Generally, Music covers every single topic and all incidents past or present which also includes songs about murder. Murder is a violation of human lives, yet is a part of human civilization and their stories. So, it is not a surprising fact that scores of poetry and ballads have been written about murders. As a result, we have a plethora of murder songs to choose from all different genres.
Normally, murder ballads are written to depict a story about killing or killings which have been done by someone or the narrator. These ballads made their journey from Europe to America and made a strong foothold in American country and folk music. With the passage of time ballads found their way into more contemporary music genres. Which resulted in a great number of songs about murder.
List Of Our Top 23 Songs About Murder
Murder songs are, in general, quite brutal, gloomy, and sad. But they can also sound interesting in their own unique ways. Choosing a handful of songs from this huge collection of narrative music is a hard task. So, I have written some of my favorites from different genres. These are not by any means in a ranked sequence. Let’s check out some popular songs about murder.
1. Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Nirvana
One of our favorite artists, Kurt Cobain covered Leadbelly’s song “Where did you sleep last night?” which is also known as “ In the pines”, “Black girl” or “My girl”.
This song starts with a question or an accusation “My girl, Where did you sleep last night?”. Later, we find that the man who asked the question is “found in a driving wheel”.
Also clarifying that his head was only found in that driving wheel. This gives a very dark outlook to the song. Cobain covered it in an MTV Unplugged event. He performed it with tender emotions which made the crowd speechless.
2. Delia’s Gone – Johnny Cash
This song made it to our list of best songs about murder. Johnny Cash wrote Delia’s Gone, a sad and tragic song based on a true event. This event took place on Christmas Eve of 1900 when Delia Green was shot by Mose Houston.
In this song, the shooter who now is in jail, is reminiscing how he killed Delia by strapping her to a chair and shooting her with a submachine gun. He also says that he can’t sleep and also that Delia’s ghost is haunting him by his bedside.
The killer also feels remorse for his action when he says
”If I hadn’t shot poor Delia,
I’d have had her for my wife”
But in the end, he also suggests to other men what to do by saying
“So if your woman’s devilish
You can let her run
Or you can bring her down and do her
Like Delia got done”
Which gives the listener a clear indication of how creepy the mind of the murderer is.
3. Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
While we are at it, let us go through another couple of Johnny Cash songs about murder. In the song Folsom Prison Blues, Cash sings from the point of view of a prisoner who is serving his jail time. As opposed to the song mentioned before, this prisoner feels deep regret and is trying for penitence.
“When I Hear That Whistle Blowin’
I Hang My Head And Cry.
I Bet There’s Rich Folks Eatin’ In A Fancy Dining Car.
They’re Prob’ly Drinkin’ Coffee And Smokin’ Big Cigars,
But I Know I Had It Comin’, I Know I Can’t Be Free,”
Also, in the latter part of the song he tries to imagine a scenario of him being free and living somewhere quietly for the rest of his life.
4. Cocaine Blues – Johnny Cash
Another one of Johnny Cash’s hits is Cocaine Blues which is also known as “Little Sadie” because of its original composition. In this song, the murder takes place as the man gets to know that the woman is cheating on her, while he is under the influence of cocaine.
After killing the woman, he flees down to Mexico but the sheriff from Jericho Hills finds him there and arrests him. He is sentenced to prison while he cries away,
“Come on you’ve gotta listen unto me
Lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be”
5. Delilah – Tom Jones
Welsh singer and currently a knight of the United Kingdom sang the Pop song about murder “Delilah”. It was written by Barry Jones, a renowned songwriter during the 1960s in the UK.
In this song, a man watches “his woman” deceiving him as he passes by her mind. This causes him severe mental distress as he sings,
“My, my, my, Delilah
Why, why, why, Delilah
I could see, that girl was no good for me
But I was lost like a slave that no man could free”
And he waits there till dawn for the man to go away. After which he does the inevitable to the woman. He seems to be in grief even after killing her as he goes,
“My, my, my, Delilah
Why, why, why, Delilah
So before they come to break down the door
Forgive me, Delilah, I just couldn’t take anymore”.
6. Red Headed Stranger – Willie Nelson
This classic country song about murder tells the story of a grief-stricken man and a yellow-haired lady. The latter comes to take something precious that belongs to the “Red Headed Stranger”.
A stranger rides into town with his horses with a grim appearance. This man had lost his woman and was not to be messed with. But a yellow-haired lady takes a liking to one of the horses’ the “bay”.
But little did she know about the affiliation that the stranger shared with this horse. The stranger behaves real good with this lady but when she touches his horse, the “Red Headed Stranger” shoots her down.
In the end, the man goes free because you can not take another man’s horse.
7. Angel Of Death – Slayer
In this controversial song about murder, the popular thrash metal band Slayer depicts the gruesome reality that took place in the concentration camps of Auschwitz during the second world war.
This song is written by band guitarist Jeff Hanneman and is based on the Nazi physician Josef Mengele, who is infamously dubbed as the “Angel of Death”.
The reason behind this name stems from the fact that he used gruesome and inhumane methods to perform surgeries on the captives.
