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Killer SongsThere are hundreds of songs inspired by famous killers, a lot of them coming from bands that you’d expect. Bands like Slayer, Marilyn Manson, and White Zombie all have songs regarding serial killers and their nasty business. Hell, some bands like Macabre and Church of Misery have made entire careers singing about them.

Knowing this, I figured I would compile a list of my favorite songs inspired by famous killers, but it just wasn’t very interesting. Slayer has a song about Ed Gein, and Marilyn Manson has one about Jeffrey Dahmer. So what?

I love the songs, but it just seemed par for the course, ya’ know? Especially taking into consideration the individual artists’ respective personalities and music genre.

So I decided to create a list of my favorite songs inspired by famous killers from artists that you wouldn’t necessarily expected to have done so. Not that any artist shouldn’t be able to write about any damn thing they want, but I thought the following five songs may be surprising for some, considering who wrote them and the source material.

So, without further adieu, here are my five favorite songs inspired by famous killers from artists you wouldn’t expect, ordered by how much I like the song and keeping context in mind.

#5 – Bring On The Night by The Police

The PoliceArtist: The Police
Song: Bring On The Night
Album: Reggatta de Blanc
Inspiration: Pontius Pilate Gary Gilmore

The Police have a few songs regarding murder (which I will get to in another article), but did you know “Bring on the Night” was written about the man who authorized the death of Christ, then, later, retrofitted to represent Gary Gilmore, the man who demanded his own death sentence after murdering two Utah men in 1976?

Gilmore became famous for demanding his own death sentence after killing two men during separate robberies. His demand was granted and Gilmore became the first person put to death after the US Supreme Court allowed states to, once again, put convicts to grass. He was executed by firing squad in 1977 and became the subject of Norman Mailer’s book, The Executioners Song, as well as the made-for-television movie of the same name.

Sting wrote “Bring on the Night” before any of those events, and had someone totally different in mind when he wrote it.  In the book L’Historia Bandido, Sting explained who the song was about originally, and why it is now about Gary Gilmore.

‘Bring On The Night’ was originally called ‘Carrion Prince’. I got the title from a Ted Hughes poem called ‘King Of Carrion’. It was about Pontius Pilate and so was the song originally. Now it’s about Gary Gilmore! I didn’t realise it until I read The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, the story of Gary Gilmore. ‘Bring on the night / I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight.’ Gilmore’s death wish. This very abstract thing I wrote fits this incredible true story. I sing it with him in mind and it’s got to be the theme song if they ever make a movie of his life.

You’d be hard pressed to guess who the hell Sting is referring to when listening to the lyrics of “Bring on the Night” considering they are, as he stated, fairly abstract and do not mention any specific person. They’re simply about someone waiting for the day to end and are not sprinkled with the literary references, like Scylla and Charybdis, that Sting would use in later works to show the world, “Hey everyone, I’m deep! I read!”

I like this song better than any other on this list, and I love The Police. But I’m ranking “Bring on the Night” last simply because, unlike the next four songs, what actually inspired the song is suspect, and the lyrics are too vague.

Bring On The Night

The afternoon has gently passed me by
The evening spreads its sail against the sky
Waiting for tomorrow
Just another day
God bid yesterday goodbye

Bring on the night
I couldn’t spend another hour of daylight
Bring on the night
I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight

The future is but a question mark
Hangs above my head there in the dark
Can’t see for the brightness
Is staring me blind
God bid yesterday goodbye

Bring on the night
I couldn’t spend another hour of daylight
Bring on the night
I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight

Bring on the night
I couldn’t spend another hour of daylight
Bring on the night
I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight

I couldn’t stand another hour of daylight

#4 – Diddy Doo Wap (I Hear The Voices) by Daryl Hall and John Oates

Daryl Hall John OatesArtist: Daryl Hall and John Oates
Song: Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices)
Album: Voices
Inspiration: David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume a lot of you didn’t know that Daryl Hall and John Oates reportedly inspired David Berkowitz to kill, and that after Daryl Hall learned of this, he was inspired to write a song about an ax murderer.

