It was just a little while past the sunset strip
They found the girl's body in an open pit
Her mouth was sewn shut, but her eyes were still wide
Gazing through the fog to the other side

They booked me on a whim and threw me deep in jail
With no bail, sitting silent on a rusty pail
Just gazing at the marks on the opposite wall
Remembering the music of my lover's call

So you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man's soul back from heaven's gates
I've been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it's never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

It was dark as the grave, it was just about three
When the warden with his key came to set me free
They gave me five dollars and a secondhand suit
A pistol and a hat and a worn out flute

So I took a bus down to the Rio Grande
And I shot a man down on the edge of town
Then I stole me a horse and I rode it around
Til the sheriff pulled me in and sat me down

He said, you make no mistake
I know just what it takes
To pull a man's soul back from heaven's gates
I've been wandering in the dark about as long as sin
But they say it's never too late to start again

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?

Well the sheriff let me go with a knife and a song
So I took the first train up to Oregon
And I killed the first man that I came upon
Because the devil works quick, you know it don't take long

Then I went to the river ford to take a swim
You know that black river water is as black as sin
And I washed myself clean as a newborn babe
And then I picked up a rock for to sharpen my blade

Oh when, oh when
Will the spirit come a calling for my soul to sin
Oh when, oh when
Will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?
Oh when, oh when
Will that black river water wash me clean again
Oh when, oh when
Will thee keys to the kingdom be mine again


Lyrics submitted by airwolf queen

Black River Killer song meanings
Add your thoughts

30 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentAt the beginning of the song the narrator starts off with talk sbout a random death of a girl and goes on to say that they booked him on a whim; i think instead of him being wrongfully sentenced i think it ties into the dead girl being his lover and all he could think about was how he loved her but he couldn't help but kill her. (Possibly his lover was his first murder)So when they let him go because of the lack of evidence all he did was continue on with his wicked ways no matter how many times he says he is going to change. As he goes in and out of prison for the rest of his life.

    *All of this supports the Frog and The Scorpion story that walkinjingle was talking about.*
    Zanderman14on August 20, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIf you listen to the interview he had about this song you would clearly know it was about his uncle who in and out of jail all the time, but was not in fact a killer.
    sand135321on November 09, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Commentreminds me of a cormac mccarthy novel. the diction is swift and violent and smoky, just like blood meridian. gotta love it
    natbrackon January 27, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI agree with you mithgil. I think it's about an innocent man who was changed by his experience of wrongful imprisonment.
    iSynicon March 31, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Commentehhhhh-xactly.

    he is not a killer at first. in fact, what he thinks about when first imprisoned is the 'music of [his] lover's call.' Not usually the concern of a killer. the narration skips this bit, but it's quite likely that the lover shunned him upon his release, believing him guilty, and then what was left for him to do with himself except use the gun they gave him.

    he is made a killer by circumstance and weak will--but he yearns for salvation, obviously. "when will the keys to the kingdom be mine again?" when can he again have something pure in his life?

    beautiful!
    chococat2009on April 21, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWell the Sunset Strip has been around since the Prohibition days in the 20s. A bus that could take you from LA to the Rio Grande has been around since probably the late 30s to early 40s. So it nothing really rules out it being written that long ago. The 'worn out suit' seems to allude to it actually, since wearing a suit day to day would have been more expected back during those eras.
    mithgilon April 24, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is awesome. When you
    first hear the chourus your like
    "O, this is a catchy diddy!" so you
    turn it up then you realize that it's
    about a friggen sociopathic killer.
    So then you feel a little weird because
    you still like it. so you look around
    roll up your windows and you start
    singin' along about how some
    guy goes around killen people.
    Ahhh nothing like a good KILLIN' song. =P
    ~when o when?~
    Udahoon October 21, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI know this song is probably about someone wrongly accused, but I like thinking it's about an actual killer. Has that eerie melody, and the way he talks about the murders so unapologetically makes it sound sociopathic to me. I dont know, just my take. I like it anyhow.
    Poisonousson December 23, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti love the imagery of the river washing him clean, a symbol of baptism and rebirth, and then he... picks up a rock to sharpen his blade. you can just tell that hes never going to repent. hes going to keep taking these second and third and fourth chances and just keep doing what hes doing. haha its pretty badass. i love this ending... this song is amazing.
    pimpmylizon January 09, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI'm pretty sure the song is related to the green river killer.

    "It was just a little while past the sunset strip" and "So I took the first train up to Oregon" place the murders in the pacific northwest, where the green river killer murdered.

    "When the warden with his key came to set me free" he was also imprisoned and released before being later sentenced

    "And I killed the first man that I came upon" he killed often, and for no real reason

    "They found the girls body in an open pit" often dumped bodies into pits off of road sides
    crzo152on March 06, 2009   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain