Killing women


The first paragraph must be introduction for author and mini summary of the article what about and most have topic sentence and central idea. the thesis should be answering question which is (what, if anything, do you think can or should be done about song lyrics advocating or condoning violence against women?).

The concluding paragraph must have 1) a restatement of your thesis and a restatement of your supporting point , presented in words and phrase different from those used in your introduction paragraphs and your body paragraphs

Killing women: a pop-music tradition. By john hamerlick

If there has been anything positive about the flood of media coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, it has been an increased public awareness of the disturbing incidence of violence against women in our society. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, an act of domestic violence occurs every nine seconds in the United States.

Even though the mainstream press seems to have only recently recognized this horrible reality, the signs of our tolerance toward domestic violence have long had a prominent profile in popular culture.

This tragic phenomenon has often been reflected in novels and on film, but perhaps the most common occurrence of depictions of violence against women comes in popular music. Indeed, the often innocuous world of pop music has cultivated its own genre of woman-killing songs.

Violent misogyny in popular song did not begin with recent controversial offerings from acts like Guns ‘N’ Roses and 2 Live Crew. There’s an old, largely southern, folk genre known as the “murder ballad.” And as long as men have sung the blues, they have told stories of killing the women who have “done them wrong.” In a common scenario, a man catches “his” woman with another man and kills them both in a jealous rage.

In the 1920s, Lonnie Johnson sang a song called “Careless Love,” in which he promises to shoot his lover numerous times and then stand over her until she is finished dying. In “Little Boy Blue,” Robert Lockwood threatens to whip and stab his lover; while Robert Nighthawk’s “Murderin’ Blues” suggests a deliberate values judgment in the premeditation: the song says that prison chains are better than having a woman cheat and lie to you.

In many of the songs in this genre, the music belies the homicidal lyrics. A song like Little Walter’s “Boom, Boom, Out Go the Lights” (later turned into an arena-rock anthem by Pat Travers) features a smooth, catchy, danceable blues riff. Little Walter caresses the song’s famous hook so softly that one gets the feeling that perhaps his bark is worse than his bite. There is, however, no doubt that retribution for emotional pain is going to come in the form of physical violence.

This theme is not limited to blues artists. The Beatles provide harsh and frightening imagery in “Run for Your Life,” a song which features premeditation along the traditional blues lines. It also incorporates stalking and threats sung directly to the target. The stalking transcends the mind-game variety we find in a song like the Police’s “Every Breath You Take”; “Run for Your Life” is pure terror. Charles Manson aside, this Beatles offering is considerably more frightening than “HelterSkelter.”

Another song in this vein is “Hey Joe,” which was a minor hit for a band called the Leaves in the 1960s and was later covered by numerous artists, including an electrifying version by Jimi Hendrix. Thanks to Hendrix, the song became a garage, band staple in the sixties and seventies: many a young vocalist cut his rock-and-roll teeth singing that musical question: “Hey, Joe/Where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?” (The same bands probably also played Neil Young’s contribution to the genre, “Down by the River.”)

The woman-killing genre has also been embraced by the MTV generation. One of the video age’s most recent additions to the catalog of murder songs comes from the “man in black,” Johnny Cash, who is only one of many country artists to record such songs. Cash recently released a single called “Delia’s Gone” from his latest album, American Recordings. The stark and eerie video, which features Cash digging a grave for his victim, even made its way into an episode of MTV’s “Beavis and Butt-Head.”

Occasionally the genre attempts to even the odds by arming the victim: for example, in Robert Johnson’s “32-20 Blues,” the heartbroken man gets his revenge despite the fact that the victim had a “38 Special.” And sometimes the gender tables are turned: for example, Nancy Sinatra covered “Run for Your Life” shortly after the Beatles recorded it, changing the prey from “little girl” to “little boy.” In real life, however, the victims are overwhelmingly women, and their primary form of defense usually consists of a mere piece of paper called a restraining order.

It should quickly be pointed out, however, that these songs do not cause violence. Their singers are not wicked, evil people. The perseverance of this genre, however, certainly reflects a disturbingly casual level of acceptance in society when it comes to so-called “crimes of passion.” When we hear tales of real domestic abuse, we are appalled. Often, however, we rationalize the perpetrator’s actions and say that we can understand how he could be driven to commit such a crime. Shoulders shrug and someone ubiquitously adds, “Well, we live in a violent society.” Just as metal detectors and X-rays have become an unquestioned, accepted part of the airport landscape, our culture comfortably places violence and terror in pop music’s love-song universe.

“I-loved-her-so-much-I-had-to-kill-her” songs are not about love; they are about power and control. But if the beat is good and the chorus has a catchy hook, we don’t need to concern ourselves with things like meaning, right? We can simply dance on and ignore the violence around us.

John Hamerlinck is a freelance writer in St. Cloud, Minnesota, who specializes in popular culture. He is currently working on a progressive history of women’s sports and public policy in the 1920s and 1930s.

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Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Last Updated on June 19, 2021

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