Monday , March 4 2024
Life imitates art...

Verse Chorus Verse: Pat Hare – “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby”

Life imitates art and art imitates life and to and fro and up and down and back again.  It's one of those chicken-egg conundrums and it's pointless to get bogged down in a discussion of which order it should happen in or if any order is needed at all.

Murder ballads are a lurid sub-genre of some prominence.  I don't know who wrote the first one in modern music history, but it's a safe bet most of these have been written by people who didn't have any real firsthand knowledge of the subject matter.  A character in Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" may have "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die," but Cash never did.  Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" was about Charles Starkweather. 

Then there's the story of Auburn "Pat" Hare.  Hare was a sideman for several blues luminaries, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf among them.  In 1954, Hare got to cut a rare solo side for Sam Phillips' Sun Records label.  The song he penned for the occasion?  "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby"  (it should be noted there is some question as to song authorship, but it is most often credited to Hare).

You can probably see where this is going.  This is one of those times when life imitated art.  Sixteen years later, Pat Hare shot his girlfriend during a domestic dispute.  When a police officer was dispatched to the scene, Hare also shot and killed him.  He was sentenced to life in prison for the two killings.  In 1980, he died in prison of cancer.

It's one of my favorite "Behind The Music" stories and not because I endorse such behavior.  Hare's recording isn't all that remarkable in its vocal or music.  Hare was a very average singer and mostly played rhythm guitar for better talents.  Psychiatrists and scientists have tried to determine what it is that attracts us to some of the darker aspects of the human experience as depicted in art.  I don't know that any of us know for certain or that it can be boiled down to one thing.  I don't know how much thought I'd have given Hare's song if I didn't know the story of what came next, though.

About Josh Hathaway

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