Modern Murder Ballads: “Becky’s Bible”

In the 1600’s, a significant number of ballads in Europe told stories centering around a killing.  This category of “murder ballads” soon took root in America, as settlers brought some of the Old World songs to the new while also creating new classics.  Something about the blood and the conflict, tied up with tragedy, have made many of these songs endure.

Today, we get most of our blood and guts from movies and TV.  Pop stars are not likely to sing about murder and mayhem.  Yet, the murder ballad does live on in other genres like hip hop and country music, areas of music that are more willing to explore the human condition.

One of my favorite modern murder ballad’s is Chris Knight‘s “Becky’s Bible.” The song appeared on his album A Pretty Good Guy, which had the unfortunate release date of September 11, 2001.

“Becky’s Bible” begins with one of the great opening lines: “Let the beer bottle / Rattle on my pistol / On the seat of my Chevy pick up truck.”  He thus captures three country music tropes — beer, guns, and trucks — in one line that also sets up a wonderful tale.

There does not seem to be an official video for the song, but here is a decent fan-made video.

The song does not focus on the crime, though.  Instead, we join the singer while he is on the run.  We get the idea that the singer was accused of cheating at cards and then somehow it escalated into gunfire.

The wonderful part of the song is that Knight is able to make the listener more interested in the fleeing man than in the crime. The singer tells us his plan for running, but he recognizes that he will eventually get caught.  We sympathize with him because his thoughts keep going back to his girlfriend or wife.

I don’t wanna see the daylight;
But my Becky is alone tonight;
I wonder if she’s waiting up for me.

Soon, his thoughts turn to wondering if Becky’s Bible is in his truck’s glove box. “Cause I’m sure gonna need it if that boy died.”

It is still night and the singer is still on the run when the song ends. So we do not know if he is eventually caught, but we have clues from the singer’s certainty of his impending doom.

We care about him, though, because he cares about Becky. Although throughout the song he has recounted how his best chance for escape lies in it staying dark, at the end, he wishes for daylight because it might bring some comfort to Becky. “I’ll be prayin’ for some daylight, / Because my Becky’s alone tonight.”

Here is a live version, although you can barely hear Knight because of the fans singing along. The song has a wonderful catchy tune, so I can’t say I blame them.

Knight’s most recent album is Little Victories (2012) which we reviewed here.

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