Murder ballads have been long been part of the Folk Canon. Their origins lie in broadsides, one-sided printings depicting advertisements, poems and, in this case, ballads. The songs were brought here from Continental Europe, Great Britain and Scandinavian nations. They’re sometimes apologetic and mournful, sometimes blatant and pointed. Moreover, the songs reveal a fascination with violence, lust and nefarious deeds that has been a part of the American psyche for as long as there’s been one. And they’re not going anywhere…the songs have continued to be performed and recorded in great numbers. Here are some links to alternate versions to those you’ve heard during Murder Ballad week:
Frankie and Johnny
Elvis Presley and Donna Douglas from the 1966 film “Frankie and Johnny”.
Who could it be but Johnny Cash? Slickly-produced video here.
Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley with Patty Loveless.
Time-out for trivia: The Wilburn Brothers were given a crack at Heartbreak Hotel before The King himself. They passed, calling the lyrics “strange and almost morbid”…unlike The Knoxville Girl, of course. In which the protagonist clubs a girl and promptly deposits her into a river.
Lloyd Price performing his hit live. Decades earlier, his record became the first censored one to hit number one on the charts.
Though it’s a bit racy, and quite probably NSFW, there ‘s an incredible version out there by Samuel Jackson from the film Black Snake Moan. We won’t link to it right here, but you know how to use the internet.