We know about noir lit and film noir, but what about noir music? I just posted my nomination for "Best Noir Song" to my crimespace--Lush Life. Written by Billy Strayhorn when he was just eighteen or nineteen, this is one of the best musical evocations of an alcoholic haze and sick-of-the-world bitterness, brought on by a too-close brush with an amour fou. The narrator survives, but only in a half-life ... a lush life.

With lyrics like "too many through the day twelve o'clock tales", this song is a noir masterpiece. The version I've posted, by the legendary jazz singer Nancy Wilson, is my personal favorite.

So what about it? Is it One for the Road? Angel Face? What's your favorite piece of noir music? And how has it inspired you? (Lush Life remains one of my emotional anchors to the noir mood ...)

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There's no music more noir than Johnny Cash singing "Hung My Head"
Oh, yeah, the man in black is musical noir defined ... good call, Dave!! And it shows how a noir sensibility can cross musical genres, too ...
You could name dozens of songs by Tom Waits, but for me, nothing is as heart-breaking as Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis. You could write a novel based on those lyrics.
Steve Earle's story songs-- "Copperhead Road", "The Devils' Right Hand" , "Taneytown," et. al--were the inspiration for what I call "redneck noir."
It's not a song so much as a mood piece, but Miles Davis' "Generique" is filled with so much noir atmosphere. It is the first piece on the soundtrack to the movie "L'ascenseur pour l'echafaud" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051378/) which I have never seen but hope to find at a local indie video store - the movie itself is quite noir.

You can find the song, btw, on my Crimespace page - it's the first one that plays.

I also think Amy Winehouse's music is pretty damn noir, if in a different way.
Love the Davis' piece, and I'm putting the film in my Greencine (local Netflicks) cue. Looks really good. Did you happen to see The Swimming Pool? Fascinating movie!
Got one! Nightmare by Artie Shaw. Not with lyrics, unfortunately, but just the chords themselves are, well, a nightmare! I think it could have easily been the Black Dahlia's theme song. It REALLY helps me!
A lot of other stuff as well. Any blues really written in the 1940's and early 1950's.
My favourite example of noir music is a band called The Flaming Stars (not The Flaming Lips). They have tracks called A HELL OF A WOMAN, A NEW SHADE OF BLACK, KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS and NEW HOPE FOR THE DEAD. The lead singer Max Decharne is a big fan of crime fiction and noir film.

Some of my other favourite 'noir' artists - Warren Zevon (can't get a much noirer sentiment than "I'll sleep when I'm dead"), Tom Waits ( as Ray has said of course!), Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan's METHAMPHETAMINE BLUES. Then there's The Handsome Family, and the Violent Femmes' COUNTRY DEATH SONG which always makes me think of Daniel Woodrell's books with its dark and creepy lyrics ("Well, I'm a thinking and thinking, til there's nothing I ain't thunk, Breathing in the stink, till finally I stunk. It was at that time I swear I lost my mind, And started making plans to kill my own kind" brrrrrrrrrr). And, of course, mustn't forget The Clash. I can never hear a police siren without thinking of them. And then there's The Cramps. Sort of psycho-noir.
"Country Death Song" is a great choice, but I think that "Never Tell" off the same album is even more creepy. Granted, that's quite hard to do when the competition is a song about someone who throws his daughter down a well and then goes to hang himself in the barn, but on "Never Tell" Gordon Gano sounds truly demented, and the fact that you don't know exactly what it is that must never be told just makes it a song that's always a little disturbing.

Another good despairing noir song is "God Damn The Sun" by the Swans.
love that music. but as I am (first novel) writing about a certain era--late 1940's, I only listen to that for inspiration. also, i am addicted, have been for years--to big band, blues all from that era.
Racked my brain on this one. Most noir mood music is background. Rather than hearing it, it creeps into me. The only piece I can remember is *The Third Man Theme.* It is hardly typical and is overwhelming. Another piece I remember is Doris Day's *Love Me or Leave* about a gal who is trapped in a life she wants, but not with the man she wants. I'll pay attention the next time I watch noir or hardboiled on Turner Classics. Thanks for calling it to my attention.
I love the zither-based "Third Man Theme" ... it's seemingly cheerful but manic and disturbing and compelling all at the same time. I like "Love Me or Leave Me", too. Doris sings it in the movie of the same title, based on the (rather noirish) life story of torch singer Ruth Etting ... Cagney co-stars. Thanks, Jack! I love any chance to watch TCM.

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