List of 19 Best Murder Ballads (Voted by Listeners)

List of Best Murder Ballads (Voted by Listeners)

1-Bob Dylan The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll February

The Lonesome Death of Hattie CarrollThe Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” is a topical song written by the American musician Bob Dylan. Recorded on October 23, 1963, the song was released on Dylan’s 1964 album, The Times They Are a-Changin’ and gives a generally factual account of the killing of a 51-year-old African-American barmaid, Hattie Carroll, by William Devereux “Billy” Zantzinger (whom the song calls “William Zanzinger”), a young man from a wealthy white tobacco farming family in Charles County, Maryland, who had turned 24 the day before, and of his subsequent sentence to six months in a county jail, after being convicted of assault.

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2- Bob Dylan – Hurricane 

Bob Dylan - HurricaneHurricane” is a protest song by Bob Dylan co-written with Jacques Levy, about the imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. It compiles alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which Dylan describes as leading to a false trial and conviction.

Carter and a man named John Artis had been charged with a triple murder at the Lafayette Grill in Paterson, New Jersey in 1966. The following year Carter and Artis were found guilty of the murders, which were widely reported as racially motivated. In the years that followed, a substantial amount of controversy emerged over the case, ranging from allegations of faulty evidence and questionable eyewitness testimony to an unfair trial.

In his autobiography, Carter maintained his innocence, and after reading it, Dylan visited him in Rahway State Prison in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey

Further Reading :

3- Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix

Hey Joe” is an American popular song from the 1960s that has become a rock standard and as such has been performed in many musical styles by hundreds of different artists. “Hey Joe” tells the story of a man who is on the run and planning to head to Mexico after shooting his unfaithful wife. However, diverse credits and claims have led to confusion as to the song’s trueauthorship and genesis.  The earliest known commercial recording of the song is the late-1965 single by the Los Angeles garage band The Leaves; the band then re-recorded the track and released it in 1966 as a follow-up single which became a hit.Currently, the best-known version is The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1966 recording, their debut single. The song title is sometimes given as “Hey Joe, Where You Gonna Go?” or similar variations.


4- Ohio – Neil Young (four dead in ohio)

The Kent State shootings in May 1970The Kent State shootings (also known as the May 4 massacre or the Kent State massacre) occurred at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, in the United States and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

Some of the students who were shot had been protesting the Cambodian Campaign, which President Richard Nixon announced during a television address on April 30. Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.

There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.

Further Reading :

“Ohio” is a protest song and counterculture anthem written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’s “Find the Cost of Freedom”, peaking at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of “Ohio” was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Farwas released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation albums Decade, released in 1977, and Greatest Hits, released in 2004.

The song also appears on Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007

5- The Ballad of Hollis Brown – Bob Dylan

THE-BALLAD-OF-HOLLIS-BROWNBallad of Hollis Brown” is a blues song written by Bob Dylan, released in 1964 on his third album The Times They Are A-Changin’. The song tells the story of a South Dakota farmer who, overwhelmed by the desperation of poverty, kills his wife, children and then himself.

Other Versionss


Nina Simone – The Ballad of Hollis Brown

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6- Neil Young – Down By The River

Down by the River” is a song composed by Neil Young

The lyrics are apparently about someone who kills his lover by shooting her, like a murder ballad, or in the tradition of the mid-60s song “Hey Joe.” The reason he gives for the killing is that she takes him to emotional heights from which he cannot bear to go on. Young has provided multiple explanations for the lyrics. In an interview with Robert Greenfield in 1970 Young claimed that “there’s no real murder in it. It’s about blowing your thing with a chick. It’s a plea, a desperate cry.” Introducing the song in New Orleans on September 27, 1984 Young claimed that it depicts a man “who had a lot of trouble controlling himself” who catches his woman cheating on him, then meets her down by the river and shoots her. A few hours later the sheriff comes to his house and arrests him

7- Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts – Bob Dylan

The song has a long list of characters. The inspiration behind several characters in the plot has been long disputed among fans.

