The Decemberists offered up "The Rake's Song,"
a track from their upcoming Hazards of Love
LP, as a free download last week, which means that lots of people were probably struck with the same two thoughts that hit me upon my own first listen. One, this is a song about a dude killing his kids. Two, there are not many songs about that.
As it turns out, there aren't too many popular songs about kids dying, period, by their parents' hands or otherwise. The Decemberists have quite a few-- the Rake's brood joined "Leslie Anne Levine" and "Eli, the Barrow Boy" in their dank little underworld of done-for lyrical tots-- but it took a lot of friend-polling and Google-scouring to come up with a list of twenty others.
The fruits of this admittedly rather creepy exercise are compiled in a playlist below, with a few exceptions. One suggestion, Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven," is about the death of a child but doesn't mention the event explicitly. Another, Devourment's "Baby Killer," was incredibly gross and also not on iMeem-- two strikes! Also, Ben Folds Five's "Brick" was suggested a few times, but, uh, didn't quite fit the bill.
A few tracks included are still a bit ambiguous. Let's assume, though, that death results in the Ween tune and from the titular abuse of the Ramones' "Beat On The Brat," and that the "girl" of the Ramone's "You're Gonna Kill That Girl" is a kid and not a grown woman referred to in the diminutive.
Other inclusions were irrefutable, though: Caroline Herring's "Paper Gown," The Smiths' "Suffer Little Children" and Sufjan Stevens' "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." all stem from real-life tragedy. Sufjan and the Ramones, by the way, each have two tracks on the list-- more than any other artist, but still not enough to top the Decemberists. Damn.
The tone of these twenty tracks range from poignant to cruel to whimsical, though none combine the three quite so bizarrely as "The Rake's Song," also included here just for the heck of it. All right? All right!
- "Pairlee" - The Everybodyfields
- "Jeremy" - Pearl Jam
- "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." - Sufjan Stevens
- "Casimir Pulaski Day" - Sufjan Stevens
- "Names" - Cat Power
- "Paper Gown" - Caroline Herring
- "Padriac My Prince" - Bright Eyes
- "Holland, 1945" - Neutral Milk Hotel
- "You're Gonna Kill That Girl" - The Ramones
- "Beat On The Brat" - The Ramones
- "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)" - Ween
- "The Curse of Millhaven" - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
- "Suffer Little Children" - The Smiths
- "Westfall" - Okkervil River
- "White Winter Hymnal" - Fleet Foxes
- "The River" - Missy Higgins
- "For the Driver" - Ron Sexsmith
- "I Kill Children" - The Dead Kennedys
- "Last Caress" - The Misfits
- "Killbot 2000" - Murder By Death
Any morbid oversights? Hit the comments.