David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, is an American serial killer who operated in New York City between 1976 and 1977. Before he was caught, he used a .44 revolver to claim the lives of six people and wound seven others. He would originally claim his neighbor’s demon-possessed dog instructed him to kill, but has since blamed a myriad of other things for his motivations.

One of those things was “Rich Girl”, the number one song by Daryl Hall and John Oates, even though the song came out after Berkowitz had started his murder spree. Regardless, in an interview, Berkowitz claimed that he would listen to the song to pump him up before he went out hunting.

When Hall learned of this “fact,” he stated, “It wasn’t exactly a pleasant thing to know.” It also inspired him to write “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)”, a song that Oates jokingly referred to as “a song about an ax murderer.”

Joking or not, the song is about a man hiding in a subway station after possibly killing someone with an ax. He explains that the Duke of Earl is what inspires him to kill, as he cannot stop the song from playing in his head unless he is chopping someone up. Seriously, I’m not making this up. The man goes on to note that Charlie (Manson) liked the Beatles, and Sam (Berkowitz) liked Rich Girl, but for him it was the Duke of Earl.

Even though I had my coming out party in regards to me being a fan of Daryl Hall and John Oates (Family Man! Adult Education! I Can’t Go For That! You Make My Dreams! Kiss On My List! ahem…), this is not one of my favorites by them, even with the dark humor. But the odd pairing of a Doo Wop song with an ax murderer (complete with the swishing sounds of an ax slicing through the air) earns it a spot on this list.

Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices)

Look at me, I’m running
Ooh, what have I done
Oh, I must have hurt someone
It’s dark in Subway Station
Gimme place to hide
Oh, I hear the voices deep inside
And oh, the voice is singing
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh
Well, it’s the voice that I hear at the subway stop
Keep singing, diddy doo wop
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh
Well, it starts in my head and it ends when I stop
Keep singing, diddy doo wop
Charlie liked the Beatles (ahh)
Sam, he liked Rich Girl (bitch girl)
But I’m still hung up on the Duke of Earl (duke, duke, duke of earl, duke, duke, duke of earl)
Reaching for the handle
I’m slicing through the air *swish, swish*
Oh, the doo wop voices everywhere
And oh, the Duke is singing
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh
Oh, it’s the voice that I hear at the subway stop
Keep singing, diddy doo wop
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh
Well, it starts in my head and it end when I chop *slash*
Diddy doo wop, keep singing
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh
It starts in my head and it end when I stop
Keep singing, diddy doo wop
Ooh, i hear the voices
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh
Well, it’s the voice that I hear at the subway stop
They singing, diddy doo wop
I hear the voices, voices
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh
Ooh, I hear the voices
Diddy doo wop
I can’t stop, can’t stop the voices (i hear the voices)
Aww, they singing
Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh oh oh oh
Diddy doo wop
I hear the voices
(oh oh oh)
Oh, i can hear them singing (i hear the voices)
Hear the voices
Diddy doo wop
My right hand tried to stop my left hand
(Diddy doo wop)
My left hand tried to stop my right hand
(Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh)
My head keep trying to stop both hands
(I hear the voices)
But i can’t stop, i can’t stop, i can’t stop
(Diddy doo wop)
I hear the duke singing
(Diddy doo wop, oh oh oh (repeat until fade) )
Aw, sing duke
Sing it duke

#3 – The Ballad of T.V. Violence by Cheap Trick

Cheap TrickArtist: Cheap Trick
Song: The Ballad of T.V. Violence (I’m Not The Only Boy)
Album: Cheap Trick
Inspiration: Richard Speck

Richard Speck was one nasty individual who systematically tortured, raped, and murdered eight student nurses inside their apartment back in 1966. In fact, out of all the famous murderers, aside from Ted Bundy, the murders he committed always unnerved me the most.

