Monday, March 21, 2016

Sympathy For the Dead

 

In his time, Johnny Cash sang more than one murder ballad. Adam Cohen, Kenny Rogers, Crooked Still, Sting, and Tom Waits also recorded songs in this genre. Even the consummate pop songwriter Barry Manilow wrote a song about murder (perhaps one day I will expand on these other murder-ballads).

What is it about murder ballads that catch our attention? Is it that we truly desire justice, revenge, or retribution? Or is it the horror of a train-wreck from which we cannot remove our gaze? The latest song from Key of Zed tells one such story of murder and asks the question, “Was it swift justice or retribution?” The soaring vocals, growling guitar, and haunting electric solo tell the story of two men who lose their way, and ultimately, lose their lives. There is a faint echo of a Kenny Rogers’ song; and it also makes a nod to Adam Cohen’s “Don’t Crack.” I will leave it up to readers to come to their own conclusions on the inherent question in the last line.

Sympathy for the Dead

Down the long dark corridor
I heard the sounds I couldn’t expect
Her clothes were strewn on the floor
My heart was frozen in my chest

Door was open just a crack
Pushed it wide for I must be sure
Gun on the floor she always packed
It would be used for this cure

It was over in an instant
Just another crime of passion
Punished to the full extent
Swift justice or retribution

The trial was over in three days
No time to hear all the facts
Nothing ‘bout his abusive ways
To explain my attack

It was over in an instant
Just another crime of passion
Punished to the full extent
Swift justice or retribution

Now the doors close on my plan
Excuses ringing in my head
Surely he was an evil man
Becky’s safe now the monster’s dead.

It was over in an instant
Just another crime of passion
Punished to the full extent
Swift justice or retribution

Down the long dark corridor
I hear from those who will wish me well
Those now standing at their doors
And those who wished I’d just go to hell

Over in an instant
Payment for a crime of passion
Punished to the full extent
Swift justice or retribution

It was over in an instant
Just another crime of passion
Punished to the full extent
Swift justice or retribution

Lyrics and music by Mike Charko and Keith Shields; Key of Zed Music, 2016;
SOCAN 2016.

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