Mystery Rider

Album: not on an album (1990)

Songfacts®:

  • This strikingly beautiful song does not sound quite so beautiful when you realize it is to be taken literally:

    "Mystery rider,
    What's your name?
    You're a killer,
    A drifter gone insane...
    Mystery rider,
    What's your game?
    You're a rebel
    No one else can tame."

    Film buffs may associate this with the Clint Eastwood Western High Plains Drifter in which a nameless stranger rides into town, causes havoc, then vanishes into the dust like the wraith he is. It is possible even likely that "Mystery Rider" was influenced by this film, but it is just as clearly autobiographical. Danny Rolling was the serial killer who became known as the Gainesville Ripper.

    Daniel Harold Rolling was born at Shreveport, Louisiana on May 26, 1954. On November 4, 1989 he murdered three people in his hometown then fled to Florida where on August 24 the following year he murdered two teenage girls in Gainesville. The next day he murdered another, and two days later he killed two 23 year olds: a man and a woman. All five of the Gainesville victims were students. Rolling was arrested on September 8; although he was tried only for the Florida murders, he confessed to the other three shortly before his execution on October 25, 2006.

    On the strength of this song it might be tempting to portray Rolling as a tortured soul. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. The horrific nature of his crimes need not be spelled out here, suffice it to say they were as senseless as they were horrific, and his music is arguably the only decent thing to have come out of his life.
  • Rolling recorded this song along with ten others on a cassette recorder in a Sarasota motel room on August 4, 1990. At that time he was already a triple murderer. It was played by the prosecutor during his trial - in spite of his guilty plea the trial went ahead to decide what sentence he would receive. Talented songwriter that he was, the jury gave greater weight to his crimes, although it would be more than a decade before the death sentence was carried out. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2

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