Songs About Death

This is how we envision author Peter Gerstenzang taking his last ride. Photo Courtesy: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann
This is how we envision author Peter Gerstenzang taking his last ride.
Photo Courtesy: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

By Peter Gerstenzang

After a recent checkup, I found myself on the receiving end of some pretty grim news from my doctor. I don’t want to get too explicit about it. Let’s just say that I’m no longer worried about a Donald Trump presidency. Anyway, the whole episode got me to thinking about death. Which, being a morbid soul, was no harder than getting Kirstie Alley to think about the countless varieties of Little Debbie snack cakes. So, being in this grave frame of mind, I thought I’d list some of my favorite tunes about being dead. No, nothing by Rush. That’s the stuff that makes you wish you were dead. But that’s a very good try.

Oh Death – David Johansen and The Harry Smiths
Of course, everybody is familiar with the Ralph Stanley take by now. But this former New York Doll’s rendition is so dark and petrifying it makes Stanley’s rendition sound like “Gimme Dat Ding” by The Pipkins. Word is David got the motivation from his manager who told him The Dolls were about to start touring again. And sharing the bill with Poison! A kind of living death so frightening, it could freak out a pack of zombies.

Tonight’s The Night – Neil Young
This title tune about the overdose of Neil’s roadie is sloppy, badly recorded and sung by what sounds like a dog who’s just had a haircut with a ginsu knife. The positive side? That is the positive side. And for the people who hate it, Neil has stuck in a great joke. He opens the album with this tune, then closes with it. By then the naysayers are just praying to die.

Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
It’s not easy to pick the worst record ever made. You can get stuck for days just listening to the gerbil-singing-on-crack that is Rihanna. But “Rock Me Amadeus” fits in better with our theme. Listening to deceased German singer Falco cough up ghastly nonsense syllables, like a cat with a terminal case of hairballs, isn’t just good background music for death. It’s like experiencing it while you’re still alive. Add obnoxious drumbeats that make you nostalgic for your worst migraine and it really is an abomination. Ten more points off for using Mozart’s name and trying get some highbrow cred. There is an antidote to this Kraut Rock, this Teutonic trowel full of aural diarrhea. Put on “Roll Over Beethoven.” Stat!

For A Dancer – Jackson Browne
The great SoCal singer-songwriter has written so many songs about people dying, his albums should come with a discount coupon for Funeral Advantage. Still, this tune about death, sex and rebirth is eloquent and melodic. Handicapped only by the fact that you can’t dance to it. So the title is misleading. But you should hear the Dr. Dre remix. It’s dope!

Dead Homiez – Ice Cube
One of those rare songs you can dance to while you’re grieving. All about a member of Ice’s crew who’s been shot. A terrible fate, but a day at the beach compared to listening to “Rock Me Amadeus.” Great groove, smart sampling, amazing poetry. With maybe a few points off for “I’ll tell you, life ain’t shit to fool with.” Which everybody knows was first said by John Keats. Ice, you gotta footnote that stuff.