The 10 best rock songs about death are hard to pigeonhole. For starters, artists have found inspiration in themes of murder, suicide, and tragedy, since the phrase "rock and roll" was first coined. However, the best rock songs about death leave listeners with haunting imagery, questions, and an undeniable emotional response. The list:
- Hazard: The 1991 Richard Marx hit follows the story of a murdered girl named Mary who may or may not have been a victim of the narrator. He swears he left her by the river. He swears he left her safe and sound. Curious as another contrasting lyric indicates that the narrator was nowhere near the crime scene yet somehow he knows she is alone? Cleverly, Marx and company shot three different versions of the video and left the ultimate answer open to interpretation making "Hazard" one of the all-time best rock songs about death.
- The Kindness of Strangers: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are one seriously disturbed band! This was especially the case on the 1996 Murder Ballads album. And on that album, a song entitled "The Kindness of Strangers" depicts all to graphically how dangerous it can be to trust a stranger, even if said stranger gives you zero indication to think otherwise.
- American Pie: Don McLean immortalized one of the darkest days in the history of rock with this sad melody that represents the lives and deaths of Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly, in a wintertime plane crash. It was the day the music died. It was also one of the all-time best rock songs about death.
- Leader of the Pack: Ah, troubled youth and the inevitable fallout. This 1964 pop hit chronicles the tragic love affair between an all-American girl named Betty and the leader of a motorcycle gang (Jimmy). After a quarrel, Jimmy lets his emotions get the better of him. He takes off on his motorcycle only to crash and die moments later. It's one of the most famous ballads of doomed teenage love. It's also another of the all-time best rock songs about death.
- Last Kiss: Pearl Jam breathed new life into this hit about death when performing the 1962 Wayne Cochran classic. Pearl Jam enjoyed far greater success, perhaps due to Eddie Vedder's deeper, more sorrowful wails.
- Ode to Billy Jo: Few of the best rock songs about death actually get their own movies, but when Billy Jo McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge in this 1967 song he sealed his story's fate, which led to the Max Baer, Jr., film (re: Jethro Bodine) in 1976 starring Robby Benson.
- The Freshmen: The Verve Pipe debuted this heartbreaking tune about the guilt of an abortion in 1997. It was semi-autobiographical, detailing writer Brian Vander Ark's own struggle with his encouragement to terminate his girlfriend's pregnancy.
- Living Dead Girl: Based on schlock director Jean Rollin's 1980's horror film of the same name is this Rob Zombie hit from his classic Hellbilly Deluxe solo debut.
- Paint It Black: Forget about the best rock songs about death. Rolling Stone magazine called this Rolling Stones' hit one of the 500 greatest songs of all time!
- Candle in the Wind: Marilyn Monroe's life and death are honored by the legendary artist Elton John. In his entire catalog, this song remains near the top, and easily earns its appearance on a list of the best rock songs about death.
Joel Whitburn, Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Complete Chart Information About America's Most Popular Songs and Artists, 1955-2003