Unprepared to Die: America's Greatest Murder Ballads and the True Crime Stories That Inspired Them (Paperback)
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Cheerfully vulgar, revelling in gore, and always with an eye on the main chance, murder ballads are tabloid newspapers set to music, carrying word of the latest 'orrible murders to an insatiable public. Victims are bludgeoned, stabbed or shot in every verse and killers often hanged, but the songs themselves never die. Instead, they mutate -- morphing to suit local place names as they criss cross the Atlantic and continue to fascinate each generation's biggest musical stars. Paul Slade traces this fascinating genre's history through eight of its greatest songs. Stagger Lee's "biographers" alone include Duke Ellington, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Dr John, The Clash and Nick Cave. No two tell his story in quite the same way. Covering eight classic murder ballads, including "Knoxville Girl", "Tom Dooley" and "Frankie & Johnny", Slade investigates the real-life murder which inspired each song and traces its musical development down the decades. Billy Bragg, The Bad Seeds' Mick Harvey, Laura Cantrell, Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family and a host of other leading musicians add their own insights.