Black Dahlia: 5 Songs for a Famous Murder Victim

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Sometime between this day and January 15 in 1947, a young woman named Elizabeth Short was brutally murdered in Hollywood. She was nicknamed The Black Dahlia in the papers, who portrayed the 23-year-old aspiring actress as a midnight-party prowler who brought about her own demise through her wanton ways. They called her "victim material," because William Randolph Hearst was exactly that kind of an ass.

The case remains unsolved, with people still confessing and offering information about it to the present day. Yet we are no closer to an answer who might have murdered and mutilated Short, who was found cut in half at the waist with her arms posed artistically above her head; her corpse also sported bruises and a Glasgow Smile. It's believed that the blows to the skull and hemorrhaging from the cuts in her mouth were the cause of death.

The gruesome M.O., the enduring mystery, and the Hollywood setting have made the case akin to America's version of the Jack the Ripper murderers. Big-budget films have been based on it, and it was even a plot point in American Horror Story last season. Still, at its heart the tale of The Black Dahlia is as tragic as that of Kitty Genovese, and this week we dedicate a playlist to the poor girl whose nightmare 66 years ago was just beginning.

Billie Holiday, "It's Easy to Remember" Why on earth was Short called The Black Dahlia anyway? The answer is that she wasn't. The story was put forward by a newspaper reporter named Bevo Means, who interviewed Short's acquaintances. The legend goes that it was a play on words coined at a drugstore she frequented in 1946 based on the Alan Ladd film noir that had just come out, The Blue Dahlia.

It's a great flick, by the way, and you should check it out. Much of it is centered around The Blue Dahlia nightclub, and this old Rodgers and Hart standard is one of the pieces you can hear in the film. Of all the great recordings of it from the whole of music history I thought, "You can't go wrong with Billie Holliday."

Hollywood Undead, "My Black Dahlia" J-Dog of Hollywood Undead told Artist Direct that "My Black Dahlia" was written about the rage that can overcome a jilted lover when they get left behind.

"Anybody who has ever been in a relationship and gone through some fucked up shit -- like we all have -- sometimes wants to kill the other person in the worst way possible," he said. "People are just scared to say it." It should be noted that that none of the suspects taken at all seriously in the case ever dated Short.

The Cult, "Illuminated" Of course, in and among the sensible theories about Elizabeth Short are plenty of wacky ones as well. Orson Welles and Woody Guthrie's names are passed around as possible suspects by people with broken bullshit detectors, but if you really want to get into some deep, dark paranoid fantasy, you should visit this article talking about the Saturn Death Cult.

It's all the brainchild of Troy D. McLachlan, who believes that many of the most famous murders and atrocities throughout the world are all connected by some sort of occult influence by the planet Saturn. Oh, and the Illuminati, too, because why the fuck not? As far as psychotic brain farts from a mammalian brain trained in pattern recognition go, it ain't too bad, and I'm willing to bet that The Cult thought so as well.

There are a lot of lyrics in "Illuminated" that seem to tie in both with McLachlan's theories and Short's murder. Between the mentions of murder, young hearts and a vague image of unseen malice permeating the city, you wonder if the band that started out as Southern Death Cult hadn't been reading a bit of alternative history when they were recording 2007's Born Into This.

Beck, "Cut ½ Blues" This was suggested by a friend who has no sense of taste in regards to the fact that Short was bisected. One theory is that Short was actually murdered by a woman who didn't have the strength to carry her in one piece. I prefer the more mainstream theory of "crazy people with sharp objects use them for bad purposes."

Neko Case, "In California" Well, after indulging in black humor let's go out with some class. And Neko Case is nothing but class. "In California" laments the blood-sucking nature of the glamour and glitz, sadly saying the Black Dahlia smiles and smiles in the town that bled her dry. It's an unfortunate fate for anyone, and Ms. Case makes it into a requiem.

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