Throughout music history, few topics have brought more inspiration or lyrical fodder than Satan himself, the Devil. Stories of souls bargained away, fortunes ruined and loves lost at the hands of the Devil – whether metaphorically or literally – weave a tapestry of some of the greatest blues, rock and country songs ever written.
With Halloween right around the corner, the ghouls and goblins are coming alive once more, and things always get a little more musically evil this time of year. We're not complaining one bit – in fact, we're celebrating the fangs and fright with the Top Ten Songs about The Devil. Because what would Halloween be without all the trimmings and trappings of the forked-tongued Prince of Darkness, after all?
To hear the full songs for each selection, just sign up for a free Rdio streaming account! And yes, that's Dave Grohl dressed up as ol' Lucifer himself up above.
1. Mean as Hell by Johnny Cash
Life is hard in the desert, and God was fed up with trying to make the Rio Grande a place of happiness. So he unchained the Devil after a thousand years in hell, and let him have the land, thinking there was nothing he could do with it. But the Devil went to work to make it the best hell it could be, and the rest is history…
2. Runnin' with the Devil by Van Halen
Living the good life in rock n roll terms means a whole lotta debauchery and excess. With "no love you'd call real" and "nobody waitin' at home," there's little reason to be found for not "Runnin' with the Devil". Whatever pact Van Halen may have signed with Satan to make them musical icons apparently didn't apply to their vocalist position, which until the latest reunion with David Lee Roth had been a revolving door of talent for decades.
3. The Devil & Me by Clutch
Blues-metal has never sounded so good as when Clutch tears off a story recounting how "the Devil and me had a falling out, violation of contract beyond a shadow of a doubt." Name-checking another Devil-taunting bluesman, Skip James, with a reference to "Killing Floor" is a definite bonus as well – you can find the song on the band's excellent From Beale Street To Oblivion album.
4. The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden
In this classic Maiden track Bruce Dickinson frets over whether he's imagining things, or whether the Devil has come to claim him: "Cause I just had to see / was someone watching me? In the mist dark figures move and twist / was all this for real, or just some kind of hell / 6-6-6 the Number of the Beast / Hell and fire was spawned to be released…"
5. Chase the Devil by Eagles of Death Metal
This irresistible little gem from EODM's Death by Sexy album follows the story of a man looking for a good, fast woman who can help Jesse Hughes – you guessed it – chase the Devil.
In this particular case we get the impression that the "Devil" in question is actually just really, really good & dirty sex, but that's just a hunch.
6. The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band
Possibly the single most classic Devil song of the past century, this high-steppin' country song follows the story of the Devil challenging a country boy to a fiddle playing competition. With his soul on the line, the boy shreds his way to victory – and a fiddle made of gold.
7. Tie a Knot in the Devil’s Tail (Cowbow Standard)
If you've got a grudge against the dark side, then "Tie a Knot In The Devil's Tail" is right up your alley. A gang of cowboys find the devil and torture him, cropping his ears, cutting his horns and, of course, knotting his tail. "So if you're ever up high in the Sierra peaks and you hear one hell of a wail / You’ll know it’s that devil a bellerin’ about them knots tied in his tail." Classic.
8. You’re the Devil in Disguise by Elvis Presley
Elvis is pissed. He's fallen in love with a girl who walks like an angel and talks like an angel, but she's the Devil in disguise. To the Devil's credit, any female alive in the '50s and '60s would likely have undergone a polar transformation to draw The King's eye back then. If the Devil's a girl, she's forgiven for this transgression.
9. Friend of the Devil by The Grateful Dead
The best damned hippie song relating to the Devil you'll ever hear. A man on the run has no home or refuge, but finds sanctuary and generosity in the Devil on his way. Sure, that same Devil will reappear and take everything he's given at the worst possible moment, but nevertheless, "a friend of the Devil is a friend of mine." This one's worth looking up, for sure.
10. Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown) by Tenacious D
The ultimate showdown between mortal man and the Devil, taken from the movie Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. When challenged to a rock-off challenge, the Devil reluctantly agrees, recognizing the demon code that prevents him from pulling out. Extreme profanity and tongue-in-cheek antics ensue as The D attempt to send the Devil back to hell.