The 50 Most Epic Deaths in Song

 

Death is BogusWHILE THERE IS NO SHORTAGE of songs about taxes, history’s troubadours have composed infinitely more songs about death, and thank God for that. While the nerve-whittling process of crunching numbers into micro-fonted forms in order to determine how much money you owe the government is indeed an emotionally-strained topic worthy of any great bluesman, death offers a far sexier lyrical alternative. Plus, songs about hot-blooded gun owners catching their lovers in bed with other people offer  supremely more captivating narratives than tales about audits and tax fraud.

For clarification, we’re not talking about songs that confront the somber inevitability of death, but rather songs where people perish within the lyrics—tales of murder, vengeance and force majeure. Whether taking on a real life homicide or indulging in a malevolent spree of melodic revenge fantasy, some of rock’s best-loved classics recount grisly fatalities of unspeakable horror. Others approach the act of dying with comical irreverence. From the graphic to the solemn to the hysterical, here are the 50 most epic deaths in song.

 

Decedent 50:   The Gambler
“The Gambler,” Kenny Rogers
Cause of Death: Natural Causes
Two men smoke and drink on a train bound for nowhere. In what is easily the most desirable death on the list, the man known only as “The Gambler,” bums a smoke and some whiskey off of the other man and then imparts a ham-fisted metaphor before taking a nap and dying in his sleep.

Decedent 49: Suzanne Schnerr
“Fire and Rain,” James Taylor
Cause of Death: Suicide
James Taylor kept the origins of this gorgeous folk ballad secret for many years, at times offering differing stories for its inspiration. While many assumed the reference to “flying machines” indicated that the song concerned a plane crash, Taylor has since confirmed that it refers to the suicide of his childhood friend Suzanne. The flying machine in pieces on the ground? Prior to signing with Apple records, he called himself James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine.

Decedent 48:   Narrator
“Good Night for a Heart Attack,” Nashville Pussy
Cause of Death: Overdose
In this blazing paean to heroic drugging, the narrator not only promises to ingest so much whiskey, cocaine and pills that he passes away right there in the bar, but he gleefully encourages his friends to kick his corpse, simply “to prove that I ain’t fakin’.”

Decedents 47a-b: Unnamed Prisoner, unnamed male
“Jailbreak,” AC/DC
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds
Bon Scott’s friend—a convicted murderer serving a sixteen-year sentence—fails spectacularly in his bid for freedom—a prison escape that concludes with him fatally shot in the back, ironically leading to his exodus from the facility. The song also details the underlying crime, where the convict catches his woman with another man, whom he guns down in a screaming hail of bullets.

Decedent 46: You
“Hammer Smashed Face,” Cannibal Corpse
Cause of Death: Deadly weapon (hammer)
Omitting the august Cannibal Corpse from a list of epic deaths in song is like omitting Manchester United from a list of popular English football clubs. This death metal tour de force describes with wince-inducing detail the exquisite process of you getting your facial tissue rearranged with a hammer. Brutal.

Decedent 45: Unnamed female
“Hey Joe,” Jimi Hendrix
Cause of Death: Gunshot wound
“Hey Joe” joins the storied “Crimes of Passion” sub-category—infidelity-fueled murders that account for a significant percentage of songs on this list. The narrator presumably carries out his imminent threat of gunning down his woman for her infidelity. It is worth noting that when your name is Joe, approximately 20% of people to whom you’re introduced pause awkwardly before asking, “Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?” Don’t be that guy.

Decedent 44: Loke
“As Loke Falls,” Amon Amarth
Cause of Death: Decapitation
In this ferocious Viking metal saga, Sweden’s Amon Amarth tap into their country’s rich mythological heritage to recount the battle and beheading of mighty Loke at the hands of bitter enemy Heimdall.