  • The main character in the song is “The Jack of Hearts”, who has recently come into town as a leader of a gang of bank robbers. (“The boys finally made it through the wall and cleaned out the bank safe… but they couldn’t go no further without the Jack of Hearts.”)
  • Major women in the song are Lily and Rosemary. Both are referred to in royal terms (“like a queen without a crown” and “Lily was a princess”) though not royalty. Rosemary is Big Jim’s long suffering wife, who ultimately is executed for his murder (though the song is very much nebulous towards whether or not she was innocent and was framed by the Jack of Hearts). Lily is a dancer who is Big Jim’s mistress (wearing a ring symbolizing this) and also a former lover of the Jack of Hearts.
  • Big Jim is the wealthiest person in town: “he owned the town’s only diamond mine”. He is married to Rosemary and having a longstanding affair with Lily. He is killed at the climax of the song, though Dylan leaves it ambiguous towards who does the deed. The lyrics describe Big Jim as a greedy man who destroys all that he touches, which contrasts with his well groomed appearance.
  • The Hanging Judge; a patron of the bar where the plot plays out. The character is referred to as a drunk and is intoxicated for the bulk of the song. However, he is sober the next day when he oversees Rosemary being executed for Big Jim’s death.

8- Johnny Cash – The Long Black Veil

Long Black Veil” is a 1959 country ballad, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell.

A saga song, “Long Black Veil” is told from the point of view of an executed man falsely accused of murder. He refuses to provide an alibi, since on the night of the murder he was having an affair with his best friend’s wife, and would rather die and take their secret to his grave than admit the truth. The chorus describes the woman’s mourning visits to his gravesite, wearing a long black veil and enduring a wailing wind.

Further Reading :


9- Bob Dylan – Tin Angel


Bob Dylan – Tin Angel paylaşan: rugularo

the most obvious masterpiece on Bob Dylan’s new album is the murder ballad, Tin Angel. It’s a story-song, the kind Dylan has done so magnificently many times before. Cross the Green Mountain, Tweeter and the Monkey Man and  Brownsville Girl springs to mind. They are extremely cinematic songs and they tell a story over many verses.  Another song that pops up in my head is the wonderful story of Spanish Jack by Willy DeVille, not very like in sound but in tone.

The music on Tin Angel is repetitive, but not in a bad way, it’s an hypnotic rhythm and a bass that sucks the wind straight out of you. It transcends ordinary music and serves as a enhancement of the fascinating story that is told over the 28 verses.

10- The Doors – Riders On the Storm

Riders on the Storm” is a song by The Doors from their 1971 album, L.A. Woman. It reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US,#22 on the UK Singles Chart, and #7 in the Netherlands

According to band member Robby Krieger, it was inspired by the song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend”. Also, Jim Morrison mentions spree killer Billy Cook, in passing, during at least one interview. Cook killed six people, including a young family, while hitchhiking to California. In all likelihood, the Cook murders were inspiration for the song’s lyric, “There’s a killer on the road / His brain is squirming like a toad […] if you give this man a ride/sweet family will die.. ”

11- Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Johnny Cash was known as “The Man In Black” for a number of reasons; the most obvious is that he wore a signature black trench coat during live performances. However, the more subtle reason he wore black is for all the people who are suffering in this world. His song “Man in Black,” one of his greatest hits, explains it this way:

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

Growing up in a hard-working cotton-farming family in Arkansas in the wake of the Great Depression, Cash knew what it was like to struggle and took pity on the people who did not lead the charmed existence that he and other rock stars and country legends got to enjoy. Along with recording an experimental album called “Bitter Tears,” which explored the plight of Native Americans, Cash also had a soft spot for prisoners… and this became the genesis of “Folsom Prison Blues.” After all, prisoners are people too.

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12- Bob Dylan – Death Of Emmett Till

Emmett Till.While visiting family in Money, Mississippi, 14-year-old Emmett Till, an African American from Chicago, is brutally murdered for flirting with a white woman four days earlier. His assailants–the white woman’s husband and her brother–made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.