Speck said he was high on drugs and alcohol the night he entered the women’s townhouse with the initial motive being to rob them. After hoarding the women in a bedroom, he spent hours leading the eight women out one by one, stabbing or strangling them to death, before raping and strangling his last victim. Possibly losing count, Speck didn’t see the ninth woman hiding under a bed, who was able to escape and summon help.

He was arrested two days later, tried, convicted, and sentenced to die by electric chair. After the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, Speck was re-sentenced to 400 to 1,200 years in prison. He would die of a heart attack in 1991. Once he was asked why he killed the nurses, to which he jokingly replied, “It just wasn’t their night.”

Before Cheap Trick would want you to want them, or proclaim to be the flame that would be wherever you go, their 1977 debut album was much darker than what they would offer with their later releases –  dealing with much heavier subject matter including pedophilia, suicide, and in the case of “The Ballad Of T.V. Violence”, serial killer Richard Speck.

Originally titled “The Ballad of Richard Speck”, they were forced to rename the track after the record company forced them to do so, fearing the title was just too offensive at the time, and may hurt the families of Speck’s victims. Listening to the lyrics, it’s easy to see why they would think that. It’s pretty straightforward, loud, and from the serial killer’s point of view.

But it isn’t until the last two minutes or so that I really start digging the song. That’s when it spirals out of control as Zander screams “No” over and over again.

The Ballad Of TV Violence

I needed a girl to give me some love
I need some love, gimme your love
Gimme your loveI need a knife to give me a wife
I need a knife, gimme your life
Gimme your lifeI need a gun to have me some fun
I need a gun, (gimme your love
Gimme your love)I need some rope, it’s my only hope
(after twenty or so) i just don’t know(verse 1)I was a lonely boy
I was a lonely boy
I’m not the only boy
I was a lonely boy
I was a lonely boy
I’m not the only boy(verse 1)(verse 2)I need some rope, it’s my only hope
And why you fight it so i just don’t know(verse 1)I was the lonely boy
I was the lonely boy
I’m not the only boyI’m not the only boy, no
No no no

#2 – Deep Red Bells by Neko Case

Neko CaseArtistNeko Case
Song: Deep Red Bells
Album: Blacklisted
Inspiration: Gary Ridgway

Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer, is a serial killer who operated in the King County area of Washington State throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It is believed he murdered over 70 women, usually strangling them before dumping them in the Green River or in forested areas. He would later return to the bodies to have sex with them.

Ridgway first became a suspect in the killings in 1983, but was not arrested until 2001 after his DNA was linked to the murders of four women. He was spared the death sentence after agreeing to reveal the locations of other women, and sentenced to life behind bars. He would confess to more confirmed murders than any other American serial killer in history.

The remains of new victims still turn up, the most recent in 2010, when hikers found the skull of Marie Malva. In 2011 he would confess to murdering her and have another life sentence tacked on to the 48 he already had.

Neko Case was a teenager living in Washington during the time Ridgway was still in operation. “Deep Red Bells” is a song on her third solo album that she wrote in an attempt to convey what that was like as a young female. It was also written to express her feelings regarding Ridgway’s victims, most of who were prostitutes, and how the media treated them as if they weren’t people with family who loved them.

That has a lot to do with growing up in Washington state during the time when the Green River Killer was active, when I was in junior high. It’s frightening. It has a lot to do with when you’re a kid and you see that stuff on TV all the time—the news definitely made the distinction that these women were prostitutes, in fact they didn’t talk about them like they were women much at all, which made me feel really bad for the women. Myself and many, many other young women that I knew at the time were very, very scared of the Green River Killer. It was very much a part of our psyche. These women’s lives just never seemed that important; they weren’t really made that important on the news. It was all about fear. I guess the song is basically me just thinking, “What are their lives? What would their families do.

