Will Oldham, better known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy and SAD13, better known as Sadie Dupuis, lead singer of rock band Speedy Ortiz, are providing the music for a true-crime murder ballad podcast series from Nevermind Media and journalist Melissa Locker.
Songs in the Key of Death will look at the historic true crimes that inspired a selection of murder ballads, exploring some of the most notorious and well-known crimes of the early 20th century.
Each episode focuses on a single murder ballad that has been passed down by scores of singers, with each generation telling their own version of events and putting a new spin on stories of very real, often gruesome slaughters. After being told and retold, these songs and the murders that inspired them have become legends. The show looks at the violent criminals we can’t stop singing about, the grisly history they reflect, and the underrepresented voices of victims who didn’t get to tell their own stories.
SAD13 and Oldham will take turns creating new versions of the songs featured in each episode. Episode one of Songs in the Key of Death focuses on “Delia,” written about the Christmas night killing of a 13-year-old Black girl in Georgia, popularized by Johnny Cash.
The series, which launches on June 16, is hosted by Refinery29 and MTV music critic and author Courtney Smith. It comes from Nevermind Media, and exec producer Melissa Locker, who has written for Time and Vanity Fair.
Nevermind Media, which mixes music history and storytelling, is run by Sean Cannon, who is behind music podcast series such as Striped: The Story Of The White Stripes and the Elliott Smith anthology Say Yes.