Till grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, and though he had attended a segregated elementary school, he was not prepared for the level of segregation he encountered in Mississippi. His mother warned him to take care because of his race, but Emmett enjoyed pulling pranks. On August 24, while standing with his cousins and some friends outside a country store in Money, Emmett bragged that his girlfriend back home was white. Emmett’s African American companions, disbelieving him, dared Emmett to ask the white woman sitting behind the store counter for a date. He went in, bought some candy, and on the way out was heard saying, “Bye, baby” to the woman. There were no witnesses in the store, but Carolyn Bryant–the woman behind the counter–claimed that he grabbed her, made lewd advances, and then wolf-whistled at her as he sauntered out.

Roy Bryant, the proprietor of the store and the woman’s husband, returned from a business trip a few days later and found out how Emmett had spoken to his wife. Enraged, he went to the home of Till’s great uncle, Mose Wright, with his brother-in-law J.W. Milam in the early morning hours of August 28. The pair demanded to see the boy. Despite pleas from Wright, they forced Emmett into their car. After driving around in the Memphis night, and perhaps beating Till in a toolhouse behind Milam’s residence, they drove him down to the Tallahatchie River.

Further Reading :


13- Bob Dylan -Only A Pawn In Their Game-

Only a Pawn in Their Game” is a song written by Bob Dylan about the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. It was released on Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ album of 1964. The song suggests that Evers’ killer does not bear sole blame for his crime, as he was only a pawn of rich white elites who incensed poor whites against blacks so as to distract them from their position on “the caboose of the train”.

Medgar EversMedgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an American civil rights activist from Mississippi who worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi and gain social justice and voting rights. A World War II veteran and college graduate, he became active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. He became a field secretary for the NAACP. Following the 1954 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Evers worked to gain admission for African Americans to the state-supported public University of Mississippi. He also worked on voting rights and registration, economic opportunity, access to public facilities, and other changes in the segregated society.

Bob Dylan at civil rights gathering in Greenwood, Mississippi singing

Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council, a group formed in 1954 to resist integration of schools and civil rights activity. As a veteran, Evers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.  His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests, as well as numerous works of art, music, and film. All-white juries failed to reach verdicts in the first two trials of Beckwith. He was convicted in a new state trial in 1994, based on new evidence.

Myrlie Evers, widow of the activist, became a noted activist in her own right, serving as national chair of the NAACP. His brotherCharles Evers was the first African-American mayor elected in Mississippi in the post-Reconstruction era when he won in 1969 inFayette.

 14- Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

Delia Green (1886–December 25, 1900) was a 14-year-old African-American murder victim who has been identified as the likely inspiration for several well-known traditional American songs, usually known by the titles “Delia” and “Delia’s Gone.”

Johnny Cash – Delia`s GoneAccording to contemporaneous reports published in Georgia newspapers, Green was shot and killed by 15-year-old Mose (or Moses) Houston late on Christmas Day, 1900, in the Yamacraw neighborhood of Savannah, Georgia, after an argument earlier in the evening. Houston, the newspapers implied, had been involved in a sexual relationship with Green for several months. The shooting took place at the home of Willie West, who chased down Houston after the shooting and turned him over to the city police.

Green’s murder and Houston’s trial in the spring of 1901 were reported in the Savannah Morning News and the Savannah Evening Press. Although Houston reportedly had confessed to the murder at the time of his arrest, at his trial he claimed the shooting was accidental. Other witnesses, however, testified that Houston had become angry after Green called him “a son of a bitch.”

Houston was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, on the jury’s recommendation of mercy. After serving more than twelve years, he was paroled by Governor John M. Slaton in 1913. Accounts of his later life are sketchy, but he is said to have died in New York City in 1927 after other brushes with the law.

Green was buried in an unmarked grave in Laurel Grove Cemetery South in Savannah.

