The Ballad Of Charles Whitman

Album: Sold American (1973)

Songfacts®:

  • This is a straightforward song based closely on fact. It has a strong C&W melody that many would argue should have been married to a less tasteless set of lyrics, which certainly wouldn't have been difficult.

    On August 1, 1966, 25-year-old Charles Whitman murdered his mother, stabbing her through the heart, then returned home and murdered his wife in similar fashion. Later that morning, ensconced in the clocktower of the University of Texas in Austin, he began shooting indiscriminately at passersby until he was himself shot dead by police officers.

    At the time, the Texas Clock Tower Massacre was the worst such mass shooting in American history.

    Whitman had already made up his mind to murder his mother and wife the previous evening, as is clear from his suicide note which was written prior to these terrible crimes. In addition to (thoughtfully!) willing any money from his estate to mental health research, his note alluded to headaches of increasing severity, which has of course led to speculation that his acts of madness had some underlying pathological cause. Whitman's autopsy revealed that he was indeed suffering from a brain tumour, something which features heavily in Friedman's song.

    Music fans who are more thoughtful than ghoulish may prefer the John/Taupin composition "Ticking." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Harry Shearer

Harry ShearerSongwriter Interviews

Harry is Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap, Mark Shubb in The Folksmen, and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.

Pam Tillis

Pam TillisSongwriter Interviews

The country sweetheart opines about the demands of touring and talks about writing songs with her famous father.

John Parr

John ParrSongwriter Interviews

John tells the "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" story and explains why he disappeared for so long.

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds

Roger McGuinn of The ByrdsSongwriter Interviews

Roger reveals the songwriting formula Clive Davis told him, and if "Eight Miles High" is really about drugs.

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About Transgenderism

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About TransgenderismSong Writing

A history of songs dealing with transgender issues, featuring Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Morrissey and Green Day.

Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes

Chris Robinson of The Black CrowesSongwriter Interviews

"Great songwriters don't necessarily have hit songs," says Chris. He's written a bunch, but his fans are more interested in the intricate jams.