Love and death are the two most basic components of the human equation. But compared to love, which has inspired countless songs since the dawn of recorded history, death seems to have been a little shortchanged. Still, out of the few tunes about meeting the grim reaper a remarkably high percentage are actually pretty good. It's hard not to notice that among these select few, killing sprees feature prominently. Maybe that's because like a good horror film, a song can help us deal with some things we just can't handle on our own. After the jump, check out my picks for the top 5 songs about murder sprees.
"Mack the Knife"
Perhaps the most famous pop song on the subject, and certainly one of the first, is "Mack the Knife" (also known as "The Ballad of Mack the Knife"), composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their Threepenny Opera, which debuted in Berlin in 1928. According to Wikipedia, the title character is "based on the dashing highwayman Macheath in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (who was in turn based on the historical thief Jack Sheppard). The Brecht-Weill version of the character was far more cruel and sinister…" Today, the best known version of the tune comes from ‘60s crooner Bobby Darin.
"I Don't Like Mondays"
One of the more chilling entries on this list is this Boomtown Rats' song based on the real-life story of 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer, who fired a gun at children playing outside the Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California on January 29, 1979. Spencer killed two adults and injured eight children and one police officer. When asked by the police for the motivation behind her act, she simply replied, "I don't like Mondays."
"The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun"
‘80s MTV comedy queen Julie Brown recorded this little ditty when school shooting sprees were something that -- with the exception of the incident I mentioned above -- one rarely read about in the newspaper. It's hard to believe something like this getting played on TV or the radio today. Of course for those of us with a warped sense of humor that doesn't make Brown's effort any less amusing.
"The Night Santa Went Crazy"
Like Julie Brown, Weird Al Yankovic is a pop song humorist par excellence. Though his "Christmas at Ground Zero" may be Al's best remembered holiday tune, for my money you can't beat his outrageous parody of Soul Asylum's "Black Gold". No video for this one, I'm afraid, so you'll just have to bask in the cheery words and music.
"Pumped Up Kicks"
By far the most recent song on this list – it's probably still in the Top 40 as I type this – is Foster the People's catchy ode to disenfranchised youth. It took me a few listens before I understood these lyrics. And when I did, I was in the midst of rereading Stephen King's "Rage". The combined effect was, needless to say, unnerving.