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Execution Songs

According to Amnesty International, more than 1,145 people from 23 countries were executed in 2003. In America, there have been 956 executions since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated. There have also been over 100 people released from death row over this same period, due to evidence of innocence being discovered. In the year 2000 Gov. George Ryan made Illinois the first of 38 U.S. states with capital punishment to impose a moratorium on executions after the state released 13 death row inmates who were wrongly convicted.

The death penalty continues to be something that divides many people around the world. Wherever you stand on the issue though, there is no denying that the subject makes for powerful art. Many books, songs and films have been produced about capital punishment and the horrible anguish felt by criminals, victims and the families.

The idea of someone sitting in a cell with the knowledge that they will be killed at daybreak makes for poignant storytelling. Over the years songs have told the story from the perspective of the accused (innocent and guilty), the family of the accused, the victim, the family of the victim and the law.

Listen to this playlist for a real emotional rollercoaster. From Johnny Cash's version of Shel Silverstein's "25 Minutes To Go", which counts down the minutes to the hangman's noose in quite a chilling fashion, to the traditional "Tom Dooley", which is based on the true story of the murder of Laura Foster circa 1866 in North Carolina, to the comical "My Last Meal" by Jimmy Rogers which tells the story of a death row inmate who gives the warden an impossible last meal request of "two dinosaurs" and "mosquito knees" among other things.

I think you'll enjoy the depth of songs that relate to this morbid subject.

"Well, I've seen 'em fight like lions, boys
I've seen 'em go like lambs
And I've helped to drag 'em when they could not stand
And I've heard their mamas cryin'
when they heard that big door slam
And I've seen the victim's family holdin' hands

- Steve Earle, "Ellis Unit One"

Execution Songs Playlist

1. 25 Minutes To Go - Johnny Cash

2. The Long Black Veil - The Chieftains

3. Ellis Unit One - Steve Earle

4. Gallows Pole - Led Zeppelin 

5. The Fall Of Troy - Tom Waits

6. Green, Green Grass Of Home - Porter Wagoner

7. Women's Prison - Loretta Lynn 

8. My Last Meal - Jimmy Rogers

9. Promises - Lyle Lovett

10. Margaret On The Guillotine - Morrissey 

11. Dead Man Walkin' - Lynyrd Skynyrd

12. Dead Man Walkin' - Bruce Springsteen

13. Woman On The Tier (I'll See You Through) - Suzanne Vega 

14. Tom Dooley - The Kingston Trio

15. John Hardy - Uncle Tupelo

16. Crime For Crime - Ani DiFranco

17. Hangman - Peter, Paul & Mary 

18. Poor Will & The Jolly Hangman - Fairport Convention

19. Hangman, Swing Your Rope - Hobert Smith 

20. The Mercy Seat - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

21. Psycho Joe - Blues Traveler 

22. Joe Bean - Johnny Cash

23. Sing Me Back Home - Merle Haggard

24. Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree - Spooky Tooth 

25. Ride The Lightning - Metallica

26. Hallowed Be Thy Name - Iron Maiden 

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