Though few things are as horrific and stomach churning as violent crime, there's still an undeniably fascinating element to it when viewed from a distance, which makes for some interesting subject matter for songs. Here are five great alt-rock songs about real crimes.
1. The Smiths - "Suffer Little Children" (1984)
Two of the most notorious criminals in British history are Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, who sexually assaulted and murdered five children in Manchester from 1963 to 1965 in what are known as "The Moors Murders." The murders would have a profound effect on Manchester native Morrissey, who was just a child himself when the murders occurred and considered himself a potential victim. When Morrissey eventually formed the Smiths seventeen years after the last murder took place, one of the first songs he and Johnny Marr would write together would be "Suffer Little Children," a chilling ballad about the Moors Murders that references both the killers and the victims by name.
2. Big Black - "Jordan, Minnesota" (1986)
Big Black is famous for writing songs about horrific and potentially offensive subject matter, and the first song on the band's first album goes right for the throat. The lyrics to "Jordan, Minnesota" were inspired by the infamous case in a small Minnesota town where twenty-four adults were charged with child abuse, though only one would eventually be convicted after what was considered to be an extremely poor investigation. Curiously enough, there's no mention of the crimes anywhere on Jordan's Wikipedia page.
3. Nirvana - "Polly" (1991)
One of the darkest songs on Nirvana's Nevermind is the acoustic track "Polly," which Kurt Cobain wrote after reading an article about a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped and raped by serial rapist Gerald Friend in 1987. According to bassist Krist Novoselic, the girl was able to escape by pretending to like Friend and earning his trust.
4. At the Drive-In - "Invalid Litter Dept." (2000)
The city of Juarez, Mexico is often considered to be the most dangerous non-warzone city in the world. An alarmingly high number of the city's murder victims have been women, and the government's minimal efforts to curb the violence have received international criticism, even from musicians. At the Drive-In's 2000 single "Invalid Litter Dept." addresses the murders in Juarez, which is right across the river from the band's hometown of El Paso, Texas.
5. Sufjan Stevens - "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." (2005)
Though Sufjan Stevens sadly abandoned his Fifty States project, in which he would write an album about every state in America, he still gave us two excellent albums before giving up: Michigan and Illinois. Every song on these albums incorporates a bit of state history, and on track four of lllinois, Stevens tells us the story of John Wayne Gacy, who murdered at least 33 boys at his home near Chicago from 1972 to 1978.
What other songs are about real crimes? Let us know in the comments section!