Heads Will Roll: A Brief History Of Beheading In Song

Categories: Miles-tones

Execution_of_Sir_Walter_Raleigh.jpg
Sir Walter Raleigh: "Watch the neck!"
"Find another victim for my machine/ Put 'em in a homemade guillotine/ Blade falls, gonna need a casket / Watch your head plop in a wicker basket."

Offspring singer Dexter Holland flexed his oddly sinister sense of humor in the band's aptly-titled 1995 song, "Beheaded." But as we were embracing the Halloween spirit by hunting down the holiday's creepiest tunes, we made a discovery - and ran with it.

"Off with their heads!" Words penned by Shakespeare, but made famous by Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts, have proven inspirational to acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who capture a similar macabre aura in 2009's "Heads Will Roll." "Off with your head," singer Karen O howls. "Dance 'til you're dead/ Heads will roll, heads will roll/ Heads will roll on the floor."

Indie post-punks The Kaiser Chiefs followed suit on the ghoulish sentiment, naming their 2008 album after the expression. Perhaps these tongue-in-cheek artists were simply flaunting their sarcastic wit; but we like to think they were channeling the spirit of Halloweens past.

On All Hallows Eve, we figured it doesn't get much creepier than - you've probably already surmised - beheading banter. Appropriately, we've learned that today marks the 392nd anniversary of the execution of English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh. Cause of death? You guessed it: Beheading.

Can't remember your high school history courses? Not to worry, we couldn't either. Here's a quick refresher: After aiding in the end of the Irish rebellion in the late 1500s, the English aristocrat rapidly rose in Queen Elizabeth I's favor, and then set out to explore and settle North America. Under royal patent, he eventually established the early colony of Roanoke off the coast of what is now Virginia and North Carolina. He's perhaps even better known for popularizing tobacco smoking in England.

Guys, ever wonder who raised the bar for chivalrous acts? You can thank this guy. Raleigh is the one credited with placing his cloak over a puddle, in order to prevent QE1 from muddying her shoes. Sounds like an overachiever to us. But this is the music blog, and we require more grit. Thankfully, Raleigh tempered such chivalry with pure rebelliousness - after all, he had to have been beheaded for something.


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