Behind Closed Cases: 15 Songs That Tell True Crime Stories

Popular songs harness many themes, and many refer to popular news stories. Artists often refer to a current report or write a release based on a notorious historic event.

A popular online forum recently discussed songs that refer to True Crime Cases. Here's what their detective work uncovered.

1. Zombie: The Cranberries (1994) 

Zombie by The Cranberries
Image Credit: Island Records.

A moving protest song from 1994, “Zombie” refers to the troubles in Northern Ireland and, more specifically, to the Warrington bombings of the previous year. One forum poster references the song and describes the incident as the final straw towards a Northern Ireland peace process.

2. King Park: La Dispute (2011)

King Park by La Dispute
Image Credit: No Sleep Records.

A lesser-known song, released in 2011, relates to a drive-by shooting incident in 2008. One commenter stated that King Park always gives them chills, while another claims the song shows what Emo music can be.

3. Jeremy: Pearl Jam (1991)

Jeremy by Pearl Jam
Image Credit: Epic Records.

This iconic tune is arguably Pearl Jam's most famous release. It's mentioned several times on the thread without explanation, assuming we all know the story. For the record, the song tells the tale of Jeremy Wade Delle, a student who shot himself in front of his classmates in 1991.

4. What's the Frequency Kenneth? : REM (1994) 

What's the Frequency Kenneth? By REM
Image Credit: Warner Records.

One of the more bizarre crimes is recounted in this REM hit. In 1986, journalist Dan Rather was attacked in New York City, and his two assailants repeatedly shouted, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” 

5. Polly: Nirvana (1991) 

Polly by Nirvana
Image Credit: DGC Records.

Some bleak stories lie behind some of these songs, but “Polly” could be the worst. It's said that Kurt Cobain wrote this song because of an interest in the abduction of a 14-year-old girl in 1987. 

6. Wiener Blut: Rammstein (2009) 

Wiener Blut by Rammstein
Image Credit: Universal Music Group.

As one individual correctly points out, German rockers Rammstein seem to love this theme. “Wiener Blut” is notorious as it covers the Josef Fritzl case, and it's described on this thread as scary and sick.  

7. Angel of Death: Slayer (1986) 

“Raining Blood”—Slayer (1986)
Image Credit: Def Jam Recordings.

The title of this song references the World War Two German doctor Josef Mengele, and not everyone was happy about the subject matter. As one forum member informs us, the band received a ton of flak over the song because some thought they were sympathizers.

8. The Night Chicago Died: Paper Lace (1974) 

The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace
Image Credit: Mercury Records.

This 1974 song gets several mentions without supporting evidence. However, the posters are correct, and “The Night Chicago Died” relates to arguably the world's most notorious gangster. The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre inspired the song and tells a tale of a shootout between police and Al Capone's men.

9. Suffer Little Children: The Smiths (1984) 

The Smiths by Suffer Little Children
Image Credit: Rough Trade Records.

English indie band The Smiths were based in Manchester, and they made more than one reference to the infamous Moors Murders. There was a theory that the band got their name from a witness to one crime, but they have denied this. However, “Suffer Little Children” is a definite story of these horrendous crimes.

10. Riders on the Storm: The Doors (1971) 

Riders on the Storm by The Doors
Image Credit: Elektra Records.

American spree killer Billy Cook is acknowledged in this famous release from 1971. Cook murdered six people between 1950 and 1951, and his crimes are reflected in the lyrics. 

11. Marie Provost: Nick Lowe (1978)

Marie Provost by Nick Lowe
Image Credit: Radar Records.

While no crime was committed concerning the death of silent film actress Marie Prevost, there is a curious myth attached to her passing. She is immortalized in this 1978 song by Nick Lowe.

12. 1913 Massacre: Woody Guthrie (1944) 

1913 Massacre by Woody Guthrie
Image Credit: Folkways Records.

The tragedy of the Italian Hall Disaster is retold in this moving song from 1944. Woody Guthrie is another artist who took inspiration from real-life tales, with one poster confirming that Guthrie has a ton of songs based on real events.

13. I Don't Like Mondays: Boomtown Rats (1979)

I Don't Like Mondays by Boomtown Rats
Image Credit: Columbia Records.

This is another song that gets frequent mentions without explanation. Again, this is probably because the story behind the crime is so famous. The Boomtown Rats wrote “I Don't Like Mondays” on the back of the Cleveland Elementary School Shooting of 1979. 

14. Evil: Interpol (2004) 

Evil: Interpol
Image Credit: Matador Records.

The most gruesome of tales is retold in this 2004 release. Without going into the details, one forum member sums things up by recalling that the things Fred and Rosemary West- the subjects of this song- did makes their skin crawl.

15. Gary Gilmore's Eyes: The Adverts (1978)

Gary Gilmore's Eyes by The Adverts
Image Credit: Anchor Records.

As a big fan of this English punk band, I hoped the Adverts' 1977 release would be mentioned. It goes unnoticed, but it's worthy of inclusion. “Gary Gilmore's Eyes” is based on the story of the double murderer, referencing that Gilmore requested that his eyes be donated to science.

Source: (Reddit).