Some people have a fascination with the macabre. It isn’t 100 percent clear why this is the case. Sometimes, it is treated as an extension of general curiosity. Other times, it is explained as an attempt to assert control over something terrifying from a safe distance. Whatever the case, artists have released more than a few songs about serial killers, some of which are more memorable than others.
Here is our opinion of ten of the best songs about serial killers ever released:
10. “In Germany Before the War” – Randy Newman
“In Germany Before the War” is an eerie song about Peter Kürten, whose crimes earned him the nickname “Vampire of Düsseldorf” in the 1920s. More than one reviewer has speculated that he inspired the classic movie M, though Fritz Lang has rejected that speculation. Whatever the case, “In Germany Before the War” is also interesting because it uses the listener’s knowledge of the Second World War to influence their perception of the song.
9. “John Wayne Gacy Jr” – Sufjan Stevens
This song states its source of inspiration in its name. People might be familiar with him because of how he contributed to the archetype of the killer clown. Regardless, this song might be most haunting because of its suggestion that everyone could do what its subject did if they underwent the same experiences. That refers to the idea that he became a serial killer because he experienced head trauma as a child. Something that is known to be capable of causing personality changes. Indeed, an increased sense of aggression is one of the most common personality changes when someone experiences head trauma, so much so that it shows up in about 30 percent of such cases.
8. “Jack the Ripper” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Once again, this is a song that states its source of inspiration in its name. The curious thing is that it isn’t about the serial killer. Instead, it uses the serial killer as a symbol for what might happen in a relationship fast approaching a breaking point.
7. “Nebraska” – Bruce Springsteen
Nebraska was notable for being a more somber, more solemn release than its predecessors. In considerable part, that is because it focused on those down on their luck, criminals, and outsiders. Unsurprisingly, the title track was no exception to this rule. “Nebraska” is the story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, a teenage couple who murdered 11 people in the late 1950s.
6. “Blow” – Tyler the Creator
“Blow” was notable for being more subtle than its album-mates. In a way, that makes sense. After all, Tyler the Creator came up with it by trying to get into the same mindset as Ted Bundy, a serial killer notorious for his ability to charm others.
5. “The Anatomy of a School Shooting” – Ill Bill
School shootings now happen with depressing regularity. Even so, the Columbine shooting still stands out. It was far from being the first incident of this kind. Unfortunately, the Columbine shooting inspired numerous subsequent school shooters, meaning it marked the start of a new era. Given the name, interested individuals shouldn’t be surprised to learn that “The Anatomy of a School Shooting” is an attempt at understanding the people who carried it out.
4. “Night Shift” – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxsie and the Banshees created “Night Shift” by drawing inspiration from a British serial killer named Peter Sutcliffe. He targeted prostitutes, well-known to be more vulnerable than the general population because of the risky nature of their work. Some songs are capable of packing much meaning into short phrases. This is one of them. Something that will become evident to listeners as soon as it moves onto its second verse.
3. “Midnight Rambler” – The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones have never said it outright. However, it is widely believed that “Midnight Rambler” took inspiration from Albert DeSalvo, who terrorized the region as the Boston Strangler in the 1960s. His crimes came to an end when he was caught and charged with a string of rapes, which prompted him to confess to the murders. There was doubt over whether he was the sole serial killer, but an investigation into the murder of Mary Sullivan in the 2010s resulted in a DNA match, thus confirming that he was responsible for that particular crime.
2. “Revolution Blues” – Neil Young
Strictly speaking, Charles Manson isn’t a serial killer. However, it isn’t uncommon for people to lump him together with serial killers, which makes sense because of his involvement in his cultists committing a series of murders in the 1960s. “Revolution Blues” is notable because of the singer-songwriter’s unique vantage point. For those unfamiliar, Neil Young knew Manson. The latter was very interested in a music career, which is why he pursued connections in the music industry. As a result, Young was introduced to Manson by a mutual friend named Dennis Wilson. After which, they spent some time playing music together and even writing new music together. “Revolution Blues” is more focused on Manson’s mindset than on Manson’s crimes. It leaves no doubts about the man’s evil, but it also makes a sincere effort to depict the man’s thinking. That is more than enough for the song to stand out.
1. “Psycho Killer” – The Talking Heads
“Psycho Killer” was one of the songs from the Talking Heads’ debut studio album. It wasn’t their debut single. That said, “Psycho Killer” wasn’t far behind, seeing as it became their second single. Moreover, it was the band’s only song from their debut studio album to make it onto the Billboard Hot 100, meaning it stood out. “Psycho Killer” isn’t about a specific serial killer. Instead, it is the band’s attempt at representing the thoughts of such individuals, which explains much of the incoherency in the lyrics.
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