“Surgery with no anesthesia
Feel the knife pierce you intensely
Inferior, no use to mankind
Strapped down, screaming out to die”
The band faced quite a lot of accusations of Nazi Sympathysing due to the making of this song.
8. Deep Red Bells – Neko Case
In this indie song about murder, the singer Case talks about her haunting memories when Green River Killer was at large. By “Deep Red Bells”, Case also tries to show empathy for the victims of the killer.
She shows her support of the women killed by the lines,
“Where does this mean world cast its cold eye
Who’s left to suffer long about you
Does your soul cast about like an old paper bag
Past empty lots and early graves
Those like you who lost their way
Murdered on the interstate
While the red bells rang like thunder”
Where the term “murdered on the interstate” refers to the women killed, who were referred to the media as “prostitutes”.
9. John Wayne Gacy Jr. – Sufjan Stevens
The renowned indie singer and songwriter, Sufjan Stevens tells the story of the notorious American serial killer and rapist as given in the title.
In the early part of the song, Stevens talks about his domestic situation and outward appearance in the neighborhood.
“His father was a drinker and his mother cried in bed
Folding John Wayne’s t-shirts when the swing set hit his head
The neighbors, they adored him
For his humor and his conversation”
But after that, the true and twisted nature of Gacy is told by the lines
“Look underneath the house there
Find the few living things, rotting fast, in their sleep”
Also tries to compare his behavior with the killer as he also has secrets hidden underneath his bed.
10. The Irish Ballad – Tom Lehrer
This traditional folk song is sung by Tom Lehrer on piano. In this traditional ballad, just like the other songs about murder, the story revolves around an Irish maid who kills her own family.
This murder ballad has a dark aspect to it depicting how the murders happen. But the singing gives the listener a more comic feeling to it. As in the last verses, the singer goes,
“My tragic tale I won’t prolong
And if you do not enjoy the song
You’ve yourselves to blame if it’s too long
You should never have let me begin, begin”
11. Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix
Rockstar Jimi Hendricks sings this wonderful groovy song which is about a conversation between two men, one of them is Joe. This song was written by Billy Roberts.
In this song, the man asks Joe where he was going with his gun. In answer to this Joe replies that he was going to shoot his woman as he caught her messing around town. So, Joe shoots her and the man asks what he was going to do then.
Joe tells him that he was going down to Mexico to live freely. As joe goes like,
“I’m goin’ way down south
Way down where I can be free
Ain’t no one gonna find me
Ain’t no hangman gonna
He ain’t gonna put a rope around me
You better believe right now
I gotta go now”
This is not a typical dark and gloomy murder song but is worth a listen to.
12. Goodbye Earl – The Chicks
This song was written by Dennis Linde. Almost, in all of the songs about murder, the killer is a man but in this one, the killers are two women.
The song starts with the introduction of two best friends in high school named, “Mary Anne” and “Wanda”. After graduation, they take different paths. Mary Anne leaves town for the opportunities outside the town. In the meantime, Wanda finds her true love in a man in the town called “Earl” and marries him.
Wanda keeps getting abused and assaulted by Earl after marriage. She reports it to the authorities but even after that Earl assaults her and sends her to intensive care.
After hearing about Wanda, Mary Anne comes back, and together they formulate a plan and kill Earl. They cover it up without a trace and keep living without worry. As it goes in the song,
“So the girls bought some land and a roadside stand
Out on Highway 109
They sell Tennessee ham and strawberry jam
And they don’t lose any sleep at night, ’cause
Earl had to die, goodbye Earl”
Kind of ending Wanda needed, though.
13. Janie’s Got A Gun – Aerosmith
This song was written by Steven Tyler. In the song, the girl “Janie” kills her father as he is sexually abusing her. Steven Tyler in his autobiography Walk This Way says,” That song is about a girl getting raped and pillaged by her father. It’s about incest, something that happens to a lot of kids who don’t even find out about it until they find themselves trying to work through some major f***ing neuroses.”
14. Murders In The Rue Morgue – Iron Maiden
The inspiration behind this song about murder came from the short story written by Edgar Allan Poe with the same title. In the song, an Englishman walks through the streets of Paris.
While strolling, he hears a “piercing scream” and rushes to the spot. Upon arriving he finds out the mutilated body parts of two young girls in Rue Morgue. He cries out for help and people come for help when things get interesting.
Since the Englishman can’t speak French, he can’t explain why there is blood in his hands. This leads the crowd to perceive him as the murderer. Reading the situation he makes a run for it.
And in the climactic part of the song our Englishman reiterates,
“Murders in the Rue Morgue
They’re never gonna find me
Murders in the Rue Morgue
I’m never going home”.
15. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People
Many people have expressed their dissatisfaction with this song about murder because it clearly glorifies school shootings.
However, according to songwriter Mark Foster, this was never the intention.
He intended to raise awareness about teen mental health and gun violence issues, but he never mentions a school in his song.
People have formed their own opinions based on what they have learned from the news.
Nonetheless, he recognizes that the content of this song has triggered people and regrets that current events have changed what he intended the song to be.