“Deep Red Bells” is haunting in a David Lynch-ian kind of way, fitting the overall vibe of the subject matter like a glove, with great lyrics that carry even more weight once you know what they are, and what they are about.

Deep Red Bells Lyrics

He led you to this hiding place
His lightning threats on silver tongue
The red bells beckon you to ride
A hand print on the driver’s side
It looks a lot like engine oil
And tastes like being poor and small
And popsicles in the summer

Deep red bells, deep as I’ve been done
Deep red bells, deep as I’ve been done

It always has to come to this
Red bells ring this tragic hour
Lost sight of the overpass
The daylight won’t remember that
When speckled fronds raise ’round your bones
Who took the time to fold your clothes
And shook the valley of the shadow?

Deep red bells, deep as I’ve been done
Deep red bells, deep as I’ve been done

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

Deep red bells, deep as I’ve been done
Deep red bells, deep as I’ve been done
Deep red bells, deep as I’ve been done

#1 – In Germany Before The War by Randy Newman

Randy NewmanArtist: Randy Newman
Song: In Germany Before the War
Album: Songbook, Vol 1
Inspiration: Peter Kürten

Surprised? I bet you would have never guessed Morbid’s favorite song inspired by a famous killer (from an artist you wouldn’t expect) would be from Randy Fucking Newman.

First off, I have nothing against the guy. He pissed off a lot of idiots with that “Short People” song and my kid loved his TOY STORY crap, so for those reasons alone, he has my respect. But he also has a very dark song on his 1977 album, Little Criminals, titled “In Germany Before the War”.

I had heard it before, as a kid, because my mom had this album and she hated that song. I didn’t like it either, but only because it was slow and (I thought) about some old German guy and the sea. One day when I asked her why she didn’t like it, she said it was because it was about a child killer. “o_O,” I thought to myself, and gave it another listen.

I was surprised to find she wasn’t kidding –  “In Germany Before the War” wasn’t a song about some German guy pining for the sea, as I had originally thought, but was about a German guy pining for the sea and killing a little blond girl.

Later I would learn that the song was inspired by Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Düsseldorf, who committed a string of rapes, assaults and murders in Germany before he was was executed in 1931 by guillotine. He didn’t seem to have a particular preference when it came to his victims – killing men, women and children. He stated that his primary motive for murdering these people was for his sexual pleasure, and that the site of blood is what he needed to achieve an orgasm.

Newman would say that “In Germany Before The War” is a metaphor for a nation about to enter a period of transgression and horror. He took a bit of artistic liberty with the date to construct verses that rhymed, but it is from a killer’s point of view as he sits on the shores of the Rhine, watching a little blond girl who is lost.

I still find this song as dark and depressing as I did when I was a kid – especially the last line, which leaves little to the imagination when it comes to the little girl’s fate. It’s about as dark and depressing as you can get.

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store
In nineteen hundred thirty-four
In Dusseldorf
And every night at fine-o-nine
He’d cross the park down to the Rhine
And he’d sit there by the shore

I’m looking at the river
But I’m thinking of the sea
Thinking of the sea
Thinking of the sea
I’m looking at the river
But I’m thinking of the sea

A little girl has lost her way
With hair of gold and eyes of gray
Reflected in his glasses
As he watches her
A little girl has lost her way
With hair of gold and eyes of gray

I’m looking at the river
But I’m thinking of the sea
Thinking of the sea
Thinking of the sea

We lie beneath the autumn sky
My little golden girl and I
And she lies very still

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  • Abroad

    I was expecting The Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays on this list, – but of course the premise was by people you wouldn’t expect to sing about murderers……

  • mania

    “Suffer Little Children”, by The Smiths. It’s about Myra Hindley and Ian Brady regarding the “Moors Murders” in Manchester, England.

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    Yeah, I just hate the song.

