. It’s the video that makes the woman’s death more explicit. The narrator in The Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer” is more socially awkward that outright homicidal. And I knew that “Maniac” — yeah, the once from Flashdance — was originally written about an actual maniac who kills people, but it turns out that the original lyrics were not written in the first person. Still, there’s something to be said for a dance hit originally being written as “He’s a manic, manic, that’s for sure / He will kill your cat and nail him to the door.” I shit you not.


  1. Also on my favorite Ten Most Wanted List: the country classic "Miller's Cave" (taken to the Top Ten by both Hank Snow and Bobby Bare), about a man who croaks his cheating girlfriend and her paramour and then escapes to a labyrinth in Waycross, GA to elude arrest from the police.

  2. Anonymous10:02 PM

    No such post is complete without "A Little Piece of Heaven" by Avenged Sevenfold:
    'Cause I really always knew that my little crime / Would be cold that's why I got a heater for your thighs / And I know, I know it's not your time / But bye, bye.

  3. Where the Wild Roses Grow totally used to be a makeout song for me. Also The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia. I feel like someday I'll try and analyze that time of my life, but...not any time soon.

  4. "Buenos Tardes Amigo" by ween, a great epic with a twist

  5. Antonio8:20 PM

    Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue is such a great song, it definitely needed to be in this list. I think she is killed and then they discover the body, and the Kylie part is actually the ghost of her telling what really happened.

  6. There is also "Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks, though it is written mostly in the third person, with bits of first person thrown in.

  7. Does'n The Killers have like 3 songs about a murder? I think it's like before, during and afer the act.

    1. The Killers' 'Murder Trilogy' consists of 'Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf', 'Midnight Show', and 'Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine', in listening order.

      I've never listened to 'Leave The Bourbon...' as I don't have the B-sides/rarities collection in which it's available, but I always thought that 'Midnight Show' was the act itself, and 'Jenny...' is where the police get involved. Both of the latter are from the album Hot Fuss.

      And as an aside, the only song I can think of narrated by an accessory charge would be Donnie Iris' 'Agnes'. While It's clear from the lyrics that the titular Agnes pulled the trigger, Donnie seems to indicate that he's helped her cover up the crime somehow.