Kill The Poor

Album: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)
Charted: 49
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Songfacts®:

  • The first song on the first Dead Kennedys album, "Kill The Poor" envisions a neutron bomb that can somehow wipe out poor people while everything else stays in tact. With it comes the elimination of welfare, urban blight, and all those other traces of the pesky lower class. It is a satire on the elite who wouldn't mind eradicating poverty by simply eliminating poor people. A shortsighted and churlish view, but one that is embraced in some form my many politicians. The song provided a great introduction to the band, who remained adamant in their political views and willingness to express them in song.
  • Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra wrote the lyric. He credits his dramatic training for the storyline and performance he came up with on this track. Biafra's high school had a rigorous acting program that he immersed himself in, and his chosen technique was method acting. Regarding how this training played into the song, he told Songfacts: "I think that helped influence the way I write a lot of 'you are there' lyrics or lyrics coming from somebody else besides myself. You can whine 'til kingdom come about the evils of nuclear bombs and nuke plants and everything else, but why not write it from the Dr. Strangelove Pentagon point of view and thus out comes 'Kill the Poor'?"
  • The band's guitarist, East Bay Ray, wrote the music for this one. In his Songfacts interview, he said it was inspired by the Ramones and "kind of a pop-y riff."
  • At the time, many fascist punks and other literal-minded folks did not understand the song's sarcastic undertone and believed the Dead Kennedys really wanted to kill the poor. Some of these folks even came to their concerts. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nick - Danielson, CT
  • This was released as a single from the first Dead Kennedys album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Lead singer Jello Biafra set up his own label, Alternative Tentacles, to release their material, which gave them total creative freedom. Biafra used that freedom to insert posters of high-end penis art into their 1985 album Frankenchrist, which triggered a lawsuit at a time when decency in music was a hot topic. The US government, Biafra's biggest foe, raided his apartment and charged him with distributing harmful material to minors. Remarkably, five jurors ruled him guilty, but the other seven ruled in his favor so the judge declared a mistrial. The band couldn't withstand the strain of the trail and parted ways around the time of the verdict in 1987. They reactivated under acrimonious circumstances in 2001 after Biafra's bandmates sued him over unpaid royalties and were awarded use of the name. They found a new lead singer, Brandon Cruz, and hit the road without Biafra.

Comments: 20

  • Markous from Romeoville, IllinoisAnti-fascist here and can certainly say dead Kennedys is a
    great band
  • William from Seattle, WaThe song is an indictment of capitalism in that it describes the neutron bomb's potential for use by the owners of property to eliminate the poor. Thick with Irony, Biafra takes the position of the devil's advocate in order to show the jaded inhumanity of the rich and their beloved property and to what lengths that they will go to to protect it...
  • Ross from Leicester, United KingdomI think the song is attacking both the shift to the right in the US (Reagan was elected the year this was released - his economic policies were widely seen as helping the rich while leaving most of the poor on the scrapheap)and the invention of he neutron bomb. As has been already said the invention of the neutron bomb was a breakthrough because for he first time a weapon could kill a lot of people without damaging property! The song points out the obvious advantage of this weapon to a ruling class who saw the poor as a drain on resources!!
  • Steve from Norristow, Pathis song is about how the nuetron bomb was created to only kill people and still leave buildings intact so that the poor would be dead and the rich could use all of their stuff.
  • Ziggy from Redding, CaI love this song, probably the first Dead Kennedy song ive ever heard, its on one of my punk albums... i know they werent literally talknig about killing the poor, i think it just went with the whole "rebel-and-anarchy" attitude of punks
  • Mark B. Stoned from Desperate Hot Springs, CaThat's a great interpretation, MusicMama.
  • Tony from Escondido, Caandy your a retard. I Fought the Law isnt even about the police. its about the killer Dan White.
  • Musicmama from New York, NyGreat song! I like to think of it as a more visceral, earthier incarnation of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal." Dead Kennedy no more wanted to kill the poor than Swift wanted people to eat them (the ones in Ireland, anyway). I think that the best punk songs were satires, and this is one of the best, if not the best, example.
  • Evan from Canyoun Country, Ca, CaThe live song is almost better.... well I think, simply for the lyric change.

    ALSO: someone do something on Rawhide or Police truck :(
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaThe Nuetron Martini.....leaves you bombed but still standing.
  • Kim from Stuart, FlOK, bands, raise your hand if you've NEVER done a cover of "I Fought the Law." (crickets chirp, no hands raise)
  • Alec from Sewell, NjThe neutron bomb wasn't Reagan era. It was made in the early 70s. Anyway it should also be mentioned that musically the rockabilly-tinged song structure was probably loosely based on the Ramones song "You're Gonna Kill that Girl". This one's one of the DKs' best songs. It's catchy and to the point.
  • Zachary from Charlotte, NcTechnically the original version of I fought the Law was done by the Bobby Fuller Four.
  • Mike from Pittsburgh, PaOf course they didn't want to kill the poor. The song is about the Reagen-era Neutron bomb which killed people but left buildings intact. DKs spin was it was a way to rid inner cities of poverty stricken individuals, which i too believe to be the case.
  • Dj from Coniston, CanadaActually Andy, "I Fought The Law" is not a Clash parody, but rather a parody of The Crickets. The Clash merely covered it as well as a handful of other bands.
  • Dan from Pacific, MoYeah DK was probally the most sarcastic band ever. Like the song I Kill Children. Horrible Lyrics just an aweful thing to do. But if u dont get the humor you'll hate DK
  • Andy from Halifax, EnglandOne of the songs that earns the DKs the reputation of being one the most sarcastic bands ever. See also: Police Truck and clash parody I Fought The Law refering to police. California Ã?ber Alles, Kinky Sex (Makes The World Go Around) about politicians. And most of their other songs really.
  • Kieran from Brewster, NyAlso found on SLC Punk! at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling.
  • Niko from Davis, CaYeah it does.
  • Ivan from Albany, Nythis site needs more DK songs.
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