Songs about killing

So I’m home sick with the flu today, and I start thinking about death. Then I start thinking about murder. Then I start thinking about songs about murder.

This is where you come in!

Let’s list all the songs about murder that we can think of.

The murder should occur within the timeframe of the song, either in the narration or “off-stage.” No songs about, like, some guy who happened to kill someone in the past (I’m thinking of some Tom Waits songs), unless the murder is an important plot-point in the song. Dig?

I’ll start.
All the songs on Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads album
Tom Waits – “The Fall of Troy,” “Murder in the Red Barn,” “Georgia Lee”
Firewater – “The Circus”
Pedro the Lion – “A Mind of Her Own,” “Never Leave a Job Half Done”
Neko Case – “Furnace Room Lullaby”

Lots of Scratch Acid and Jesus Lizard songs – “Lay Screaming,” “Crazy Dan,” “Horse,” “Mistletoe,” “Skull of a German,” “Puss” (maybe…unclear if the girl dies), etc.

PJ Harvey - “A Perfect Day Elise”
The Cure – “Killing an Arab,” “Like Cockatoos” (maybe)
Bob Dylan – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”
Nirvana – “Polly”
The Police – “Murder by Numbers”
Velvet Underground – “Murder Mystery”
Elvis Costello – “Kinder Murder” (maybe…what * is * this song about, anyway?)
Ice-T – “Cop Killer”
Jimi Hendrix – “Hey Joe”

Jelly Roll Morton – “Aaron Harris Blues”
(Traditional) – “Tom Dooley”
Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit”
(Dunno but Ella Fitzgerald sings) – “Miss Otis Regrets”
Doc Watson – “Little Omie Wise”

That’s all I can think of now.

Your turn!


Bob Marley – “I Shot the Sheriff”
(Traditional) – “Mack the Knife”
Johnny Cash – “Delia’s Gone”

And dadgummit, there’s like 12390802384 blues songs about murder, and I can’t think of any titles…

“Frankie and Johnny”
“I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal, You”
“I Hold Your Hand In Mine” (Tom Leher)
“At the Copa”

Does “Killing Me Softly With His Song” count?

Riders on the Storm…The Doors

“Hey Joe” - Jimi Hendrix & many others

“Down in the Willow Garden” - Art Garfunkel & many others

“Night Prowler” - AC/DC

“Down By the River” - Neil Young

“Folsom Prison Blues” - Johnny Cash

“18 and Life” - Skid Row

“Weille Waille” - old Irish folk song, covered by many artists

“Johnny 99” - Bruce Springsteen

“Saturday Night Special” - Lynyrd Skynyrd

Guns N Roses - “I Used to Love Her”.
Queen - “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Ice T - “Colors”.
Johnny Cash - That song with the line "I killed a man in Reno just to watch him die.

“Janie’s Got a Gun” - Aerosmith

“Nebraska” - Bruce Springsteen

“Ticking” - Elton John

Warren Zevon: “Excitable Boy” and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”
The Rolling Stones: “Midnight Rambler”
Bob Dylan: “Hurricane”
Rod Stewart: “The Killing of Georgie (Pts 1 & 2)”
Cher: “Dark Lady”
Tom Jones: “Delilah”
Vickie Lawrence: “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”
Bruce Springsteen: “Point Blank”
Porter Waggoner: “The Cold Hard Facts of Life”
The Boomtown Rats: “I Don’t Like Mondays”
Sonny Boy Williamson: “Your Funeral, My Trial”
Richard & Linda Thompson: “Shoot Out the Lights” and “Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?”
The Band: “Long Black Veil”
The Doors: “The End”
The Beatles: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
Cypress Hill: “How Could I Just Kill a Man”
Pat Hare: “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby” [Earns bonus points for Hare actually carrying out the threat in real life.]

Carole King – “Smackwater Jack”
Julie Brown – “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”

“Where did you sleep last night” aka “In the Pines” - Leadbelly (made famous by Nirvana)

“Cop Killer” - Ice-T (Body Count, actually)

“The Devil’s Right Hand” -Steve Earle

“Dead Man Walking” and “Atlantic City” - Springsteen

Pretty much any Geto Boys song (or just about any “gangsta” rap song)

“Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price

If you don’t know the title, don’t try to list the song…

Here’s what I came up with, without really trying, and not mentioning songs already listed.

Johnny Cash
Don’t Take Your Guns To Town
Highway Patrolman

Marty Robbins
Big Iron
El Paso
They’re Hanging Me Tonight
Running Gun

The Chieftains
Lilly of the West (with Mark Knopfler)

I Hung My Head

The Ballad of Tom Joad (Parts I and II) by Woody Guthrie


“Stagger Lee,” or “Stackalee” or (insert six doxen spellings here) is a really old folk song and although many many people have recorded versions, I don’t believe anyone knows the original artist.

As are various songs about:

Tom Dooley
Jesse James
John Hardy
Cole Younger
Frankie and Albert

Also, “Death Cell 'Rounder Blues” is pretty damn good.
And do you count “John Henry” as murder (by awful corporate technocrats)??

Warren Zevon - Werewolf in London (Fish42, you left this one off? Or would this fall under the “when animals attack” category?)

Golden Earring - Twilight Zone

Pink Floyd - Two Suns in the Sunset (hey, if that ain’t mass murder, I don’t know what is)

Geto Boys - Scarface

Though I’ve never heard it confirmed, a listening to the lyrics of “Alison” by the Almighty Elvis Costello sure seems to suggest the song is about offing your former squeeze.

“I think somebody better put out the big lights, 'cause I can’t stand to see you this way.” Indeed.

dweezil wrote:

Just chalk it up to `traditional.’ If my memory serves, and it probably doesn’t, tales of Stack-o-Lee (another variant I’ve seen, that I kind of like because it allows me to make spurious comparisons to Tam O’Shanter and the likes) go at least back to 1860, and there is apparently some dispute about where in Missouri the alleged events allegedly took place.
gallows fodder wrote:

Not to mention:
Romeo is Bleeding
Potter’s Field
Small Change
A Sweet Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun
Walking Spanish

I’m not sure, but was ‘Mack the Knife’ about murder. IIRC, it was. :confused:

How about the ancient ballad, “Lord Randall”?

On a more contemporary note:

“Another One Bites the Dust” and "Bohemian Rhapsody"by Queen

“Run Joey Run” by David Geddes

“Dark Lady” by Cher (she shoots her boyfriend and the gypsy she had just visited)

AC/DC - “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
Does it still count if they’re getting paid for it?

Metallica - “Whiskey in the Jar”
It’s an old Irish drinking song, but I have no idea whether it’s actually been recorded by anyone else.

Band who escapes me at the moment - “Timothy”
Was he already dead?

Lorne Greene - “Ringo”
Yes, THAT Lorne Greene.

And “Bohemian Rhapsody” is about murder? I didn’t think it was about anything.

My pathetic contribution:

Steel Pole Bath Tub - Pirate 5

Nick Cave - Jangling Jack

Nick Cave / Johnny Cash - Mercy Seat

Whoa, there are lots. I’m looking thru my records tonight…