Since it’s October, and Halloween is just around the corner, we thought we’d turn to a darker, creepier theme for this month’s Top 20. We’re asking you to name what you think is the best murder ballad.
This can be the creepiest murder ballad you’ve ever heard, the song you think has the best melody, the darkest story, or simply one that you can’t get out of your head.
One you have your choice, enter it into the form at the bottom of this page.
Related: Murder ballads on Music 101
Country music is full of murder ballads, in part because the music grew out of folk and old-time music and storytelling that date back centuries…and murder ballads have, for better or worse, been a part of folk music history.
The Louvin Brothers recorded one of the most famous murder ballads, their beautiful vocal harmonies a stark juxtaposition against the ballad’s creepy lyrics.
Murder ballads, though, have crept plenty often into other genres as well. Rock music has some choice examples, like this song from the Decemberists:
Bruce Springsteen got plenty dark on his Nebraska album, including on the title track, which is based on the story of Charles Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate. Springsteen was allegedly inspired to write this song after seeing the Terrence Malick film Badlands.
And of course, there’s Nirvana‘s cover of an old folk song during their MTV Unplugged session. They called it “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” but the song is also known by titles such as “In the Pines,” “My Girl,” and “Black Girl.”
You can turn also to hip-hop for more takes on the murder ballad. This classic song by the Geto Boys will haunt you for days…or maybe for the rest of your life.
And women, of course, have gotten in on the action more than a few times, too. Wanda Jackson’s “The Box It Came In,” for instance, takes a wicked turn about halfway through.
And Bessie Smith pleaded with the judge on the gruesome “Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair.”
But it’s Hurray for the Riff Raff‘s song “The Body Electric” that brings us back to earth by taking several steps back to see murder – most notably violence against women and people of color – for the horror that it is. As the band’s lead singer and songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra described it: “I hope this song breathes power and humanity back into all people who feel targeted by violence and oppression, whether they exist in our old stories and songs or are marching in protest as we speak.”
Vote for your favorite murder ballad
Use the form below to vote for what you consider to be the best murder ballad you’ve ever heard. We’ll compile the answers and then count down the top 20 murder ballads at the end of this month…just in time for Halloween.
See previous Top 20s from 2021
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