Top 10 Songs About Murder

Script written by Shane Fraser Songwriters frequent many wells, and sometimes they just happen to contain a body. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Songs About Murder. For this list, we've chosen songs ranked by acclaim and notoriety. Each one has to reference a murder in a specific way. Special thanks to our users mac121mr0 submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Shane Fraser

Top 10 Songs About Murder

 
Songwriters frequent many wells, and sometimes they just happen to contain a body. Welcome to Watchmojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 songs about murder.
 
For this list, we’ve chosen songs ranked by acclaim and notoriety. Each one has to reference a murder in a specific way. No allusions to a crime or vague ramblings from a lunatic like the one found in the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” We’re also featuring songs that have a somewhat malicious tone, unlike The Beatles’ paradoxically upbeat “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
 

#10: “Murder Was the Case” (1994)
Snoop Doggy Dogg

The Dogfather weaves quite an uncharacteristic tale in this song. After getting gunned down in a drive-by, Snoop reveals his final thoughts as life escapes his body. He thinks of his pregnant wife, then God, and then hears a voice that is thought to be the devil’s before closing his eyes. Snoop wakes up from a coma, but is soon sent to prison for a presumed revenge murder. It ends with the description of his incarcerated homey getting a pencil in his neck before the song flatlines.
 

#9: “Delilah” (1968)
Tom Jones

This 60s classic tells the story of a man who discovers his lover in bed with another man. Wielding a knife, he knocks on her door, and she answers with a sadistic laugh. That’s enough to drive the man to murder, as he plunges the knife into her until she dies. Tom Jones belts out the thoughts of the man in the chorus, as he cries, despairs the act, and asks for forgiveness. It is too late, of course. Delilah is dead and the police are coming, but music and the vocals are still beautiful.
 

#8: “Pumped Up Kicks” (2011)
Foster the People

It may take a few listens to get past that catchy bassline but this is a surprisingly dark tune. Told from the perspective of a school shooter, Pumped Up Kicks became a giant hit in spite of its subject matter. Dealing with bullying, gun control and mental illness, “Pumped Up Kicks” paints a vivid portrait of the horrific violence that has become common within North American schools. The shooter in question, with his aversion to pumped up kicks—or fashionable shoes for the laymen—is described as killing classmates before turning the gun on his father.
 

#7: “Murder Ink” (1999)
Dr. Dre feat. Hittman and Ms. Roq

Murder can be a gritty fact of life in the ghetto, and as such has long been a staple of gangsta rap. “Murder Ink” is a perfect example of this, as Dr. Dre, many years removed from his days in dangerous Compton, California, still evokes the mindset of the streets. Featured on his 2001 solo album, the song tells of a few instances where murder was committed, each with a clear purpose, whether it be for money, drugs, or revenge. It’s all in the game, as Omar would say.
 
 

#6: “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)
Queen

While this song touches on many different topics, and is more an epic narrative rather than a single-themed expose, the central theme isabout murder. “Mama, just killed a man,” says the unknown narrator, who leaves it ambiguous as to who the killer and the victim are. There’s as many interpretations as there are segues in this song, with some believing that the lyrics are purely allegorical, that they reference Freddy Mercury’s personal traumas, and others have noted its similarities to Dostoyevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment.” All we know is that it’s a compositional wonder.
 

#5: “Folsom Prison Blues” (1955)
Johnny Cash

Folsom Prison Blues is country’s darkest anthem. An ode to a prisoner, a cold blooded killer, who “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”- the darkest motive for murder Johnny Cash could think of. Perfectly parsed and a masterpiece in brevity, Cash’s lyrics evoke a picture of a regretful man whose destiny lives in Folsom Prison, and the man’s untouchable freedom in the form of a train that whistles outside the walls. This is among Cash’s most famous songs, both its original recorded version and its legendary live version, the latter of which was recorded, in Folsom Prison itself.
 
 

#4: “Stan” (2000)
Eminem feat. Dido

Eminem’s mind is a rather dark place, if his lyrics are anything to go by. One of the familiar themes is murder, which is featured prominently in the highly controversial “Kim”.  Eminem’s hit track off the same album, titled “Stan”, explores the themes further through a dialogue between the rapper and a crazed fan, who, after writing to Eminem and receiving no response, has a breakdown resulting in the deaths of his girlfriend and their unborn child. The song is quite emotional, and thanks to Dido’s background vocals, packs a uniquely poignant punch.
 

#3: “I Shot the Sheriff” (1973)
Bob Marley

Bob Marley was a strong advocate for peace and justice; themes that can be found in the majority of his work. “I Shot the Sheriff” may be most representative of those beliefs, as it details a seemingly just man killing an unjust sheriff, but being falsely accused of slaying the deputy. Marley paints quite the ethical problem in this song, though it may not appear that way on the surface. The man admits to murdering the sheriff, as he believes it was his right to do so, but he denies killing the deputy, as that would be barbaric in his eyes.
 

#2: “Janie’s Got a Gun” (1989)
Aerosmith

“Janie’s Got a Gun” is notorious for its dark subject matter, despite being a top 5 Billboard hit and a radio mainstay in the 1990s. Centring around a woman, who was molested as an infant and seeks fatal revenge on her rapist father, Aerosmith really jumped out of the confines of standard rock lyricism. Some commercial backlash was feared, however, with Stephen Tyler opting to self-censor and remove the word “raped” from the lyrics. While Janie does kill her father the song stops short of glorifying murder by making the listener understand her motivation.
 
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
 
“The End” (1967)
The Doors
 
“A Little Piece of Heaven” (2007)
Avenged Sevenfold
 
“Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” (2004)
The Killers
 
“Suffer Little Children” (1984)
The Smiths
 
“Excitable Boy” (1978)
Warren Zevon
 
“John Wayne Gacy Jr.” (2005)
Sufjan Stevens
 

#1: “Hey Joe” (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience

While not written by Hendrix, and recorded by a host of artists in the mid-60s, “Hey Joe” is undeniably classic Jimi Hendrix. “Where you going with that gun in your hand?” asks the narrator, leading Joe to lay out his entire plan, motive, and method of escape. This dialogue continues throughout the song, both before and after the murder but Joe’s answers are so sober and convincing that’s it’s easy to understand his actions. While it could be grim, “Hey Joe” is instead a mesmerizing tune, a lesson in lyrical and literary storytelling, and one of rock’s greatest entities.
 
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite song with dark undertones? For more macabre Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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