Usually, when we talk about a prisoner “singing,” it’s slang that means he or she confessed and/or ratted out other guilty parties. In the following seven instances, though, the term gets applied quite literally as amateur crooners who took other people’s lives unexpectedly belt out a tune.
1. “O Holy Night” by Jodi Arias, Notorious Ex-Boyfriend Slayer
As the convicted murderer of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, Jodi Arias is one of the most anger-inducing figures in contemporary culture. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Arizona lawman who bills himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” is also a name that generates instant controversy. Oddly enough, the two forces on opposite sides of the criminal justice system came together musically back in 2010 — all in the spirit of Christmas.
Maricopa County, where Arias was being held under Arpaio’s watch, mounted an American Idol–esque singing contest behind bars. The prisoner who came out on top won a holiday feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, and cookies.
The judges for the contest were reportedly Arpaio, somebody dressed as Elvis, and somebody else done up as Santa Claus. Arias impressed them and got to dig into the winner’s dinner. [CrimeFeed]
2. “Ice Ice Baby” by Varg Vikernes, Norwegian Murderer, Church Arsonist, White Nationalist
Under the nom-de-chaos “Count Grishnackh,” Varg Vikernes proved to be a pivotal, pioneering talent in Norway’s “black metal” scene.
Black metal is an extreme heavy metal subgenre devoted to Satanism, suicide, mass slaughter, hatred of Christianity, worship of all things related to death, and black-and-white makeup known as “corpse paint.” Extreme nationalism and white racial supremacy are also not uncommon (although by no means definitive) genre topics.
Throughout the early ’90s, Vikernes helped birth the Norwegian black metal movement by way of Burzum, his still-going solo project, and as a bassist in the group Mayhem. He also took up some extra-musical interests.
In 1992, Vikernes reportedly participated in a massive wave of church arsons across Norway in which dozens of houses of worship burned to the ground, many of them centuries old and of historic significance. The following year, Vikernes suspected Mayhem frontman Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth might have been gay and so stabbed his lead singer to death.
Vikernes received a 21-year sentence for slaughtering his friend. He got paroled after 12. Since then, he has been extremely active online, regularly issuing new music and other diatribes, often in the form of outrageous videos. Indeed, Varg Vikernes still sings. In the video here, he sings “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice.
3. “The Word Is Love” by Danny Rolling, the “Gainseville Ripper”
Nothing is normal about Danny Rolling — not the monstrous crimes he committed as the “Gainseville Ripper” (including murder, corpse desecration, and necrophilia); not his romance with true crime writer Sondra London, who fell in love with this repellant psycho while corresponding with him; and certainly not “The Word Is Love,” Rolling’s original country tune that he penned in honor of London after they got engaged. Dig a sample of the heart-swelling lyrics:
“I recall the day
I first saw you
Reached out to say
I love you
But it was hard to say
’Cause I couldn’t touch you
So tell me… what were my words?
All my tears run together, baby, just like rain”
In 2006, the state of Florida executed Rolling by lethal injection before he and London could tie the knot. [The Making of a Serial Killer]
4. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Anthony Ross, Christmas Eve Family Killer
This story is especially horrifying and heartbreaking, so don’t expect to, in any way, “enjoy” Anthony Ross’s version of this holiday favorite. On Christmas Eve 2017, Ross, 45, allegedly filmed himself singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” along with 11-year-old son, Nigel.
Just a few hours later, Ross reportedly murdered Nigel, along with his wife, Iris, 38; and their 10-month-old daughter, Anora. Neighbors heard three gunshots, after which Ross texted his sister to report: “I just killed Iris and the kids with a gun.”
Ross, who was a popular vegan chef and motivational speaker, was known to have a “dark side,” but apparently no one expected this kind of nightmare. He is presently in custody. [NY Post]
5. “Freestyle in Jail” by Mover (Terngu Agera), Rapper Doing 30 Years for Sudden Stabbing
Terngu Agera, who raps under the name “Mover” and is presently serving 30 years in a London jail for fatally stabbing a stranger in cold blood, illegally recorded an album on a contraband cell phone and has released it for purchase.
In 2015, Agera attacked Lithuanian immigrant Zydrunas Laurinavicius, 38, at a bus stop. He demanded money, and when Laurinavicius didn’t respond quickly enough, Agera stabbed him. The victim, who had a 10-year-old son, died bleeding in front of his own 69-year-old father.
Now Agera has made his latest 12-track collection, tastelessly titled “Exit Wounds” available to “fans.” Although England does not have the same “Son of Sam” laws that we do in the States — regulations against convicted prisoners profiting from their crimes — Belmarsh Prison officials have reportedly taken punitive action against Agera for his litany of policy violations. [Daily Mail]
6. “[Incomprehensible Insanity]” by Charles Manson, Incomprehensibly Insane Mass Murder Mastermind
Charles Manson really wanted to be a rock star. Beyond his deranged Beatles obsession, Charlie and the Manson Family, his homicidal hippie cult, extensively hung out with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. He also impressed Neil Young enough to get a meeting with top record company executives.
In 1968, the Beach Boys also recorded a Manson original, “Cease to Exist,” although they reworked it as “Never Learn Not to Love.” Years after the Tate–LaBianca murders, artists such as Guns N’ Roses, Redd Kross, and Marilyn Manson covered Manson tunes knowing the shock value they packed.
On top of that, Charlie’s famously manic outbursts often took bizarre musical turns. One such sudden belt-out occurs in the video above.
7. “My Way” by Sid Vicious, Sex Pistols Star Charged With Stabbing His Girlfriend, Nancy Spungeon
On October 12, 1978, NYPD officers arrested John Simon Ritchie, the Sex Pistols bassist better known by his punk moniker “Sid Vicious,” for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in a drug-drenched room at Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel.
Vicious, 21, was allegedly so delusional on a mountainous combination of narcotics that he at first said he stabbed Nancy, 20, but didn’t mean to kill her, and then that they had a fight and she fell on his knife. Finally, he said he didn’t remember what happened.
Ten days later, after making bail, Vicious attempted suicide by slashing his wrist with a broken lightbulb. His attorneys (reportedly paid for anonymously by Mick Jagger) maintained Vicious’ innocence but, on February 1, 1979, Sid Vicious lethally overdosed on heroin.
Other theories have cropped up regarding who really killed Nancy, and Sid has since become an outlaw-culture legend. And, although his solo career obviously got cut short, Vicious did memorably perform the familiar Paul Anka standard “My Way” in the Sex Pistols film, The Great Rock-‘N’-Roll Swindle (1980). [Rolling Stone]
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Main photos: Charles Manson/YouTube video [screenshot]; Jodia Arias/video [screenshot]; Sid Vicious/YouTube video [screenshot]