Crime may not pay, but it does provide rich material for songwriting. Look no further than the murder ballad, that enduring song form that can be seen in genres ranging from Appalachian folk songs to indie pop to rap. Gary Ridgway, aka the Green River Killer, was convicted of murdering 48 women in Washington State and California in the s and s, around the time Neko Case was growing up in Tacoma. Gerald Friend, a suspect in the Green River Killer case, abducted and abused a teenage girl who accepted a ride from him after a rock concert in But Bentley did not fire the shot that killed Miles. His underage accomplice Christopher Craig did. Instead of recounting the grisly details of the murder, Cash focuses his attention on the strife of the nation as it comes to grips with its fallen leader. Blues singer Mississippi John Hurt recorded what is largely known as the definitive version of this famous murder ballad in Louis, Mo.
By Patrick Coleman
M usic is an area where humans seek to break free of rules, and striking a rebel pose is a favourite theatrical ploy of the musician seeking to make a name for him or herself. So identifying with a criminal is a good way to establish a musician's stance against authority. Let's start with two lesser-known versions of gold-standard crime-doesn't-pay rebel songs. I Fought the Law is one of those rock standards that cannot be destroyed, no matter who covers it. And what's extraordinary is how the Crickets' original version arrives fully formed. Similarly, better-known versions of Hey Joe didn't significantly change or improve upon the Leaves' recording. It isn't the original west coast folkie Billy Roberts claims authorship , but it is the original hit version. Both follow law-breakers on a trail of self-destruction. Mr Fox by Mr Fox alias Bob and Carole Pegg is a northern English psych-folk dirge that tells a traditional tale of crime and punishment.
Here are my top ten:. Is there gas in the car? The Royal Scam. What do you get for someone who has it all? Curling iron burns and empty sex, for starts. Los Angeles. How Does Your Garden Grow. Blue Valentine. Was he with the Russians and surprised to find out that she was also with them? Is she a double agent masquerading as a cocktail waitress?
Join author Patrick Coleman as he shares a curated playlist of crime-related songs that he compiled with the help of singer-songwriter Nicholas Altobelli. It just might be the perfect musical cocktail to inspire a future crime novel. I listen to a lot of music while I write. A good song can suggest not just a mood or a feeling though they do this exceptionally well but a whole world and the people in it. That got me thinking about songs that are, in themselves, crime novels, or that could be the basis of one in the right hands. As I started putting together that playlist, I reached out to my cousin, the Dallas singer-songwriter Nicholas Altobelli. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, and we share a grim sensibility. Soon we had about a hundred tracks, and could have kept going on like that for years.