Decedent 43: Earl
“Goodbye Earl,” Dixie Chicks
Cause of Death: Poisoning
High school best friends and former 4-H members Mary Anne and Wanda team up to off Wanda’s abusive husband by serving him up a plate of poisoned black-eyed peas. While the body is never recovered and the song ends as a missing person’s case, the lyrics offer a prima facie cold case resolution.

shooting starDecedent 42: Johnny
“Shooting Star,” Bad Company
Cause of Death: Overdose
Neither money nor a coveted Number One record can buy happiness; not for poor Johnny anyway, the fictitious mama-loving singer who passed away in bed after ingesting a lethal combination of whiskey and sleeping tablets.

Decedent 41: Unnamed female Knoxville resident
“Knoxville Girl,” Various Artists
Cause of Death: Deadly weapon (stick)
Those Appalachians sure can pen a murder ballad. Popularized by the Louvin Brothers before being ruthlessly commandeered by the pontifical hipsters of the alt-country movement, “Knoxville Girl” asks much of the listener as the singer defiantly recounts his craven murder of the young, curly-haired titular girl.

Decedent 40: Hank Williams
“Rollin’ and Ramblin’ (The Death of Hank Williams),” Emmylou Harris
Cause of Death: Overdose
Reverently packed with enough cred-establishing references to the Hank Williams catalog, Emmylou’s ode to the world’s first true rock star describes Hank’s anticlimactic passing in the back of a car after ingesting prodigious amounts of whiskey, chloral hydrate and a pair of B12 shots with morphine. A simple and elegant song about somebody who died too young—Hank would have loved it.

Decedent 39: Princess Diana of Wales
“Drunk Divorced Floozie,” Mojo Nixon
Cause of Death: Automobile accident
Mojo’s unsparing condemnation of the media’s sanctimonious coverage of the death of Diana is shocking at best and unquestionably offensive to many (“She was a drunk, divorced floozie gallivanting in France!”), but that’s never stopped the California rockabilly icon from using his bare-knuckled blues-rock menace to push many a listener’s emotional button.

Decedent 38: Maxwell
“Maxwell Murder,” Rancid
Cause of Death: Unknown
Although somebody has finished Maxwell the drug dealer, it’s all but impossible to invest in the story when the song boasts one of the greatest bass guitar performances of the 90s.

Decedent 37: Unnamed barber
“Somebody Got Murdered,” The Clash
Cause of Death: Deadly weapon (cosh)
Somebody murders a barber for the change in his till but the narrator swears that while he might understandably steal the money, he’s never been hungry enough to murder somebody for their change. It remains debatable whether the police or the community are more apathetic.

Decedent 36: Bambi
“Who Killed Bambi?” The Sex Pistols
Cause of Death: Arrow
Even after the Sex Pistols broke up, they continued their sustained assault on the recording industry by releasing a double album full of B-sides, gimmick tunes and songs featuring vocalists other than Johnny Rotten, appropriately calling the album, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. Sung by Edward Tudor-Pole, “Who Killed Bambi” fixes the storied deer as a punk icon of sorts, slain by a hippie. The album cover graphically reveals that Bambi met his demise via bow and arrow.

Decedent 35: Narrator
“Here’s to the Halcyon,” Old 97s
Cause of Death: Drowning
Rhett Miller’s mastery of the metaphor continues with this jaunty little toe-tapper about a man adrift at sea and clinging to the remains of the good ship Halcyon, earnestly bargaining with God for mercy while alternately taking a skeptical view of how the sinking of his little ship fits into God’s Master Plan.

Decedent 34: Georgie
“The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II), Rod Stewart
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma (curbstone)
A true case of felony murder, the titular character was attacked in an alley by a New Jersey street gang while taking a shortcut home with his lover—a brutal ending to a song that recounts the life of a gay man and former friend of Stewart’s who moves to New York after coming out to his disapproving parents. The switchblade-wielding assailant swears he harbored no murderous intent, but that Georgie tripped and hit his head while backing away.

Decedents 33a-e: Jesus Christ, the Czar of Russia and several ministers, President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, unnamed troubadours
“Sympathy for the Devil,” The Rolling Stones
Cause of Death: Satanic mischief
Ominously played during the infamous Altamont concert minutes before a Rolling Stones fan was knifed to death on camera by a member of Hells Angels, the narrator—Lucifer himself—cheekily takes credit for two thousand years of death and depravity, although history has now established that he is entirely incapable of killing Keith Richards.

Decedent 32: Unnamed transvestite
“Trash” Steve Poltz
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Leave it to prolific American folk hero Steve Poltz to dovetail into the Johnny Cash classic, “Folsom Prison Blues,” and pen a stunning, evocative song from the perspective of the man Johnny Cash shoots in Reno, just to watch him die. In “Trash,” Poltz imagines the victim as a transvestite who has parking lot sex with the Folsom Prison shooter, who then famously kills the victim in a blinding fit of shame. Bizarre? Absolutely. Surprising? Not at all, given that Poltz has also released a gently textured ballad about killing Walter Matthau in a crosswalk hit-and-run accident.

Decedent 31: Unnamed victim of home invasion
“Take the Money and Run,” The Steve Miller Band
Cause of Death: Gunshot
A scalding disappointment to anyone who prefers their stories to end with some sort of closure, this simple burglary splintered into Billy Joe killing a homeowner only to see his girlfriend take the money and split. Miller unambiguously swears that the detective assigned to the case is not only intimately aware of the facts, but that he will not let the suspects escape justice. Then, in direct contrast with this warranty, Billy Joe catches up with Bobby Sue, the two reach some sort of putative reconciliation and then escape together, remaining on the loose to this very day. Maddening.

Decedent 30: Unnamed Female
“Used to Love Her,” Guns N’ Roses
Cause of Death: Axl’s suffocating moodiness
Axl Rose offers an unsettling view into his garbled psyche with this unplugged snuff fantasy that most have assumed is about killing an ex-lover due to her enthusiasm for complaining. While the mind reels with possibility when one considers the list of complaints that any paramour of Axl Rose might plausibly register, members of the band have clarified that the song is about Axl’s dog and it is intended squarely as a joke. Thankfully the only thing that Axl seems to abuse these days is the patience of his fans.

Decedent 29: Unnamed elderly woman
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” Elmo and Patsy
Cause of Death: Sleigh accident
A good-timey song about the brutal death of an intoxicated elderly woman who forgets her medicine and who then, in full view of her uninterested family, staggers out of the house into the cold December night. No mention is made of any sort of search and when her body is found the next day, covered in hoof prints, the narrator fingers Santa Claus as the circumstantial killer. Lest anyone consider this a tragedy, the narrator assures us that the woman’s widower is enjoying a hassle-free life of beer-drinking, football and card-playing.

Decedent 28: You
“Someday I Will Kill You,” Supersuckers
Cause of Death: Unknown
Technically you’re still alive when the song is written, but frontman Eddie Spaghetti makes it clear that at some point, he will kill you. Apparently you’ve done something to get on his last nerve. Bet you wish you could take that back now.

Decedent 27: Captain Farrell
“Whiskey in the Jar,” Traditional
Cause of Death: Multiple gunshot wounds
Poor Captain Farrell thought he’d located a safe place to count his money, deep in the southern mountains of Ireland, until the narrator came upon him, brandishing both a pistol and a rapier. The robber takes Farrell’s money and brings it to his scheming lover Molly, whose treachery is revealed when Farrell enters the room, presumably looking for a bit of payback. The narrator empties both barrels into the Captain, landing Farrell in the ground, the narrator in jail and Metallica a 2000 Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Wooley SwampDecedents 26a-d: Lucius Clay, the Cable brothers
“The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” Charlie Daniels Band
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma (Lucius Clay), asphyxiation by quicksand (Cable brothers)
Remember back in the day, when quicksand was all the rage as a lethal peril in movies and television? Charlie Daniels brings it back with this cautionary tale of bayou karma about the three Cable brothers who beat the miserly Lucias Clay to death and rob him of his fortune—a cache of buried mason jars stuffed with cash. After tossing Clay’s body in the swamp, they grab the money and flee, only to drown in quicksand. Just to spook people, Charlie ends the song by declaring it haunted by all four decedents.

Decedent 25: Unnamed law enforcement personnel
“Cop Killer,” Body Count
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds, stabbing
Ice-T kicked up a navy blue hornet’s nest when he released this felonious revenge fantasy about stalking and killing police officers. Released in the heat of the tensions surrounding the LAPD in the early-90s, this song emerged as a rallying cry for First Amendment supporters and attracted protests at Body Count concerts across the US by local police unions. Ice-T ultimately recalled the album and re-released it without “Cop Killer.” Ironically, he later secured critical acclaim and a string of awards for his portrayal as a hard-nosed police officer on Law & Order: SVU.

Decedent 24: Unknown
“Madman,” Ugly Kid Joe
Cause of Death: Decapitation
An axe-wielding madman slips into Disneyland dosing patrons with LSD before taking their heads off. Also perishing in the song is Disney’s renowned “Happiest Place on Earth” marketing campaign.

Decedents 23a-b: Unnamed bride and groom
“L.A. County,” Lyle Lovett
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds
A man drives from Houston to Los Angeles with an old friend by his side—a coal black .45 pistol. Arriving in the City of Angels, he makes his way to the church where his ex is marrying her new beau, walks straight down the aisle and guns them both down in cold blood before God and their horrified families. Reception totally ruined.

Decedent 22: Unnamed death row inmate
“Hallowed Be the Name,” Iron Maiden
Cause of Death: Hanging
Metalheads have long-appreciated Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson’s robust storytelling prowess and this thirty year-old anthem stands as the cream of the crop. Appearing in nearly every Maiden setlist since its release, the narrative recounts the final moments of a convict waiting to be hanged, painted in bright swaths of raw emotion and spiked with thorny philosophical undercurrents.

Decedents 21a-b: Two unnamed men
“Paul Revere,” The Beastie Boys
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds
The Beastie Boys re-write history in this thrilling re-imagining of the first time the three met—a sprawling epic that sees the boys pulling guns on each other, fleeing the law, and ultimately holding up a bar, where Mike D smokes two kids running for the door during the robbery.

Decedent 20: Joe Geraci
“Internal Landscapes,” Anathema
Cause of Death: Internal hemorrhaging
In Anathema’s flawless, ethereal meditation on the afterlife, Geraci narrates his actual death from internal hemorrhaging and the near death experience that ensued, although as he points out, “there was nothing near about it”—he was clinically dead for several minutes. Ideally listened to with headphones in complete solitude.

Decedent 19: Hattie Carroll
“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” Bob Dylan
Cause of Death: Deadly weapon (cane)
Dylan has killed more people than Michael Myers. “Joey,” “Idiot Wind,” “Ballad of Hollis Brown” and “Hurricane” are just some of the myriad songs written or covered by Dylan where somebody meets their maker, and in this real-life condemnation of upper class privilege, a 24 year-old tobacco baron named William Zanzinger kills a maid named Hattie Carroll for no apparent reason, earning a stern rebuke from the court and a laughable six-month sentence. Lest there be any uncertainty, Bob Dylan does not approve of this outcome.

Decedent 18: Sheriff John Brown
“I Shot the Sheriff,” Bob Marley
Cause of Death: Gunshot wound
Welcome to the Village of Double Standards. Tipper Gore was ready to tar and feather Ice-T for his song about killing law enforcement officials, yet Bob Marley receives a lifetime pass for this daiquiri-sipping celebration of capital murder.

Decedents 17a-b: God, Narrator
“Bury Me With My Guns On,” Bobaflex
Cause of Death: Gunshot wound (God), Hanging (Narrator)
If anybody knows about payback and vengeance, it’s singer Marty McCoy—a direct descendent of the storied Hatfield and McCoy feud. Awash in arena-sized hooks, a chest-beating chorus and verdant three-part harmonies, McCoy tells the tale of a desperado who, after being hanged, makes his way to heaven and challenges God to a duel in a bitter attempt to show Him what it feels like to die. If this were a fair and just planet, somebody would turn this song into a Western-themed short starring Ed Norton as the narrator and John Lithgow as God.

Decedents 16a-d: Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Allison B. Krause, William Knox Schroeder, Sandra Lee Scheuer
“Ohio,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds
Hastily written by Young in the wake of the Kent State murders, “Ohio” stood as one of the foremost protest songs of the Seventies—a scathing indictment of a nation in decline, underscored by the deaths of four unarmed students at the hands of the National Guard. The song was quickly mastered and released within weeks of the tragedy. David Crosby, who is said to have wept at the end of the studio take they would ultimately use, can be heard asking, “Why did they have to die? How many more?” as the song fades out.

Decedent 15: Unnamed bar patron
“Highway Patrolman,” Bruce Springsteen
Cause of Death: Gunshot wound
Patrolman Joe Roberts lets his brother Franky get away with murder—literally—after Franky kills a man in a bar. The patrons finger Franky as the shooter and Joe eventually catches up with him in a high speed chase winding north through the roads of Michigan. Ultimately, in a giant “F.O.” to the family of the deceased, the patrolman abandons chase as they approach the northern border in order to let his brother pass safely into Canada. Thankfully, the US and Canada signed their extradition treaty in 1971.

Decedent 14: Unknown male
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
Cause of Death: Gunshot wound
With all the Bismillahs, Scaramouches and Fandangos, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a three-part song about a killer whose primary regret applies to his impending punishment and not his violent crime. In view of Freddie Mercury’s difficult childhood, this song emerges as perhaps a revenge fantasy against those who wronged him, explaining the narrator’s vision of himself as a sympathetic figure.

Decedents 13a-c: Three unnamed African-American males
“Murder One,” 50 Cent (feat. Eminem)
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds
Like country music and heavy metal, one could easily compile a list of the 50 epic deaths in hip hop. This 50 Cent collaboration with Eminem hews to the time-honored tradition of icing any man perceived as not ceding an appropriate level of respect to the rapper. Here, 50 not only enthuses over the murders, but we actually hear the three silencer shots, followed by the thud of the bodies hitting the floor.

Decedent 12: Unknown male
“I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)”, Machine Head
Cause of Death: Fire
Statistically, males account for the overwhelming majority of arsonists, inspiring Machine Head to juxtapose the paradigm with this terrifying three-part beatdown about a psychotic female firebug who exacts merciless vengeance upon her ex. One can safely assume that her Match.com profile has since been taken down.

Decedent 11: Unnamed Mermaids
“Murmaider,” Dethklok
Cause of Death: Deadly weapons (knife, rope, dagger, chain, laser beam, acid, shiv, pipe, hammer, axe, sword, saw, club, claw)
Boasting the seventh-largest economy in the world (their fictitious cartoon world, that is), the animated supergroup Dethklok released this ultra-violent melo-death saga about murder, vengeance and war under the sea. Who knew mermaids were so damned hostile?

Decedent 10: Unnamed male
“The End,” The Doors
Cause of Death: Unknown (patricide)
Originally inspired by a breakup with his then-girlfriend Mary, subsequent versions of the song expanded to include an eerie spoken-word passage in the middle in which Jim Morrison riffs on his Oedipal complex, describing a booted killer who slays his father at dawn before uttering his infamous (edited) proclamation to his mother.

Decedent 9: Unnamed middle-aged man with thick and wavy hair
“Prelude,” Peter Himmelman
Cause of Death: Automobile accident
There’s not a funnier song on this list. Featuring a wavy-haired narrator who declares himself to be “a wealthy guy who just happens to be fantastically handsome,” the opening track of Himmelman’s ambitious and grotesquely-underappreciated concept album, Skin, ends with the yuppie’s death via car accident. Himmelman, son-in-law to Bob Dylan, composed the album as a meditation on rebirth and spirituality.

Decedents 8a-c: Joan, teacher, judge
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” The Beatles
Cause of Death: Deadly weapon (hammer)
Though not as grisly as Cannibal Corpse’s entry above, those rascally, mop-topped Scousers penned this dark ode to Maxwell, a serial killer partial to hammers. Never one to pass up an understatement, George Harrison would dryly recall the lyrics as, “kind of a drag because Maxwell keeps on destroying everyone, like his girlfriend then the school teacher, and then, finally, the judge.”

Decedents 7a-b: Military troops, unnamed elderly male
“Us and Them,” Pink Floyd
Cause of Death: Unknown (though likely gunshot wounds for the troops)
Originally written by Richard Wright for a movie score, this mesmerizing reflection on alienation was originally titled, “The Violent Sequence.” Roger Waters would eventually add the somewhat ambiguous lyrics that describe soldiers dying on the front line and an elderly man passing away at the end from unknown causes. Eventually appearing on The Dark Side of the Moon, Roger Waters walked around the studio asking random people questions from flashcards and recording their answers. A roadie—Roger “The Hat” Manifold—is heard answering the question, “When was the last time you thumped somebody?” during a break in the nearly eight-minute track.

Decedents 6a-m: Teddy, Cathy, Bobby (#1), G-berg, Georgie, Sly, Bobby (#2), Mary, Bobby (#3), Judy, Eddie, Tony and Brian
“People Who Died,” Jim Carroll
Causes of death: Blunt force trauma from falling off of a building (Teddy [death by misadventure], Tony [murdered by Herbie]), suicide (Cathy, Bobby #2, Mary, Bobby #3, Judy), leukemia (Bobby #1), hepatitis (G-Berg and Georgie), Gunshot wound (Sly), Deadly weapon-knife (Eddie), unknown (Brian)
In 1980, there was no shorter straw than being a friend of Jim Carroll, who penned this hard-charging, pogo-friendly jam as tribute to deceased chums, none of whom died of natural causes.

Decedent 5: Major Tom
“Space Oddity,” David Bowie
Cause of Death: Unknown
A disastrous mechanical failure sees the British astronaut helplessly floating into space with no way back, and listeners are left to their own imaginations as to how the spaceman ultimately perishes. Major Tom would later resurface in other Bowie songs (“Ashes to Ashes” and “Hallo Spaceboy”), as well as Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home). Canadian astronaut and International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield filmed a video of the song from the space station that attracted over twenty million hits as well as a tweet from David Bowie, who granted him a one-year license to use the song in the video.

Decedent 4: Leroy Brown
“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” Jim Croce
Cause of Death: Deadly weapon (knife)
Those folky-types sure know how to kill guys. Chicago’s Leroy Brown stood taller and sturdier than the proverbial brick latrine, inspiring fear and trepidation among those who crossed his path. In a swaggering display of wanton hubris, Brown—known to women as “Treetop Lover”— messes around with a married woman named Doris, whose husband defends her honor by knifing Brown to death in a crowded bar.

Decedent 3, Delilah
“Delilah,” Tom Jones
Cause of Death: Deadly weapon (knife)
Welsh panty-magnet Tom Jones spins this first-person narrative about remorselessly gutting a woman who betrays him. The macabre standard sees Jones lying in wait until the woman’s lover drives away, at which point he knocks on her door. She laughs at him and he knifes her to death. End of.

Decedent 2: Unnamed male
“Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash
Cause of Death: Gunshot wound
Like Freddie Mercury’s killer in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the narrator in “Folsom Prison Blues” isn’t particularly concerned about his violent crime so much as he feels bad about its ensuing punishment. The punch of this song has always been the harrowing revelation that the killer iced the victim simply to watch him die.

Decedents 1a-cc:   The crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald
“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” Gordon Lightfoot
Cause of Death: Drowning
Canadian songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recounts the true story of the fateful final voyage of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a carrier ship that sank on Lake Superior in 1975, killing all 29 crewmen. Lyrically, not a syllable is wasted. Stacked with tight couplets shining with evocative details, Lightfoot uses the facts of the disaster as a framework, summoning his artistic license to create a captivating story within that launched the song to the top of the Canadian charts. Obsessively concerned with the song’s authenticity, Lightfoot actually altered certain lyrics in subsequent years as additional information on the shipwreck has been revealed. Still, this song remains one of the greatest stories ever told, period.

 

Joe Daly

About Joe Daly

Joe Daly (@JoeD_SanDiego) is a regular contributor to the UK's Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Bass Guitar Magazine, and he provides commentary, reviews and industry insight to many other outlets in the US and abroad. Joe has contributed to several books and he has won awards for his interviews with icons like Slash, Chuck D. and bands like Motley Crue and Slayer. Joe also digs photography, running and speaking to his dogs in silly voices.
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25 Responses to The 50 Most Epic Deaths in Song

  1. Patrick says:

    Glad to see Gordon Lightfoot on one of these top 50 lists….