Some notable words of this track goes like –
“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You better run, better run outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You better run, better run faster than my bullet”
16. Suffer Little Children – The Smiths
If you grew up in England, you’ve probably heard of the Moors Murders.
Between 1963 and 1965, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, two heinous British serial killers, murdered five children aged 10 to 17 and buried their bodies on Saddleworth Moor in Northern England.
Brady’s apparent lack of remorse, as well as his refusal to cooperate and point police to their graves, make him one of England’s most despised criminals.
The Manchester-born band The Smiths paid tribute to the children, who would have been only a few years older than Morrissey at the time and wrote this song about murder.
The Chorus of the song will give you the chills-
“Oh Manchester, so much to answer for
Oh, find me, find me
I’ll haunt you when you laugh
Oh, I’ll haunt you when you laugh
You might sleep
But you will never dream”
17. I Shot The Sheriff – Bob Marley
The iconic 1973 reggae hit appears simplistic; it depicts a man who “shot the Sheriff but he didn’t shoot the deputy.”
The narrator states to just have operated in self-defense against the sheriff, but the track has no connection to justice or politics, according to Marley’s former girlfriend Esther Anderson.
Anderson claims that the lyrics of this song about murder are about Marley’s opposition to using pill-based birth control at the time and that the sheriff was the doctor who prescribed them.
As you may find in the lyrics below he really went for self defense –
“Freedom came my way one day
And I started out of town, yeah!
All of a sudden I saw sheriff John Brown
Aiming to shoot me down,
So I shot, I shot, I shot him down and I say,
If I am guilty I will pay!”
18. Church Bells – Carrie Underwood
Another catching song about murder is Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells”.
The rich oilman who married poor Jenny should have thought twice before touching her.
He might still be alive.
In this 2016 country song, the pretty little backwoods gal cleaned up really nicely. And the couple fooled everyone in town into thinking they were Barbie and Ken.
Behind closed doors, however, the husband was just another abusive alcoholic.
Jenny concealed her bruises with dark sunglasses and makeup, and no one in the Junior League questioned her injuries.
Then, one night, she added an untraceable poison to his drink.
Some of the catching lyrics goes as –
“She could hear those church bells ringing, ringing
And up in the loft, that whole choir singing, singing
Fold your hands and close your eyes
Yeah, it’s all gonna be alright
You just listen to the church bells ringing, ringing
Yeah, they’re ringing”
19. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine – The Killers
This song is about a murderer known as the Preppy Killer.
After strangling 18-year-old Jennifer Levin to death in New York’s Central Park, Robert Chambers pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in 1986.
He claimed her death was an unintended consequence of rough sex.
A cyclist discovered Levine’s body behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art near Fifth Avenue and 83rd Street.
He was released on parole in 2003, the same year The Killers released this song.
The song ends with the following lyrics –
“Tell me what you want to know
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on
And then you whisper in my ear
I know what you’re doing here
So come on, oh come on, oh come on
There ain’t no motive for this crime
Jenny was a friend of mine
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on”
20. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – The Beatles
When you listen closely to the lyrics, the cheerful music in this song may become confusing.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer informs the tale of a young boy who goes about murdering civilians with a hammer, even appearing in court and attacking the judge.
Nobody knows why this violent beast still has access to a hammer.
Indeed, Paul McCartney clarified that Maxwell is a metaphor for fate, and the silver hammer strike represents what it feels like until something unexpectedly goes horribly wrong.
21. Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen
This 1982 Bruce Springsteen song is on of the best songs about murder that will give you chills, especially after you learn the backstory.
The dark song is based on the real-life story of two teens, Charles Starkweather, 19, and his 14-year-old girlfriend, accomplice Caril Ann Fugate, who went on a ruthless killing spree.
Over an eight-day period in 1958, they shot, strangled, and stabbed 11 innocent people in Wyoming.
Starkweather was put to death.
Fugate, the youngest woman ever tried for first-degree murder in the United States, served a lengthy prison sentence before being released on parole, marrying and working as a hospital janitor.
The song ends as:
“They wanted to know why I did what I did
Well, sir, I guess there’s just a meanness in this world”
22. Devil’s Right Hand – Steve Earle
Once the narrator of this 1988 country song about murder was only a boy, he had become fascinated with guns and refused to listen when his mother tried to dissuade him.
“The pistol is the devil’s right hand.”
When his friend cheats at a card game, the fella shoots him to death as a youngster.
To his own defense, he replicates the very same line his mother told him, a dubious insanity plea.
23. Brenda’s Got A Baby – 2Pac
2Pac was inspired to compose this horrifying 1991 hip-hop song about murder upon reading a newspaper article about a 12-year-old Brooklyn girl. She threw her newborn baby into a trash compactor.
(By some miracle, the child survived.)
Pac told The New Yorker in 1997 that the song was a political statement about deprivation, child molestation, drugs, as well as other issues.
“It talked about how innocent people get hurt,” he said.
From the above list of songs, let us know which one do you like most. Also, share if you have any personal favorite songs about murder.