  • TinyCyborg

    probably the softest sweetest song about a guy who used to fuck and torture teenage boys then bury them under his house… http://youtu.be/cWUxOMNHBS4

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    I liked Deer Tick’s better. I almost put it on the list, but not sure many knew who Deer Tick was.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T21iv_zm7oA

  • BEastDuo

    Well, I am officially freaked out by Cheap Trick, I don’t think I really want to hear Zander scream like that…

  • tkaz

    Toy Story holds a special place in my heart so did Randy Newman…but now, ew. That last line gave me the heebie jeebies.
    Especially now that I need to know WHY Kurten needed to see blood to climax, WTF happened in HIS childhood!??

  • dee

    My fav has to be by Mudvayne. Nothing to Gein. Best song ever

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    None of the ones I listed are my favorite songs inspired by a serial killer (although I really like Deep Red Bells), these were just my favorites from bands you wouldn’t expect to have a song about a serial killer. In regards to Ed Gein, Slayer’s Dead Skin Mask is still my favorite.

  • Heather_Habilatory

    My FAVORITE song about killing is “Possum Kingdom” by the Toadies. They of course won’t ever say WHAT it’s about… but I can put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4.

  • Athena

    The entire damn album is a beautiful ode to the life of a serial killer (or, at the very least, a deeply disturbed mind). From “Backslider”, about a river baptism and a boy’s fear of disappointing parent and God by “backsliding” (reverting to sin); to “Quitter” (one of the best, most angry and spiteful breakup songs EVER); to “Tyler” – if that’s not a song about obsession, stalking and rape, I don’t know what is… all the way down to “I Burn”.

    Love, love, love, love, LOVE me some Toadies.

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    Toadies are one of my favorite bands. I learned that “Possum Kingdom” means nothing at all. He had heard stories regarding a lake where he lived, and just wrote a song that kind of mushed them all together.

    In regards to “Tyler”, which I had always thought was based on a true story (and yo will see people on the Internet saying it was) he stated that the song came from him visiting his parents and they were all gossiping about a neighborhood Peeping Tom who would tap on the windows so the person inside could see that he was watching. It wasn’t about a real event, that he knew of.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XA4RDSRSUX3XRSCPRR7XNGSPUQ Joshua

    Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People was inspired by Columbine…one of the band members cousins survived Columbine.

  • Gee

    This is great post Thanks Morbid. I find it real interesting and did not know about some of these.

  • Heather_Habilatory

    I read the same interview, but I’ve read others where they did say it was about something specific.

  • Heather_Habilatory

    To be honest, PK is the only song of theirs I’ve heard. I barely heard it when it first came out, but then last spring in a nutrition club I was working in, it came on on the dance pop Pandora station frequently. Why it was played on the daily on that station, I’ve no idea. My boss thought it was just another song, and I was like “DUDE, listen to the lyrics. If this isn’t about dead people rape, I dunno what is!”

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    I’d like to see those interviews, because I have never heard them say it was about anything specific – even at their shows when they introduce the songs.

  • Athena

    I must confirm. Saw them last year.

  • Heather_Habilatory

    Oh geez. I didn’t copy the URL a year ago when I did the research.

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    I didn’t ask you to produce them, I was just stating that I’d like to see them. :P

  • LeaveMeBe

    I am just so tickled that you ‘came out’ about Hall and Oates. They’re one of my all time favorites.

  • http://www.truecrimereport.com CallMeMister

    Dead Skin Mask is a BRILLIANT song. But you did forget to mention probably their most famous “serial killer” song, Angel of Death, about Josef Mengele, Hitler’s Angel of Death.

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    It will be mentioned in my next list about my favorite serial killer songs from bands you would expect. :P

  • deadskinmask213

    Guess which 2 I have in my name lol

  • deadskinmask213

    213 is off of Devine Intervention thats a reference to Dahmer as it was his apartment number.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cwgfx Crl Wlms

    I have gained so much respect for this site after seeing Morbid mention Macabre and Church of Misery in an article.

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    Church of Misery is one of my favorite bands, man!

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  • Susan Fox

    left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot….