Murder Ballad

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Gentlemens of the Jury,
What you think of that?
Stagolee killed Billy DeLyon
'bout a five-dollar Stetson hat.
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee"

Mississippi John Hurt"Stack O'Lee"

A song about a murder. The murder ballad has its origins in Folk Music traditions dating back centuries, but since the 20th century has bled into blues, country, rock & roll, and rap as well. A Murder Ballad can be told from the perspective of the killer, the victim, or (most often) a third party observer. This particular style is a rich target for genre satire as well, as the examples below show.

Many of the Child Ballads, collected by Francis Child, are Murder Ballads. Many examples contain Lyrical Dissonance.

The Other Wiki has examples.

Examples of Murder Ballad include:

Examples with their definitive recording

Alternative Rock

  • "I Never Told You What I Do For A Living" by My Chemical Romance is written from the perspective of a serial killer.
  • The Nick Cave album Murder Ballads consisted of nothing but, well, murder ballads. The most famous song would be "Where The Wild Roses Grow", a duet with Kylie Minogue.
    • And Cave's own "Stagger Lee." Look up the lyrics, I dare you.
      • Cave's Stagger Lee murders at least one person in cold blood before the Billy Delyon character even enters the story - and then forces Billy to perform homoerotic acts on him. And then shoots Billy in the middle of it.
      • And the last song, an original, "O'Malley's Bar." Plenty of Squick to go around.
  • "Woman in the Wall" by the Beautiful South is about a drunk who kills his wife/girlfriend and hides her body inside the wall, The Black Cat-style.
  • Snow White's Poison Bite's "The End Of Prom Night," "Kristy Killings," and "Serial Killer Girl (Come On, Come On, Kill Me!)" are about a serial killer girl whom the singer falls in love with.
  • "Murder Ballad" - Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
  • "Buenos Tardes Amigo" by Ween is the tale of a South of the Border shooting, sung by the brother of the victim about how he will get his revenge, but it is revealed at the end that the narrator killed his own brother, and blamed it on the person to whom he is singing.
  • "Heavy In Your Arms" by Florence + the Machine.

I was a heavy heart to carry,
My feet dragged across the ground.
And he took me to the river,
Where he slowly let me drown.

  • Anything off Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight by Kristin Hersh. She refers to them in concert as "the dead girlfriend songs."
  • "Slow Motion" by Third Eye Blind, although you wouldn't know it from the original album release, which didn't contain any of the verses.
  • "Country Death Song" by the Violent Femmes, somewhat of a pastiche of the classic murder ballad (at least, considering the rest of their oeuvre). Deals with a father murdering his little girl.
  • "Cold Black Heart" by Shawn Mullins.
  • The Birthday Massacre loves making these. "Lover's End", "Happy Birthday", "Velvet"... and then there's all the other songs that deal with violent things that aren't necessarily murder, of which there are too many to list. All set to catchy, upbeat synth/dance/rock/metal/something music.
  • "Lovely Girls" by Blood Cells, from the victim's point of view.
  • Pretty Polly by Queen Adreena is a cover of a traditional murder ballad.
  • "Water's Edge" by Seven Mary Three, about witnessing a murder.
  • Evelyn Evelyn have two; the tragic "Sandy Fishnets", about the life, disappearance, and probable murder of a twelve-year-old prostitute, and the darkly humorous "You Only Want Me 'Cos You Want My Sister", in which the narrator murders her more popular sister.
  • While there's no Word of God, the lyrics of "Let The Record Show" by Emilie Autumn seem to be about a prostitute ("get them off and they'll let you go") murdered by her jealous lover. Considering the frequent setting of Emilie's work, there's also a high possibility that it's about a victim of Jack the Ripper.
  • Hurt's "Got Jealous", about the narrator killing a man for being with his (possibly ex-) lover.
  • "Pumped Up Kicks", by Foster the People, is a song about a teenager who goes on a killing spree because his schoolmates have nicer shoes than he does. Coincidentally enough, the group's bassist is first cousin to a Columbine survivor.
  • "Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies is ambiguously a murder ballad; the video strongly suggests that the narrator is singing to his female victim, but some have interpreted the lyrics to imply that the narrator is a vampire and has rendered his victim undead and immortal.


  • "Another Day" by Mountain Heart is a double Murder Ballad. An abusive husband finally shoots his wife and then tries to leave town. While he's hiding the sheriff track him down and lets the father kill him in what is implied to be a fairly brutal manner.


  • "Crow Jane" - Skip James
  • "Stack O'Lee" (also known as "Stagger Lee") - Mississippi John Hurt
  • Tom Waits' "Murder in the Red Barn" and its Spiritual Successor, "Don't Go Into That Barn."
    • And his spooky killer's eye account "Widow's Grove."
  • Twa Sisters is old. Its first recorded appearance is on a broadside from 1656 under the name "The Miller and the King's Daughter." Everyone's done a cover of it, including Tom Waits, Clannad, Jerry Garcia, Okkervil River, Andrew Bird, Regina Spektor with Levon Vincent, Yggdrassil, and, of course, Bob Dylan. And there's a version of it in just about every European language. Notably, there are two different endings depending upon the adaptation - all versions basically involve a girl drowning her sister out of jealousy and someone else being blamed and executed, but in some versions the drowned sister's bones and hair are made into a harp, which starts singing a song that reveals her true murderer.
  • "Miss Otis Regrets" by Cole Porter (one of the few Cole Porter songs not written for a show or movie). Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues did a nice version for the Red Hot + Blue album.
  • Robert Cray's bluesy "Smoking Gun".
  • Little Caesar's "Goodbye Baby".
  • The Rolling Stones' blues-going-on-rock song "Midnight Rambler" is a Murder Ballad from the perspective of the murderer. Although no specific murder case is mentioned, the narrator is quite clearly established as a Serial Killer and rapist.


  • "Weird Al" Yankovic plays this for laughs with "The Night Santa Went Crazy."
    • And "I'll Never Forget About Larry". "The Good Old Days" may count as well.
  • "The Irish Ballad" by Tom Lehrer is about an Irish girl who kills her entire (extended) family in various gory ways. She doesn't deny her crimes to the police, though, because she knows that lying is a sin. "The Irish Ballad" is, by Tom Lehrer's own statement, a satire of the Murder Ballad.
  • Anthony and Those Other Guys' song My Brother, originally as a third party witnesses his brothers crimes and eventually a victim.


  • "Charles Giteau" - Kelly Harrell
  • "Delia's Gone" - Johnny Cash
    • Johnny Cash has a lot of these, including "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "Cocaine Blues," "Folsom Prison Blues," etc. This troper once saw a Johnny Cash greatest hits album sorted into three themed-discs: God, Love, and Murder.
  • "Goodbye Earl" - The Dixie Chicks, where an abused wife (with help of her best friend) poison the title character, this as retribution for a particularly brutal beating at Earl's hands.
  • "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence is a sordid tale of infidelity and murder in a small Georgia town which ultimately leads to an innocent man being hanged. The murderer turns out to be the narrator, who was punishing her brother's wife for her adultery. Unfortunately, the judge hangs her brother before she can confess the crime. Famously covered by Reba McEntire, though her version's music video was a mini-movie version which had Reba playing a woman who while researching the execution, uncovers the true killer's identity.
  • "Between the River and Me"- Tim McGraw
  • "Down the River" and "Long Black Highway" by Chris Knight.
  • "The Snakes Crawl at Night" by Charley Pride, tells the tale about a man who sees his wife with another man, murders him, and is sentenced to die.
  • "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town," originally recorded by Johnny Darell based on a real murder-suicide he had heard about. Made famous by Kenny Rogers, and covered by everyone from Waylon Jennings to Leonard Nimoy.
  • "Banks of the Ohio". The narrator's lamenting the death of his girlfriend who the narrator drowned in the Ohio because she refused him.
    • Johnny Cash noticeably softened this song by having the narrator repent. The traditional version, especially as sung by Alvin Carter, version is horrifically coldblooded.
  • "Psycho" by Leon Payne, later made famous by Elvis Costello, is a particularly chilling example. The narrator describes to his mother the various murders he has committed, seemingly without being aware of the nature of his deeds, until the song ends with the revelation that he has killed the mother too.
  • She Daisy's "A Night To Remember" about a woman who discovers her husband is cheating on their anniversary and drives them both off a cliff.
  • "Cold, Cold Earth" by Allison Moorer, about her parents' murder-suicide.
  • Garth Brooks had at least two songs about murder:
    • "Papa Loved Mama." As in many country music songs about murder, the woman turning to other men to ease deep loneliness due to her husband being frequently absent is the main driver for her cheating, as is the plot device of the man returning home early to be with his wife, finding out about the affair and then – in a fit of rage – killing the wife and possibly others. Brooks upholds this tradition here with his tale of a long-distance truck driver who murders his wife and the man she was having sex after crashing his semitrailer truck into their motel room ("The desk clerk said he saw it all real cleeeear.../He never hit the brakes and he was shifting gears").
    • "The Night Will Only Know," about two people married to other people who have a one-night stand and end up witnessing a murder. The death of a young woman is ruled a suicide and her killer gets off scot-free because the two lovers are unwilling to come forth with the evidence proving she was murdered, as it would mean exposing their affair for all to see.
  • "Furnace Room Lullaby" by Neko Case. She also covered the folk murder ballad "Poor Ellen Smith."
    • "Deep Red Bells" is also by Neko Case and is generally thought to be about the Green River Killer.
  • "Ol' Red" by Blake Shelton starts off as a murder ballad in which the actual murder is blatantly left out: "I caught my wife with another man, and it cost me 99/In a prison farm in Georgia close to the Florida line"; the main theme of the song is his escape from prison afterward and his diversion of the prison's titular tracking dog.
  • "I'm Sorry" by Margaret Cho.
  • "The Cold Hard Facts of Life" by Porter Wagoner. A top 5 country hit in 1967, the main protagonist—who had been traveling on business and is apparently frequently absent—brutally stabs his wife after he catches her in the arms of another man. Before the grisly murder, he had been to a nearby liquor store and florist to buy wine and roses to surprise his wife, and unknowingly runs into his wife's lover there.
  • "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)" by a one-hit wonder named Leon Ashley. Although it does not specifically take place in the song, it is strongly implied in the lyrics that either a murder or a suicide is about to happen, this coming after the man confronts his wife upon discovery of an affair she had with another man. After he mentally snaps, and takes her through a tour of their house and demands she caress him as they did before. The troubled man points a gun at either Laura or himself (it's never stated in the lyrics) and demands an immediate answer to the title question.
  • "Long, Black Veil": In the Backstory, a murder had already taken place. The song focuses on the title character being questioned for the slaying, and the man telling police he killed the victim. Actually, he is innocent, but was making the false claim to protect himself after he had an affair with his best friend's wife.
  • "Blood Red and Goin' Down" by Tanya Tucker, a 1973 ballad about a young girl made by her father to help track down his unfaithful wife. Eventually, the two find them at a roadside hotel, and after the man sends his daughter back outside, he brutally slays both of them. Unknown to her father, the daughter witnessed the murder by watching through a window, remarking that as he came back outside, her father "left them both soakin' up the sawdust on the floor."
  • "The Little Girl" by John Michael Montgomery. A young girl witnesses the death of her parents in a brutal murder-suicide – her father, who was highly intoxicated and had gone into a drunken rage, batters his wife brutally shooting her; he then turns the gun on himself. The dark tone is uplifted when a foster family, who was the complete opposite of her biological parents, decides to adopt her and rear her as a Christian.
  • "Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room (She Wore Red Dresses)," a 1989 single by Dwight Yoakam. The song is told from the perspective of the murderer, who slays his wife as she lay sleeping in the arms of another man. In the setup, the young man tells of happier times his marriage to a stunningly beautiful young woman, with her red dresses and flowing, long, coal black hair; and the child they had together. Then, the marriage fails and she leaves him behind with their young child; only his side is told, and he claims she had chosen to seduce another young man. After bitterly praying for revenge, he tracks his wife to a hotel room, bitterly cusses the situation and summons his courage ... walking into the hotel room, placing the gun by her head and pulling the trigger. "She wore red dresses, but now she lay dead," he remarks at the song's end.
  • "Radio Lover" by George Jones, originally included on his 1983 album "Jones Country" but not released as a single until 1989 (when it was included on his album "One Woman Man"). The song is about a disc jockey who is frequently gone in the evening, leaving his wife alone at home. She begins having affairs behind his back to ease her loneliness, despite her husband reassuring her (on the air) that he is always thinking well of her and that he can't wait to come home to be with her. One evening, he decides to pre-record his program – using a then-new technology called voice tracking – and come home early to surprise his wife; he was hoping to spend a romantic evening with her, listening to the program and making love. Instead ... he walks in on his wife having sex with another man, and in a fit of rage, he kills them both ... ironically, just as his pre-recorded program is at its signoff (at the point where he is saying good night and telling his wife he loves her).
  • "Gunpowder And Lead" by Miranda Lambert, a song about revenge. A 20-something woman, apparently very petitie, had been brutally assaulted by her much larger boyfriend, and he had been sent to prison as a result. Several years later, he is paroled, and there are rumors he plans to track down his now ex-girlfriend and kill her; however, "this little girl" has gotten wind of this and gets her shotgun, loads it, and – after lighting a cigarette to summon her courage – waits by the door. Though no murder ever specifically takes place in the song, is implied that she plans to pull the trigger the instant he steps foot into the house.


  • "Zeven Steken" (which is Dutch for Seven Stabs)- Laïs. This Flemish group sings about a girl who is murdered by the boy who impregnated her.
  • "Tom Dooley" - The Kingston Trio, who got it from Appalachian singer Frank Proffitt
  • "You Can't Chop Your Mother Up In Massachusetts" - Chad Mitchell Trio
  • "Weela Wallia" - unattributed
  • Joe Bethancourt's version of "Silver Dagger", ostensibly more violent than the 19th century American traditional.
  • "The St. Steven's Day Murders" - The Chieftans with Elvis Costello
  • "Down By The River" - By Neil Young
  • "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan is more of a framed-for-a-murder ballad, based on the true story of Rubin Carter.
    • His earlier "The Lonsesome Death of Hattie Carrol" and "The Ballad of Hollis Brown," from his album The Times, They Are A'Changin'" are both Ripped from the Headlines examples, the first chronicling the senseless murder of a poor black maid by a white aristocrat, the second recounting the story of a man who kills his wife, children, and himself because he can't afford to feed them anymore.
  • "Knoxville Girl" - An Appalachian murder ballad, the singer murders "the girl I loved so well" for no apparent reason. This troper was introduced to the Lemonheads version.
  • "Little Sadie", also known as "Cocaine Blues", a traditional folk song that has the same plot as "Knoxville Girl."
  • "The Watchmaker's Apprentice" by the Clockwork Quartet is a particularly clever example of this, as the protagonist uses a murder to frame and bring ruin to his former employer.
  • "Vera Flew the Coop" by Marian Call
  • Also played for laughs is "Mördar-Anders" by Cornelis Vreeswijk. It's a Swedish Murder Ballad about a guy named Anders who is about to be executed for the murder of four men.
  • Lily of the West is about a man who kills the lover of the girl he falls for.
  • "John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man" - The Carter Family.
  • "Henry Lee" has been recorded many times under a variety of names, including a version by Nick Cave on 'Murder Ballads', but the definitive version is probably the 1929 recording by Dick Justice.

Folk Rock

  • Voltaire's "Ex-Lover's Lover" is about a man who plots the death of his girlfriend's current lover, with various means of disposing the body suggested. It's different from most Murder Ballad examples in that the singer chickens out at the end.
  • "Matty Groves" (Child #81) - Fairport Convention. As far as this troper is concerned, THE murder ballad.
  • Harry Chapin's "Sniper" is about Charles Whitman and his infamous rampage atop the Texas university tower.
  • "The Mariner's Revenge Song", by The Decemberists. An epic revenge song about a young man who goes to sea to track down the man who seduced his mother and abandoned her to her death. The band's recent "The Rake's Song" also falls into this trope. That song has the narrator recounting in glee in how he killed his three surviving children after the death of his wife and newborn daughter during childbirth.
    • There's also their twelve-minute Doorstopper "The Island: Come & See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel The Drowning", which recounts the rape and drowning murder of a young woman.
    • How'd everyone forget "Culling of the Fold"?
      • Hell, basically every Decemberists song has at least a hint of this.
  • Adriyel's duet "Sibyl Vane" tells a further fictionalized account of the love affair between Dorian Gray and Sibyl Vane, resulting in a double case of murder-by-suicide.
  • Andrew Jackson Jihad's "Bad Bad Things" in which the narrator finds a person whose family he has murdered and proceeds to recount this event to this person, who he proceeds to kill at the end of the song.

Hair Metal

Hard Rock

  • "Janie's Got A Gun" by Aerosmith, about a girl who shoots her father for molesting her.
  • "Around the Bend" by Pearl Jam was designed to work both as a lullaby, and as a discussion between a serial killer and his most recent victim.
  • "Iowa" by Slipknot is a 15 minute long song about a man killing a woman implied to be his girlfriend with lyrics like "Relax its over, you can never leave, I fill your mouth with dirt"

Heavy Metal

  • "Ronnie" by Metallica. The song is about the titular Cloudcuckoolander who snaps.
    • "Harvester of Sorrow" might be one as well.
  • "Good Mourning / Black Friday" by Megadeth: In the first part, the protagonist either snaps or is possessed. The latter part is about his resulting rampage.
  • "The Awakening" by Alice Cooper deals with a man waking up from a nightmare and realizing that he has killed his wife. The song is part of Cooper's concept album Welcome To My Nightmare.
  • Several of the songs by the band Macabre follow this trope, although still played with electric guitars. Nothing quite like "She'll be Coming Cround the Mountain" being used to sing about Jeffrey Dahmer.
  • "Sanctuary", by Iron Maiden.
    • Also "Murders in the Rue Morgue", by Iron Maiden. And "Wrathchild", by Iron Maiden. And "Killers", by Iron Maiden. And...oh, forget it. Bonus points for the album art for "Killers", and for an early EP that showed Eddie murdering Margaret Thatcher.
  • 'Xero Tolerance' by Type O Negative, along with most of the other songs from Slow, Deep and Hard. Most of it was written at the tail end of one of Peter Steele's messier break-ups.
  • 'Momma's Gonna Die Tonight', by Bodycount. About young man who bludgeons, burns and dismembers his mother.

Indie Rock

  • The narrator of "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace" by The Mountain Goats tortures a man to death.
  • "See-Through Dress" by Red Jezebel

Industrial Metal

  • "Klavier", "Mein Teil," and "Stein um Stein" by Rammstein.
    • Also, "Spring": The narrator is goading someone into killing himself by jumping, but when that fails he kicks him down himself.
      • More detail, the guy was just up there to see the view when a crowd assembles to watch him to jump when the narrator kicks him.


He's stone cold dead in the market
I killed nobody but me husband

  • "San Francisco Fan", performed by Cab Calloway and also by other jazz and blues singers. It's a story about a female performer named Fan who saves her gambling boyfriend's life after he is caught cheating at a game and is about to be shot, by Taking the Bullet for him, stopping 'a dozen slugs'. Everyone at the club she was performing at mourns her, and the song goes on to judge her boyfriend harshly, saying she gave her life for "A man who wasn't worth a shovel full of earth from the grave of San Francisco Fan."
  • "Butcher Pete" by Roy Brown. Double Entendre or no, on the literal level it's still a murder ballad, making for Unfortunate Implications all around.
    • The only time, at least in the first half which is more well known, that Butcher Pete is specifically said to 'chop' a person, is clearly meant as a joke... But because many people were recently exposed to Butcher Pete because of Fallout 3, a fiction where acts of murder and/or cannibalism outnumber acts of sexuality by at least 100:1, it's easy to misinterpret in that context. Chop, chop, chop that meat.

Musical Theatre

  • "The Ballad of Booth", "The Ballad of Guiteau" and "The Ballad of Czolgosz" from the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins.
  • "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago, where female inmates sing about (and dance with) the men they've killed.
  • The revue New Faces of 1952 turned the legend of Lizzie Borden and what she did to her father and mother into a very cheerful hoedown number, with the refrain: "You can't chop your poppa up in Massachusetts."
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" from the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street details the disservices the eponymous demon barber performed for his unfortunate customers. "My Friends", "Epiphany", and "A Little Priest" from the same musical also qualify.
  • "Mack the Knife" - Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, et al. A pop standard, but written for the excellent The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper), to introduce its Villain Protagonist.
    • The original German lyrics to "Die Moritat vom Mackie Messer" are rather nastier, darker and more violent than in most English-language versions. Nick Cave's version of the song translates far more faithfully, what with him being Nick Cave and all.
    • Kurt Weill seems to have had some affinity for Murder Ballads, because there were two in later shows he composed: the Ballad of Caesar's Death from Der Silbersee, and "Dr. Crippen" from One Touch of Venus.
  • Many, many songs by The Tiger Lillies fit the criteria for murder ballads: Dreaful Domesticity, Maria, Neighbour, Violet... yes, many. They have also recorded a reworking of The Threepenny Opera, and covered several of the murder ballad standards listed here.


  • "Run, Joey Run" by David Geddes. A family man snaps upon learning that the title character had impregnated his daughter, Julie, and unable to be reasoned with (the girl begs, "It wasn't his fault/He means so much to me/Daddy please don't/We're gonna get married/Just you wait and see"), grabs a gun and hunts down Joey. Julie warns Joey that he can expect a visit from her angry father, prompting Joey to drive to Julie's house. There, the father sneaks up from behind to try to shoot Joey ... only for Julie to stand in the way at the last second and take the bullet. Julie dies in Joey's arms; it is unknown the fate of the father ... whether he is arrested for manslaughter, turns the gun on himself or does something else.
  • "I Can't Decide" by the Scissor Sisters, of Doctor Who fame.
  • "Delilah" - Tom Jones
  • Michael Jackson, "Smooth Criminal".
  • "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" by Julie Brown. A 1984 novelty song parodying 1950s teen tragedy songs that would probably never get airplay in these post-Columbine days.
  • According to Urban Legend, "In The Air Tonight" is a murder ballad. Phil Collins has said it's about how he felt about the break-up of his first marriage.
  • "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by The Beatles
  • "Copacabana" by Barry Manilow.
  • "Hazard" by Richard Marx. The protagonist is being fingered for killing his girlfriend, but claims innocence, however he may be an Unreliable Narrator. The song had three different music videos showing different perspectives and clues about the murder, but the mystery is intentionally left unsolved.
  • Murder by Numbers, by The Police.
  • "Every Heart Broken" by the Sugababes describes the murders of six different lovers.
  • The Dismemberment Song by Blue Kid is about an unorthodox beheading


  • "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" by (appropriately enough) The Killers, who have also released a cover of the above-mentioned "Ruby." Along with "Midnight Show" and "Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf", it forms a trilogy of songs about the murder of a girl named Jennifer.
    • It may be worth noting the proper order of the Murder Trilogy is "Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf", "Midnight Show", then "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine". The first is motive, the second is the murder itself, and the third is the police interrogation afterwards.
  • Murder is popular subject for The Blood Brothers. "USA Nails" features a woman being arrested for a post-natal abortion (of a child THAT WASN'T EVEN HERS), "My First Kiss at the Public Execution" is exactly what it sounds like (only worse), "Giant Swan" involves its protagonist getting killed by a robber with a machete, "Every Breath is a Bomb" is a case a la Terry Schaivo, a woman gets eaten alive by hotel rats in "Rats and Rats and Rats for Candy", and "Wolf Party" tells the tale of a protagonist who has just murdered a pedophilic priest. This troper has exhausted his data base, but there are countless other examples.
    • In addition, "Peacock Skeleton with Crooked Feathers" compares the American bourgeois' hold on the proletariat to God's Final Plague Of Egypt. ("Who do you kill when the senator drags out your first Born?")
  • "Poptones" by Public Image Ltd, an account of a random murder from the victim's point of view.
  • "Rum to Whiskey" by the Murder City Devils. The lyrics, like many Murder City Devils lyrics, are open to interpretation, but the general idea is that some guy kills his girlfriend to save her from this horrible sinful world.


  • "Beheaded" - The Offspring
  • In "Frankie Teardrop" by Suicide (band), the title character is in a similar situation to the protagonist of Woyzeck, working long hours in a mindless factory job. He goes home and kills his baby, his wife, and then himself, and finally goes to hell.
  • "Shhh..." - The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. The killer apologises to his wife and bids her keep silent, while he goes to cover up the murder. It looks like she didn't agree...


  • "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" and "With a Gun", both by Steely Dan. "Don't Take Me Alive" also probably qualifies.
  • The rather straightforward "I've Committed Murder" by Macy Gray, in which she kills her boyfriend's corrupt boss, then they fly away to Jamaica with the boss's money and get hitched.


  • "Murder Ave", by the Geto Boys. "This song was inspired by Jeffery Dahmer."
  • "Kim" by Eminem. Made even more disturbing by the fact that it's about his wife... who he was actually married to at the time of the song's writing. No, really.
    • "Stan", about an obsessed fan who kills his girlfriend and himself because Slim Shady won't answer his letters, also counts.
    • Em's first Murder Ballad was "'97 Bonnie & Clyde", of which "Kim" is a prequel. (The "Bonnie" in question is Em's then-toddler daughter. Over the course of the song he explains to her why he did what he did and had her help him toss the bodies of Mommy, her boyfriend, and their lovechild [that part was bleeped out in "Kim"] into Lake Michigan.
    • Also by Eminem was the underground song "Quitter" which was a response to rapper Whitey Ford for insulting Eminem's 12-year-old daughter. "If you talk about my little girl in a song again, I'm gonna kill you." Not sure if it counts exactly. Also, underground, is "Go To Sleep" about another beef he had.
    • Though in real life he isn't all that violent and makes fun of blaming the media for violence in songs like "Murder, Murder" or "Bad Guys Always Die."
    • Strangely Eminem even did a song about the horrors of rap battles and violence called "Like Toy Soldiers," in which he calls for peace among his enemies to prevent more killing.
      • Oddly justified since a large percentage of murdered rappers are the popular ones with lots of talent, although Anyone Can Die in the rap game. But at very least, he doesn't want himself to end up like this, as well as other popular rappers.
    • Another noteworthy example from Eminem is "Kill You." While is mostly played for laughs, does feature lyrics about attempting to decapitate someone, and the chorus starts with him saying, "Bitch Imma Kill You!"
    • Eminem's album Relapse has a lot of songs in which he impersonates a serial killer. "Insane", "Stay Wide Awake", "Same Song And Dance", "Buffalo Bill" from the LP Refil and "3 A.M". which even have a videoclip.
  • Semi-example: 50 Cent's "A Baltimore Love Song"'is sung from the perspective of heroin to the person it's killing with addiction.
  • Yelawolf's "Pop the Trunk" is about a dispute between a couple kids that results in one of them taking a load of rock salt from a shotgun to the chest.
  • The Pharcyde's "On The DL" contains verses about several different subjects. One of the verses is about how the narrator killed someone.
  • Immortal Technique's Dancing With The Devil is a particularly tragic example.


  • "I Shot the Sheriff" - Bob Marley, later covered by Eric Clapton


  • "Hey Joe" - Written by either Dino Valente or Billy Roberts, made famous to the rock generation by Jimi Hendrix
  • "Used To Love Her" - Guns N' Roses
  • The first section of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". "Mama, just killed a man/put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead..."
    • This can also be interpreted figuratively, as inflicting himself with a fatal disease and expressing remorse over it.
  • "Excitable Boy," by Warren Zevon, takes a very matter-of-fact "no big deal" tone when discussing a severely disturbed young man.
    • There's also "A Bullet For Ramona," which tells about how the narrator killed the title character for cheating on him.
  • "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads is, despite the name, not an example; it's about a serial killer, but the character in question doesn't kill anyone during the song.
  • Sting's "I Hung my Head" qualifies, though technically it's a manslaughter ballad.
  • Richard Thompson's "Shane and Dixie" is a seriously lyrically dissonant murder-suicide ballad about a pair of Outlaw Couple bank robbers though technically, it's an attempted murder-suicide ballad, since Dixie (the 'bonnie' of the pair) survives Shane's ('Clyde's') attempt to kill her
  • Comes up in a few Deftones songs, but most creepily in "Digital Bath"; about a man who electrocutes his lover in the bath.
    • What makes "Digital Bath" all the more amazing, is that up until that exact line, the lyrics made it seem like an Intercourse with You song. The sound itself is more seductive than anything.
  • "A Little Piece of Heaven" by Avenged Sevenfold is about marriage proposal Gone Horribly Wrong. He doesn't take rejection well, but they eventually do work things out.
    • Note that after you murder your girlfriend, eat her heart, fuck her corpse, get killed by her possessed corpse, then get married in Hell and possess your old bodies, going on a mass murder spree is about as happy as you can get.
      • You could dance. Or adopt a puppy.
  • Don't forget "I Don't Like Mondays" by The Boomtown Rats. Well, more of a School Shooting Ballad, really.
  • "Nebraska" and "Johnny 99" by Bruce Springsteen
  • "Rocky Raccoon", by The Beatles.
  • "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Warrant. The narrator and his friends saw a body being dumped into a well when they were kids, and never told anyone.
  • "Oh Woman, Oh Why" by Paul McCartney, sung from the point of view of the murderee, a man who wronged the eponymous woman. His death is only implied, but the gunshots and labored breathing get the point across.
  • "Hand of Fate", by The Rolling Stones.
  • "Get Rid of that Girl" by The Donnas, where the singer fantasizes about beating up and axe murdering her crush's girlfriend. As the song ends, the chorus just keeps chanting "kill kill kill kill". It's a pretty snappy, upbeat number, though.


  • "Whiskey in the Jar" is sung by a highwayman who robs and later kills an army captain.
    • Actually, he never kills the captain, not for lack of trying. But Jenny steals his rapier and fills his guns with water, so when he rides to meet Captain Farrell, he can't fight and is taken prisoner.
  • "Frankie and Johnny" Traditional; recorded numerous times.
  • "Never Let The Devil Get The Upper Hand Of You" is a particularly chilling song about a Complete Monster who hardly bothers to explain his motives.

In-Universe Examples


Live-Action TV

  • The Twilight Zone episode "Come Wander With Me" is based on a fictional Murder Ballad.
  • In the CSI episode "Snakes", Nick investigates the murder of a reporter who had been investigating a band known for writing and performing Murder Ballads. The circumstances of the murder closely mimic one of the band's ballads.
  • The Shield did an episode where Vic Mackey and his supervisor, Captain Acaveda, end up investigating a Mexican musician whose murder ballads were based on real life unsolved murders. In the end, it turned out that the singer was simply trying to claim credit for murders committed by Mexican drug cartel members, with his songs based off of gossip he heard in the clubs he performed in.

Western Animation

  • Murmaidur by Dethklok is, as its title implies, about mermaids. And murder.