Saturday, April 9, 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.

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