Like with everything, avoiding musicians on a moral high ground is a slippery slope. For instance, does Robin Thicke deserve to be ostracized from the Juno Awards because of his disgusting abuse anthem “Blurred Lines”?

And if we’re going to avoid Chris Brown because he beat up Rihanna, what about John Lennon, whose first marriage was wrecked by domestic violence?

Ultimately, it begs the question of whether someone’s music is enough of a redeeming factor to cover up their reprehensible personal lives. In most cases, no—Chris Brown isn’t just a terrible person, he’s a shitty musician. But fair or not, we seem to be fine giving John Lennon a pass. In any case, there’s a line to be drawn. In this case, it’s scribbled in chalk.

Below, our list of 9 musicians who’ve murdered, ranging from horrorcore teens to hippie cult leaders, with a healthy dose of black metal wedged comfortably in the middle.


Varg Vikernes


Black metal’s most infamous church burning murderer, Varg Vikernes found himself in jail in 1994 after the murder of Øystein Aarseth, better known to fans as Mayhem’s Euronymous. The motive behind the killing has never been confirmed, but all opinions on it being self-defence go out the window when you look at the numbers: Aarseth’s body was found with 23-stab wounds, including two to the head and five to the neck. Vikernes stabbed him sixteen times in the back. The altercation either started over money, credibility or the love of a woman, but in any case, it’s just the biggest blip on the Burzum singer’s lengthy crime-filled resumé. Not only was he linked to multiple Norwegian church burnings, but he was found with 150kg of explosives and 3000 rounds of ammo upon his arrest. Years later, Vikernes broke his parole, stole a car and was found carrying knives, a gas mask, an automatic rifle, a handgun and a GPS system. Oh, and a fake passport. And some black metal fans still think this dude—who’s also racist, by the way—is innocent? Filosofem is great and all, but come on.


Jim Gordon


No, not him.

Jim Gordon isn’t a household name, but a quick glance at his resumé solidifies him as one of the biggest session drummers of his time: He’s worked with everyone from Eric Clapton and the Beach Boys to George Harrison and the Byrds. Oh, and he killed his mother with a hammer and knife.

Unlike a lot of the names on this list, Gordon’s crime stemmed entirely from mental illness. After developing schizophrenia he started hearing voices, starved himself and stopped sleeping. That said, the courts threw out the insanity defence and sentenced him to 16 years in prison. He’s currently serving time at a California psychiatric prison.


Phil Spector


While not technically a musician, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production style is absolutely iconic, and in his lengthy tenure as an album producer and engineer he worked with everyone from Ike and Tina Turner and Leonard Cohen to Celine Dion and The Beatles. Unfortunately his career took a huge dip when he killed his girlfriend, actress Lana Clarkson. He’s currently serving a 19 year sentence on charges of second degree murder for Clarkson’s death: making matters worse, he tried to play it off as an accidental suicide before investigator’s put the clues together. Among them, that Spector had pulled a gun on multiple women in the past and rumours of him pointing weapons at everyone from John Lennon to the Ramones.




X-Raided didn’t help his cause when the lyrics to one of his songs were used in court, helping to lock down his 31 year sentence for first degree murder. Worse, the cover art for his Psycho Active album, which shows him holding a gun to his head, is reportedly the same weapon he used to murder Patricia Harris. Not that it’s hurt his reputation: X-Raided’s been steadily releasing albums from the clink, and his proficiency at smuggling in beat machines and rapping over the phone has led to other inmates trying to force him to work with them. Unfortunately for X-Raided, that means he’s been stabbed—a lot.


Charles Manson


Charles Manson’s music isn’t what you’d expect from a murderous cult leader who carved a swastika in his face. It’s actually pretty melodic, and in turn has been covered by The Beach Boys, Devendra Banhard and, curiously, Guns ‘n’ Roses. Still, there’s a reason he’s known as a killer first, singer second: The Manson Family murders have landed him a life-sentence, and rightly so. While Manson never actually killed anyone himself, he orchestrated countless murders all on some misguided crusade to precipitate a race war.


Carlo Gesualdo

Carlo Gesualdo

The oldest name on the list, Carlo Gesualdo was a 16th Century composer whose intense works went onto inspire musicians for the next 300 years, but his Wikipedia bio highlights what else made him so notorious: He was an Italian nobleman, lutenist, composer and murderer. Because they happened hundreds of years ago, the details on Gesualdo’s murders are fuzzy, and while some were later seen as exaggerations of the press, we do know that he strung up the mutilated bodies of his wife and her lover in front of his palace shortly after killing them. Yikes.


The Prisonaires


The early days of the blues and R&B are littered with supposed criminals, maybe none more infamous than the Prisonaires. They met in jail, where band leader Johnny Bragg was serving time for six separate rape charges, but its Ed Thurman and William Stewart whose legacies took things up a notch: they were serving 99 year sentences for murder. The rest of the quintet, also criminals, were under the gavel for larceny and manslaughter charges. But because they were often let out to tour—a horrifying thought in hindsight—they were still relatively successful. They recorded for Sun and went on to be a huge influence on Elvis Presley.


Jon Nödtveidt


Dissection’s Jon Nödtveidt was officially arrested as an accessory to murder, but let’s not let the technicalities bog down what really happened. After a night of drinking, Nödtveidt and a friend were walking home when they were approached by a man curious to learn about Satanism. They headed back to town with the guy but, upon realizing he was gay—kind of a given, since they met him strolling past a well known meeting place—became uncomfortable. The story changes depending on who you ask, but in either case, Nödtveidt and his friend stopped to grab a gun and a taser and, after failing to immobilize the guy ended up shooting him twice, once in the back and once in the head. Nödtveidt was only given ten years in prison, and after his release reformed Dissection to release the massively disappointing Reinkaos. He killed himself two years later.


Syco Sam


Syco Sam is that kid who took things one step too far. He’s the exception to the rule: the kind of kid whose life Eminem set out to ruin with The Marshall Mathers LP. Born Richard McCroskey, Syco Sam is a horrorcore rapper who lived his music, and after killing his girlfriend and her parents ended up sparking his popularity. Not by a lot, but given how bad dude’s songs are, any improvement is worth mentioning.