Murder and Mother Columbia: American Murder Song

"Mr. Tender" (Terrance Zdunich) and "Mr. Storm" (Saar Hendelman) (photo from American Murder Song, source: Facebook)

Murder ballads in sepia We heard from the folks at American Murder Song last month. Their touring production of original murder ballads, set in an mostly imagined early 19th century America, intrigued me enough to want to explore it here. I hoped I might find something provocative to add to … → read more

Richard Polenberg: HEAR MY SAD STORY ….

                  Richard Polenberg HEAR MY SAD STORY: The True Tales That Inspired Stagolee, John Henry, and Other Traditional American Folksongs Cornell University Press 978-0-5017-0002-6   In 1966 Phil Ochs remarked, “Before the days of television and mass media, the folksinger was … → read more

Danse Macabre (the first installment)

Danse Macabre

Murder ballads made for dancing The Corries’ performance of “The Massacre of Glencoe” on our Facebook page several days ago prompted one reader to comment that older songs like it differed with more recent “hardcore” music in that the tenderness of the music contrasted with the grimness of the story. I … → read more

Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman”: A Ballad as Prayer

The Early Years I played Bruce Springsteen’s album Nebraska over and over when I was in high school. It’s a dark, meditative album full of rage and sadness, which soothed me. I was sixteen, and had just moved to a new town. I was miserable. Long-distance phone calls were rare … → read more

“Unprepared to Die”: An Interview with Paul Slade

From the time we started Murder Ballad Monday in 2012, one of our neighbors in the curious portion of the web focused on murder balladry has been Paul Slade, journalist and owner of While not exactly a blog, Slade’s web site provides, among other content, in-depth articles on the “true stories” behind … → read more