A playlist for the Ten Commandments – Pt. 5

johnny cash“I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could have been.”

Johnny Cash, The Man in Black

This week is the Sixth Word, the shortest, bluntest of the Ten Words, made strikingly so by following, as it does, the lengthy Word about honouring one’s parents. It simply states

“Do not kill.”

I sat down to begin work on this chapter 2 days after the shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. Those 12 were part of the almost 16,000 people murdered in the US that year, 11,000 of whom were killed with a firearm. I am about 5 times more likely to be murdered living in the US than I am living in the UK. Two months ago, a 21 year old young man was shot and killed in the park at the end of our street. Last week a man was shot and killed a few blocks from our home. My very first day in the US two decades ago found me staring down the barrels of a shotgun held in the shaking, drunk hands of a college student.

“Do not kill.” It’s the very basis of human society – respect for the life of your neighbour. And yet somewhere between 30 and 40 people will be murdered in the US today – often by their neighbour, someone they know well, if not very well. Even though the murder rate has dropped significantly since the 1980s, we continue to struggle as a society with the violation of this Word.

When choosing a song lyric for this chapter, I settled on “The Man in Black” by Johnny Cash. It’s a song of lament that could easily find its home among the Psalms. What song(s) come to mind for you when you read those words, “Do not kill”? As always, write the lyric and the artist in the comment section below, and let’s see what kind of playlist we can come up with together this week.

(You can find last week’s playlist for the Seventh Word, “Do not commit adultery” here:     7: do not betray. Congratulations to Bill Guerrant, who gets a copy of TEN for his suggestion of the rollicking pub favourite, “Seven Drunken Nights.”)

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8 Responses to A playlist for the Ten Commandments – Pt. 5

  1. Katy Shultz says:

    I felt the power of death over life
    I orphaned his children, I widowed his wife
    I begged their forgiveness, I wish I was dead
    I hung my head, I hung my head
    – Johnny Cash (I Hung my Head)

  2. Bill says:

    A couple of songs that come to mind when I think about this one are Pearl Jam’s chilling “Jeremy” and Steve Earle’s “The Devil’s Right Hand” (covered, of course, by Johnny Cash. You could create an excellent playlist for this one using nothing but Johnny Cash songs).

    But instead of songs that involve breaking the commandment, how about one that anticipates an end to killing and violence? Maybe my all-time favorite lyric, from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”:

    And I dreamed I saw the bombers
    Riding shotgun in the sky
    And they were turning into butterflies
    Above our nation

    We are stardust
    Billion year old carbon
    We are golden
    Caught in the devil’s bargain
    And we’ve got to get ourselves
    back to the garden

  3. Kara Chesnutt says:

    What If by Creed: speaks about the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), the root of bitterness that causes us to hate (Luke 6:45)

    “What If”

    I can’t find the rhyme in all my reason
    Lost sense of time and all seasons
    Feel I’ve been beaten down
    By the words of men who have no grounds
    Can’t sleep beneath the trees of wisdom
    When your ax has cut the roots that feed them
    Forked tongues in bitter mouths
    Can drive a man to bleed from inside out

    What if you did?
    What if you lied?
    What if I avenge?
    What if eye for an eye?

    I’ve seen the wicked fruit of your vine
    Destroy the man who lacks a strong mind
    Human pride sings a vengeful song
    Inspired by the times you’ve been walked on
    My stage is shared by many millions
    Who lift their hands up high because they feel this
    We are one We are strong
    The more you hold us down the more we press on

    I know I can’t hold the hate inside my mind
    ‘Cause what consumes your thoughts controls your life
    So I’ll just ask a question
    A lonely simple question
    I’ll just ask one question
    What if? What if?
    What if? What if?
    What If I?

    What if your words could be judged like a crime?

  4. Kara Chesnutt says:

    Reclusion by Anberlin When we keep secret sin, it eats away at our souls and we essentially are murdering ourselves. (Romans 7:11)


    There’s someone inside me that softly kills everyone around
    They don’t know they’re dead to me cause intent never makes a sound
    All along they found I strangled lovers who’ve learned from slower hands
    With these eleven minutes I could teach you what I am

    You’re sick, sick as all the
    Secrets that you deny
    Sins like skeletons are so very hard to hide
    You’re sick, sick as all the
    Secrets that you deny
    Sins like skeletons are so very hard to hide

    There’s an art in seclusion. Production in depression
    if a stranger turns up missing, this song is my confession
    Tell the tales of the trail of dead, lovers learn from slower hands
    Losing self in myself, inner demons make demands

    You’re suffocating me, so very hard to breathe
    My mask is growing heavy but I’ve forgotten who’s beneath

  5. “Everglades,” written by Harlan Howard (made famous/popular by The Kingston Trio… that’s who I learned it from, and grew up singing all the words…)

    “He was born and raised around Jacksonville
    A nice young man, not the kind to kill,
    But a jealous fight and a flashing blade
    Sent him on the run through the Everglades…

    Well, the posse went in and they came back out
    They said “he’ll die in the rain, no doubt
    It’s an eye for an eye, so the debt is paid
    He won’t last long in the Everglades”…

    Where a man can hide and never be found
    And have no fear of the baying hound
    But he’d better keep a-moving and don’t stand till
    If the skeeters don’t get him then the gators will…”

    (and a few verses later…)

    “Well, he never heard the news on the radio
    He was deep in the ‘glades so he’ll never know
    His running and hiding didn’t make much sense
    For the jury had ruled it was self-defence…”

  6. And, of course there’s always “Folsom Prison Blues” (I’m surprised no one has mentioned that one yet, given the Johnny Cash theme)…

    “When I was just a baby, my mama told me “Son,
    Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns,”
    But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die…
    When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and I cry…”

  7. Bruce Cockburn, “Gospel of Bondage”… I won’t quote the whole song, but here’s a sampling…

    “… shutters on storefronts and shutters in the mind,
    We kill our selves to keep ourselves safe from crime…

    We’re so afraid of disorder we make it into a god
    That we can only placate with state security laws,
    Whose church consists of secret courts and wiretaps and shocks,
    Whose priests hold smoking guns, and whose sign is the double cross…

    … You read the Bible in your special ways,
    You’re fond of quoting certain things it says,
    Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above,
    but when do we hear about forgiveness and love?

    Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
    But if God stays silent, what else can you do
    Except listen to the silence, if you ever did you’d surely see
    That God won’t be reduced to an ideology…

    Such as the gospel of bondage…”

  8. Ben Bainbridge says:

    Surprise Your Dead – by Faith No More

    Surprise! you’re dead!!
    Ha ha! open your eyes
    See the world as it used to be when you used to be in it
    When you were alive and when you were in love
    And when I took it from you!

    It’s not over yet
    You don’t remember?
    I won’t let you forget
    The hatred I bestowed
    Upon your neck with a fatal blow
    From my teeth and my tongue
    I’ve drank and swallowed, but it’s just begun
    Now you are mine
    I’ll keep killing you until the end of time
    Surprise! you’re dead!
    Guess what?
    It never ends…
    The pain, the torment and torture, profanity
    Nausea, suffering, pervirsion, calamity
    You can’t get away

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