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Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 1

October 25th, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments


The Halloween well is now dry, but you can still get your chills on with this delightful collection of songs about murder.

It’s quite surprising how many sings about murder there are, mostly from the perspective of the killer. In the case of Pat Hare, almost literally.

In 1954, blues guitarist Pat Hare (born Auburn Hare!) sang a song — a cover of a 1940s song by Dorothy Clayton — in which he vowed to kill his woman: “Yes, I’m gonna murder my baby / yeah, I’m tellin’ the truth now / ’cause she don’t do nothin’ but cheat and lie.” Eight years later, Hare had just finished a stint as a guitarist in Muddy Waters’ group when he shot dead his girlfriend and a policeman in Minneapolis. Hare was convicted of the murder and died in jail in 1980 at the age of 49.

Many of the murder ballads are folk songs that have been covered many times. A few of the tracks here are also covers, such as country-soul singer Andre Williams reworking of Johnny Paycheck’s song. The weirdest of them, though, has to be Olivia Newton-John singing about murdering her boyfriend.

There are longer discussions on some of the featured songs, and others that will feature, in the eight parts of the Murder Ballads series.

Just to be clear, this mix does not promote murder. Don’t kill, kids.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-CSIed covers. PW in comments.

  1. R. Dean Taylor – Indiana Wants Me (1970)
    The Vic: A man who needed dyin’ for what he said about you
  2. Sting – I Hung My Head (1996)
    The Vic: The lone rider
  3. Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues (1969)
    The Vic: A man in Reno
  4. Porter Wagoner – The Cold Hard Facts Of Life (1967)
    The Vic: The folks who taught Porter the cold, hard facts of life
  5. Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger (1975)
    The Vic: The yellow-haired lady
  6. Jim & Jesse – Knoxville Girl (1976)
    The Vic: A little girl in Knoxville
  7. The Everly Brothers – Down In The Willow Garden (1958)
    The Vic: Rose Connolly
  8. Olivia Newton-John – Banks Of The Ohio (1971)
    The Vic: Livvy’s marriage-shy boyfriend (and you see his point)
  9. The Band – Long Black Veil (1968)
    The Vic: “Someone”
  10. The Grateful Dead – Stagger Lee (1978)
    The Vic: Billy, a gambler
  11. Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue – Where The Wild Roses Grow (1997)
    The Vic: Elisa Day
  12. Elvis Costello – Psycho (1981)
    The Vics: His ex, Jackie White, Betty Clark, Momma…and Johnny’s puppy, too
  13. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)
    The Vics: Everything in his path
  14. Andre Williams – Pardon Me (I’ve Got Someone To Kill) (2000)
    The Vic: Her and his love rival
  15. Lyle Lovett – L.A. County (1987)
    The Vics: The bride and the groom
  16. Bill Brandon – Rainbow Road (1976)
    The Vic: A man with a knife (so it’s self-defence, your honur)
  17. Dixie Nightingales – Assassination (1965)
    The Vic: The President
  18. Elton John – The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1973)
    The Vic: Danny Bailey, a gangster, in cold blood
  19. The Buoys – Timothy (1971)
    The Vic: Timothy (because of hunger)
  20. Tony Christie – I Did What I Did For Maria (1971)
    The Vic: Maria’s murderer
  21. Conway Twitty – Ain’t It Sad To Stand And Watch Love Die (1968)
    The Vic: An unfaithful wife
  22. Johnny Darrell – River Bottom (1969)
    The Vic: “That pretty gal of mine”
  23. Clyde Arnold – Black Smoke And Blue Tears (1961)
    The Vic: The gambler
  24. Pat Hare – I’m Gonna Kill My Baby (1954)
    The Vic: In the song, Pat’s baby. In real life, later, the same.


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  1. halfhearteddude
    October 25th, 2018 at 08:12 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. October 25th, 2018 at 16:43 | #2

    The Olivia Newton-John was a major hit in Australia, which I’ve always thought very odd. (No. 1 there for five weeks. It hit No. 94 here, and No. 34 on the Adult Contemporary chart.) I once dug into the history of “Banks of the Ohio.” Many versions of that macabre song out there, but if you really want to be creeped out, check out Glenn Yarbrough’s 1957 version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEcacv_HRYE

  3. mike
    October 25th, 2018 at 18:55 | #3

    I was nine, going on ten, when the Buoys song was all over AM radio. As did my friends and classmates, I had the experience of half-listening and enjoying another poppy rock song in an era that was full of them–and then eventually being told by another kid, “Next time it comes on, listen closely to the words.” And then doing so, and realizing just what the song was about. Mind-blowing! Shiver-inducing! I of course couldn’t wait to tell some other uninitiated kid to listen closely. This telling was always done quietly, nudging someone toward understanding without giving the game away. Maybe we were afraid that if the word got out to the parents, the song would be yanked from the radio and all of their fears about the degenerate nature of rock music would be seen as vindicated. Or maybe we just liked having, and sharing, a secret. “The only ones left to tell the tale,” indeed! Can’t wait to hear all of these.

  4. October 25th, 2018 at 22:14 | #4

    Another great play list, Dude. In a weird case of synchronicity, here’s the blog post I ran today…


  5. October 25th, 2018 at 23:32 | #5

    I’ve been visiting your site for a couple of years now and I’m very taken by some of your mixes and this one is another. I’d like to suggest Dr John’s version of Stagger Lee from “N’awlins, Dis, Dat, and t’other”. stone cold killer track. You might also consider Wrong ‘Em Boyo.
    Thanks for your excellent site

  6. halfhearteddude
    October 26th, 2018 at 15:47 | #6

    Oh, nice list. Apart from the one on this mix, I had only three others on my shortlist.

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