    To the editors: Some of us have day jobs…so how about a top 10 list once in a while? (And don’t tell me to just scroll down to the bottom….you know as well as I do that you gotta read all 50 if they are there.)

    Thanks for the posts.

    • Joe Daly Joe Daly says:

      Patrick-

      Thanks for the read and my apologies for the longevity of this list. Once I got going, it was impossible to pull back. Hope you got some work done today!

  2. Dana says:

    cough. jeremy. cough.

    You said putative reconciliation. Heh. :)

    • Joe Daly Joe Daly says:

      Jeremy! A few people have pointed that one out. I think that’s the number three song that people have pointed out. I thought those guys didn’t like attention. Hmph.

  3. Dennis says:

    2 I would have like to see on the list.
    1
    Poison 13-biggest mistake (was when I left you in a shallow grave) great song.
    2
    The Bouys – Timothy. Getting stuck in a mind collapse – the guy find meat and survive but never can find their friend Timothy

  4. MzVengenz says:

    1.) A Little Piece of Heaven by Avenged Sevenfold – a wonderfully poppy song full of murder and mayhem.
    2.) Jeremy – by Pearl Jam – how could anyone forget this!?

  5. Charlie says:

    Pink Floyd – When The Tigers Broke Free…

    t was dark all around.
    There was frost in the ground
    When the tigers broke free.
    And no one survived
    From the Royal Fusiliers Company C.
    They were all left behind,
    Most of them dead,
    The rest of them dying.
    And that’s how the High Command
    Took my daddy from me.

    Matty Groves – (Traditional although Fairport Convention’s version is best)…

    And then up spoke his own dear wife
    Never heard to speak so free
    “I’d rather a kiss from dead Matty’s lips
    Than you or your finery”.

    Lord Donald he jumped up
    And loudly he did bawl
    He struck his wife right through the heart
    And pinned her against the wall

    “A grave, a grave,” Lord Donald cried
    “To put these lovers in
    But bury my lady at the top
    For she was of noble kin”

    Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day…

    In the morning when you finally go
    And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
    And the cardinal hits the window

    In the morning in the winter shade
    On the first of March, on the holiday
    I thought I saw you breathing

    All the glory that the Lord has made
    And the complications when I see His face
    In the morning in the window

    All the glory when He took our place
    But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
    And He takes and He takes and He takes…

    Porcupine Tree – What Happens Now?…

    So I got all these things, but so what?
    In the end you can’t take them with you
    You think you can save my soul? Well Ok…
    Tell me, with all your conviction
    What happens now?

    Well I could be boarding an aircraft
    With a bomb concealed in somebody’s briefcase
    And my body will spread through the heavens, across the sky
    And my ashes will fall through the cloudburst
    What happens now?
    What happens now?

    Neil Young – Down By The River…

    Be on my side,
    I’ll be on your side,
    baby
    There is no reason
    for you to hide
    It’s so hard for me
    staying here all alone
    When you could be
    taking me for a ride.

    Yeah, she could drag me
    over the rainbow,
    send me away
    Down by the river
    I shot my baby
    Down by the river,
    Dead, oh, shot her dead.

    The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby…

    Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
    Nobody came
    Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
    No one was saved

    Brother 52 – Fish…
    I think, he wasn’t afraid of death
    You know, he believed in something to die for
    That’s what he did

    Some say he had it coming
    Others say he was sole to blame
    But who says they’ve got the rights
    If any at all to blow the brothers away

    A man got a right to wonder
    A man got a right to dream
    Without looking over his shoulder
    To choose the manner of the life he leads

    One man’s thoughts on another man’s skin
    We are lovers, warriors, magician kings

    Brother 52
    Tattoo, tattoo, tattoo, tattoo
    Tattoo, tattoo, tattoo, tattoo, Brother 52

    Jeff Wayne (Justin Hayward etc…) – Forever Autumn (including preceding track)…

    The summer sun is fading as the year grows old,
    And darker days are drawing near,
    The winter winds will be much colder,
    Now you’re not here.

    I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky
    And one by one they disappear,
    I wish that I was flying with them
    Now you’re not here.
    Like the sun through the trees you came to love me,
    Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away…

    Through autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way,
    You always loved this time of year

    Madness – Drip Fed Fred…

    We want Freddie for our leader Freddie is a man of Class
    We want Freddie for our leader all stand and raise your champagne glass

    We are gathered here this evening to pay our due respects
    To Drip-Fed Fred who late last night fell out of his prison bed
    We know the nonce behind it who slipped the night PD
    The word is out now without doubt you will answer to me

    Gentlemen and assassins and ladies of the night
    I call upon you this evening in the hope of shedding new light
    There is a simple solution one called honour amongst thieves
    So we’ll take pity on your souls and only cap your knees

    The Strawbs – The Hangman and The Papist…

    The jailer binds his hands
    And puts his blindfold to his eyes
    He leads him through the door before the crowd
    The hangman sees his victim

    And the blood drains from his face
    He sees his younger brother standing proud
    The hangman tries to protest
    But is ordered to proceed

    His trembling hands begin to take the strain
    His eyes are blind with streaming tears
    And he cries for all to hear
    Forgive me, God, we hang him in Thy name

    Comus – Drip Drip…

    In a clearing where the sunrays dance amongst the forest’s dense secrets
    You will softly rest your pale beauty enshrined by the sweet glade
    Your body at peace even the earth will fill the crack where entered my blade
    Where entered my blade

    …well they’re the ones that spring to mind anyway!

    • Joe Daly Joe Daly says:

      Charlie-

      This is sweet! Man, I picked the wrong Pink Floyd song, for sure. You’ve suggested a far less ambiguous selection. And Porcupine Tree! Well done, man. Thanks for the feedback!

  6. Tom says:

    “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry, since I don’t think falling (or jumping, or being pushed) off a bridge is a cause of death listed above. Also, it was hugely popular once upon a time .

    “Done Too Soon” by Neil Diamond, for the sheer number of people named who “wept when it was all done, for being done too soon”.

    “Flowers for Algernon” by Cathy Mar, because no one said these all had to be *human* deaths!

    • Joe Daly Joe Daly says:

      Tom-

      More good ones. One of the list is a non-human death- Bambi. Excruciating to even think of it…

      Also, you’re right that the list doesn’t have anybody falling off of a bridge, but we do have one person pushed off of a roof. I suppose one goes splat and the other drowns. Or the other goes splat and then drowns?

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Diane says:

    Sullivan by Carolines Spine

  8. Annie says:

    How about the most creative?

    30,000lbs of Bananas by Harry Chapin?

  9. johnny says:

    delia’s gone, johnny cash

  10. Cheron says:

    Ballad of Jayne, LA Guns
    Long Black Veil, Johnny Cash

  11. dave says:

    NEBRASKA Springsteen

  12. Clsy says:

    Leroy didnt die in a knife fight. He only had a “couple of pieces gone” and he learned a lesson.

  13. Nichole says:

    Great list and im sure it was difficult to narrow it down to 50 but, Blue October’s The End is a very moving story of a cheating wife that ended in a double murder and then suicide. Would’ve been awesome to see it on this list.. but you should check it out for any future lists. On that note you could make a list of Blue October death songs it’s a topic Justin Furstenfeld writes about offten in many creative ways

  14. sila says:

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  15. Dan O says:

    Shellac- Prayer to God
    if you include the Supersuckers this one tops all

  16. wetter.com says:

    family means a lot to me

  17. Chris Daly says:

    A lot of differing opinions on the cause of death, but “Powderfinger” being my favorite Neil Young tune seems like a good fit for this list.

  18. ipsecog says:

    I came upon this list while searching for “Where The Wild Roses Grow” (without knowing the name). I think it belongs on the list too!

  19. Chris says:

    Water’s Edge – Seven Mary Three

    Moving song!

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