Further Reading :

15-lloyd price – stagger lee

Lee Shelton popularly known as “Stagolee“, “Stagger Lee“, “Stack-O-Lee“, and other variations, was an American criminal who became a figure of folklore after murdering Billy Lyons on Christmas 1895. The murder, reportedly motivated partially by the theft of Shelton’s Stetson hat, made Shelton an icon of toughness and style in the minds of early folk and blues musicians, and inspired the popular folk song “Stagger Lee”. The story endures in the many versions of the song that have circulated since the late 19th century.

William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o’clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon, a carriage driver. Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Sheldon’s hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Sheldon withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Sheldon is also known as ‘Stag’ Lee

Further Reading :

16- Marty Robbins – El Paso – El Paso City

El Paso” is a country and western ballad written and originally recorded by Marty Robbins, and first released on Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs in September 1959. It was released as a single the following month, and became a major hit on both the countryand pop music charts, reaching number one in both at the start of 1960. It won the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1961, and remains Robbins’ best-known song. It is widely considered a genre classic for its gripping narrative which ends in the death of its protagonist

17- Johnny Cash “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”

Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” is a 1958 single by Johnny Cash. The song tells the story of a young cowboy who, ignoring the titular advice from his mother, gets into a gunfight at a saloon and is killed. The single was his fifth release to reach the number one position on the country chart, where it stayed for six weeks.”Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” was also a crossover hit peaking at number thirty-two on the pop chart. The song is also included in the live album VH1 Storytellers: Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson. The song was covered by U2 on their 2001 single “Elevation”.

18- Joey – Bob Dylan

joey – Bob Dylan paylaşan: rugularo
Joseph Gallo (April 7, 1929 – April 7, 1972), also known as “Crazy Joe” and “Joe the Blond“, was a celebrated New York Citygangster for the Profaci crime family, later known as the Colombo crime family. Gallo initiated one of the bloodiest mob conflicts since the 1931 Castellammarese War and was murdered as a result of it.[1]The song treats Gallo sympathetically, despite his violent history. Gallo had been accused of at least two murders and had been convicted of several felonies.But in the song he is given credit for distrusting guns, being reluctant to kill hostages and for shielding his family when he was being killed, and makes him appear to be an unwilling participant in the crimes of his henchmen, thus not deserving his fate. As a result of the sympathetic treatment, critics such as Lester Bangs harshly criticized Dylan and the song. Bangs described it as “repellent romanticist bullshit.”[However, Dylan claims that he always thought of Gallo as a kind of hero and an underdog fighting against the elements. Besides his status as an outsider, Dylan was likely also drawn to the fact that Gallo’s best friends in prison were black men. In addition Gallo was able to gain sympathy in artistic circles by passing himself off as a cultured person victimized by the “system


19- Bob Dylan – Who Killed Davey Moore

David S. “Davey” Moore (November 1, 1933 – March 25, 1963) was an American featherweight world champion boxer who fought professionally 1953–63. A resident of Springfield, Ohio, Moore was one of two champions to share the name in the second half of the 20th century. The second, Davey Moore (born 1959) boxed during the 1980s.

Moore died on March 25, 1963, aged 29, as a result of injuries sustained in a match against Sugar Ramos.

davey mooreBob Dylan wrote a song about Davey Moore’s death, posing the question of responsibility. It is titled “Who Killed Davey Moore?” and was also sung by Pete Seeger and Graeme Allwright (in French). Phil Ochs wrote a song titled “Davey Moore”  which told the story of Davey Moore’s death and placed the guilt on the managers and the boxing “money men” as well as boxing fans.

On September 21, 2013, the 50th anniversary of Moore’s final fight, his hometown of Springfield, Ohio dedicated an 8′ bronze statue in his honor. Located in a public green space just south of downtown near the neighborhood where he grew up, its dedication was attended by a crowd of nearly 250. The event was marked by the appearance of Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos, who came from Mexico City to pay his respects. It was the first time since March 1963 that he and Moore’s widow Geraldine had spoken. A pair of Moore’s boxing gloves are on display in a Finnish restaurant Juttutupa in Helsinki, Finland (Säästöpankinranta 6). They were found during a renovation of a local boxing gym.

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