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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Never really gave it much thought. Interesting.

On another note, I love the version of Lush Life that Linda Rondstat did with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
I'll have to look for it. I've always liked Rondstat's voice, and I haven't heard her sing it. Thanks!
Look for the collection she did called 'Round Midnight. There are some real heartbreakers on that.
Thanks, Pepper! She was/is more versatile than "It's So Easy" would imply. I liked "Different Drum"--a song, if I'm not mistaken, written by one of the Monkees, and performed by Ronstadt when she was a "Stone Pony."
Wow! This is great ... so many musical genres, yet all inspiring a noir atmosphere. Now I want to reevaluate Tom Waits and try out Steve Earle, Donna's "The Flaming Stars" band, and others I haven't heard.

If I step out of the boundaries of jazz and move into classic rock, I'd also offer up some early Bruce Springsteen. "Meeting Across the River" is a wonderful noir narrative, as is "Jungleland" , both from the Born to Run album. And "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"--while more an ode to getting a little under the boardwalk--sports one of my all-time favorite lyrics along with a salty, seedy carny atmosphere: "The cops finally busted Madame Marie for telling fortunes better than they do."

A great line! I'll try to post these to my crimespace in the next few days.
Springsteen's entire NEBRASKA album is pretty noir. "Atlantic City," "Highway Patrolman," "State Trooper," "Johnny 99"... it is my favorite album of his.
Yeah, a very haunting album. Reminds me of the Badlands film with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek (same source material, I think--updated to Natural Born Killers. "Atlantic City" is one of my favorites.

I love "Meeting Across the River" primarily because it's such a perfectly drawn picture of a small-time loser ... I mean, you know what's gonna to happen to this dude:

Hey, Eddie, can you lend me a few bucks
And tonight can you get us a ride
Gotta make it through the tunnel
Got a meeting with a man on the other side

Hey Eddie, this guy, he's the real thing
So if you want to come along
You gotta promise you won't say anything
'Cause this guy don't dance
And the word's been passed this is our last chance

We gotta stay cool tonight, Eddie
'Cause man, we got ourselves out on that line
And if we blow this one
They ain't gonna be looking for just me this time

And all we gotta do is hold up our end
Here stuff this in your pocket
It'll look like you're carrying a friend
And remember, just don't smile
Change your shirt, 'cause tonight we got style

Well Cherry says she's gonna walk
'Cause she found out I took her radio and hocked it
But Eddie, man, she don't understand
That two grand's practically sitting here in my pocket

And tonight's gonna be everything that I said
And when I walk through that door
I'm just gonna throw that money on the bed
She'll see this time I wasn't just talking
Then I'm gonna go out walking

Hey Eddie, can you catch us a ride?
i love nebraska. the cd is in my car. nice road-trip music.

not sure, but maybe some leonard cohen stuff would fall into a noir category. maybe patti smith?

and as far as just mood -- godspeed you black emperor. their music has been used in horror movies, but i think it would also work for noir.
Good one, Kelli! Some great examples so far, to which I would add Led Zeppelin - 'Since I've Been Loving You'; Free - 'Heavy Load'; Stranglers - 'Hanging Around'; The Grateful Dead - 'Wharf Rat'; Patty Hurst Shifter - 'The Fast and Fevered Fall'.
Thanks, Julie! "Wharf Rat" sounds particularly atmospheric--I'll check it out!
The version of "What'll I Do" by Rufus and Martha Wainwright is pretty devastating for me. Also My Funny Valentine by Chet Baker. Doris Day has a lot of old forties heart-breakers. The theme song from "Laura" knocks me out too.
Lou Reed - Romeo Had Juliette


Caught between the twisted stars the plotted lines the faulty map
that brought Columbus to New York
Betwixt between the East and West he calls on her wearing a leather vest
the earth squeals and shudders to a halt
A diamond crucifix in his ear is used to help ward off the Fear
that he has left his soul in someone's rented car
Inside his pants he hides a mop to clean the mess that he has dropped
into the life of lithesome Juliette Bell

And Romeo wanted Juliette and Juliette wanted Romeo
And Romeo wanted Juliette and Juliette wanted Romeo

Romeo Rodriguez squares his shoulders and curses Jesus
runs a comb through his black pony-tail
He's thinking of his lonely room
the sink that by his bed gives off a stink
Then smells her perfume in his eyes and her voice was like a bell

Outside the street were steaming the crack dealers were dreaming
of an Uzi someone had just scored
I betcha I could hit that light with my one good arm behind my back
says little Joey Diaz
Brother give me another tote those downtown hoods are no damn good
those Italians need a lesson to be taught
This cop who died in Harlem you think they'd get the warnin'
I was dancing when his brains run out on the street

And Romeo had Juliette and Juliette had her Romeo
And Romeo had Juliette and Juliette had her Romeo

I'll take Manhattan in a garbage bag with Latin written on it that says
"It's hard to give a shit these days"
Manhattan's sinking like a rock, into the filthy Hudson what a shock
they wrote a book about it, they said it was like ancient Rome
The perfume burned his eyes, holding tightly to her thighs
and something flickered for a minute and then it vanished and was gone



The Pogues -- Fairytale of New York

It was christmas eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, wont see another one
And then he sang a song
The rare old mountain dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
Ive got a feeling
This years for me and you
So happy christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

Theyve got cars big as bars
Theyve got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
Its no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold christmas eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of new york city
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the nypd choir
Were singing galway bay
And the bells were ringing out
For christmas day

Youre a bum
Youre a punk
Youre an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy christmas your arse
I pray God its our last

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Cant make it all alone
Ive built my dreams around you

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