Symphony For The Devil: Top Ten Songs About Satan
In order to prevent taking sides and to represent a “fair and balanced” point of view, it is only fair that we follow up any Top Ten Lists representing one group with a Top Ten List representing the other. And, let’s be honest, shouldn’t this be a TopTwenty list? While I whittle down the musical canon celebrating Lucifer, so many remain on the cutting room floor.
But these are songs. We leave the deeds by the wayside. We can revel in the glory of all that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit allegedly created, but it good cannot exist without evil, then should we not compare with the works from the other side?
Is the devil not credited with creating rock and roll? Blues music?
If God gave us the gift of making love, do we thank Satan for the blowjob?
Jesus turned water to wine, but I’m more impressed with who turned water to bourbon.
Desserts are described interchangeably as “heavenly” and sinful.” “Angel Food Cake” competes with “Devil’s Food Cake” on dessert menus. There are more plants in the forest named for the dark prince than the fellers upstairs.
More actors jump at the chance to play Satan than do God. Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Elizabeth Hurley, among others, have all rocked it out as the devil, while only Morgan Freeman and George Burns really made any waves as the Creator. (Should be noted that in Oh God, You Devil, Burns gets to play both parts… just sayin’)
So again, I am not taking any sides. To pontificate on religion in this day and age is a good way to get your head cut off and I like mine right where it is. My point, as always, is about the music. And so in an effort to remain “fair and balanced,” I present:
THE TOP TEN SONGS ABOUT SATAN
What kind of devil must Michael Hutchence possessed to go from pictures in girls’ Trapper Keepers to autoerotic asphyxiation? (AUTHOR’S NOTE: I still suspect Bob Geldoff. Look into it.)
No, this is not a band led by the most annoying sportscaster in history, but rather the stage name of former Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers guitarist and Hank III bassist, Jim Finkley. Finkley has another distinction in what unfortunately gets termed “alt-country:” he and his ex-wife founded the downtown Nashville rockabilly hot-spot, Layla’s. While Joe Buck Yourself is no longer associated with the venue, there’s still plenty of sinning to be found at the Broadway hotspot.
Speak of the… well, you know. This is a two-fer, as Hank III’s album version features the intro from the Louvin Brothers cock-blocking song from the album of the same name. After the first stanza, Hank III takes over with fiddles possessed and guitar licks that lets the devil reclaim country. Lord knows it’s time.
Some would argue the sin is actually to get caught in the lie, but we’re here to present music, not cases, so I digress. This song has been covered by millions, including a truly awesome one from the Blackstone Valley Sinners that is nowhere to be found on Satan’s other invention: the Internet.
Music has long enjoyed sinful connotations. From blues singers forced by the community to abandon their craft in favor of gospel or stigmatized rock and rollers like AC/DC, Ozzy, and Alice Cooper. No one points out Pentecostal services where clapping and stomping and waving snakes in the air bring people to the tongues of another world. But again, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, a band like .357 String Band bring us to the point of possession with demonic banjo, driving guitar and hypnotic choruses. Open a jar of moonshine (devil juice) and enjoy!
Easily one of the most talented performers in history, as Eartha Kitt could easily slip from English to French to Spanish to Turkish to… you get the picture. Her smooth, silky vocals leaves one to imagine she’d long gone over to the dark side well before crooning her desire to give up her good girl ways. Listen for all the pop-culture clues in her songs, a trademark of hers that makes listening to her songs much more sexy than a history lesson. And one other thing: Catwoman.
Dude, if my resume was half as good as the one Bob Wills and Co. shop around for the Dark Prince, I’d have fifty jobs by now. Listen to them lay down his greatest hits, sing for the world what this fella can do… I need better spokespeople.
Ernest Tubb and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club both have awesome versions of this song, but I could find neither of them online. So we’ll kick it with Rusty Dean. This song preaches to the choir, as I’m sure there are few left that don’t see hypocrisy in Christianity. But if you’re still on the fence, enjoy the music!
Since we couldn’t squeeze Slim in on #3, we’ll enjoy him here at #2, where he decries the inspiration to so many country songs. It’s a fun alternative to the Jello Biafra/Mojo Nixon argument that Jesus may be a better drinking partner, no matter how many footprints are left in the sand.
1. “Cross Road Blues” by Robert Johnson
It’s often argued that the devil is a Northern agent and has no place in Southern culture. While they had Daniel Webster and the Devil and the Salem Witch Trials, our culture and literature have been strangely devoid of the Dark Prince until the rise of Evangelism and, coincidentally, George W. Bush (from Massachusetts). Our two big exceptions are Charlie Daniels and Robert Johnson who, after toiling away with poor guitar skills, disappeared only to return a blues master. In an ingenious bit of marketing, he is believed to this day to have sold his soul at a crossroads in exchange for guitar skills. The mystery of Robert Johnson inspired the Stones, Clapton, and a multitude of musicians and filmmakers that believe Johnson is truly the father of great music, whether or not he participated in such a dark bargain.
EXTRA INNINGS: Just as we gave an honorable mention to Kitty Wells, you should also check out Buck Owens’ “Satan’s Got to Get Along Without Me.” It’s what I listen to every morning when I get dressed.
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