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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I love "Fairy Tale of New York"!! I thought of it and then thought, "Nah, not quite" but it does. It does work. Thanks for posting the lyrics!
I never realized Romeo Loved Juliette had lines about ancient Rome ... YEAH! ;)

Thanks, Anne--something else I can point to when people ask me what the hell it is I'm trying to do!
Never thought of "Fairytale of New York" as a noir song per se...but it mos def does fit, doesn't it?

Great song in any case.
Patricia Abbott and I have been thinking alike.

To me, one of the characteristics of the noir genre is that moment of revelation, when the illusions and mistakes and misunderstandings and irreparable losses are laid bare. The depth of the depression that comes en suite . . . well, think of James Stewart in the mental hospital in VERTIGO. He's sick not only in the present, but was unwittingly delusional in the past.

Or think of Laura, and another poor damned fool in love with a woman who never was.

Laura (Music: David Raksin - Lyrics:Johnny Mercer)

Laura is the face in the misty light
Footsteps that you hear down the hall
The laugh that floats on a summer night
That you can never quite recall

And you see Laura on a train that is passing through
Those eyes, how familiar they seem
She gave your very first kiss to you
That was Laura, but she's only a dream

She gave your very first kiss to you
That was Laura, but she's only a dream


If one were to sing Scotch and Soda from the point of view of a person in total denial about lacking every good thing described in the lyrics - except being a whole lotta drunk - that would be pretty damn noir, too.
Tom Waits goes without saying, but someone had to and it wasn't me, so I'll have to put in my vote for PJ Harvey. The whole of the album Rid Of Me is filled to the brim with messed up rock noir. Songs like Rub 'Til It Bleeds and the title track make me want to take up smoking and enter into self destructive relationships with femme fatales that aren't stereotypes.
Dayum, you're right...thanks for that recommendation.
It took me a while to get into PJ, but there's no going back now.
The only PJ Harvey song I've ever heard is "Down by the Water," and I might have to classify that as more horror than noir. I should check out her other work.
I don't know that album so well, but she does look very 'Black Dahlia' on the cover. And the song seems to be talking about a similar figure. Rid Of Me is more raw, but I think it's better for it.
I'm checking PJ out immediately ... from what I've read about her (including the growing-up-on-a-sheep-farm bit) she sounds fascinating. She's apparently had to fight off allegations of autobiography in a lot of her work--even 'Down by the Water', the only one (like Christa) that I've heard. As Jim Morrison said, "People Are Strange"...

Thanks for the recommendation, guys!
I love this "revelation" observation, Tom--it's present in "Lush Life", too. Less so in "One for My Baby", another great atmospheric nod to drowning sorrows. With the latter, you're not sure what the guy is going to do when he leaves the bar--kill the two-timing dame? kill himself? A little denial can lead to a whole lot of bloody mess ...

Lush Life

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come what may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life...
From jazz and cocktails.


The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces
With distingue traces
That used to be there you could see where they'd been washed away
By too many through the day...
Twelve o'clock tales.


Then you came along with your siren of song
To tempt me to madness!
I thought for a while that your poignant smile was tinged with the sadness
Of a great love for me.


Ah yes! I was wrong...
Again,
I was wrong.


Life is lonely again,
And only last year everything seemed so sure.
Now life is awful again,
A trough full of hearts could only be a bore.
A week in Paris will ease the bite of it,
All I care is to smile in spite of it.


I'll forget you, I will
While yet you are still burning inside my brain.
Romance is mush,
Stifling those who strive.
I'll live a lush life in some small dive...
And there I'll be, while I rot
With the rest of those whose lives are lonely, too..
Gram Parsons's version of the doomed man in the
Streets Of Baltimore
Words and Music by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard


Well I sold the farm to take my woman where she used to be
We left our kin and all our friends back there in Tennessee
And I bought those one way tickets she had often begged me for
And they took us to the streets of Baltimore
Well her heart was filled with gladness when she saw those city lights
She said the prettiest place on earth was Baltimore at night
Well a man feels proud to give his woman what she's longing for
And I kinda liked the streets of Baltimore


hen I got myself a factory job, I ran an old machine
And I bought a little cottage in a neighborhood serene
And every night when I'd come home with every muscle sore
She'd drag me through the streets of Baltimore
Well I did my best to bring her back to what she used to be
Then I soon learned she loved those bright lights more than she loved me
Now I'm a going back on that same train that brought me here before
While my baby walks the streets of Baltimore
While my baby walks the streets of Baltimore

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