Even in the bizarre world of famous murderers, Gary Gilmore is an interesting case. He grew up in an abusive household, and committed two murders in Utah in 1976 at the age of 22. Despite complying with Gilmore's demands in the course of his robberies, he killed Max Jensen and Bennie Bushnell in cold blood. He was caught when police tracked a trail of blood he left after accidentally shooting himself in the hand.
The reason people still talk about Gilmore is because he was the first person to be executed in America after the overturn of the death penalty, and not only that he was really kind of excited about it. He informed religious groups who wished to help him get a stay of execution to butt out, twice attempted suicide on death row, and even chose his own method via firing squad.
"They always want to get in on the act," said Gilmore regarding the Board of Pardons. "I don't think they have ever really done anything effective in their lives." That's pretty harsh from a two-bit killer. Then again, it's hard to argue with a man whose last words, "Let's do it!" were the direct inspiration for the Nike motto.
Gilmore's case has inspired a great deal of music, so in honor of the day he finally got his wish and was shot at an abandoned cannery behind Utah State Prison in 1977, here's five tunes.
One thing that you can't take away from Gilmore is that he was certainly willing to give a little back at the end. He specifically asked that his corneas be taken for transplant purposes, which they successfully were. In fact, he donated more than a few organs upon death. It doesn't make up for a life spent robbing and killing, but in our book it at least pays off the interest on the debt.
The Police is always going to be one of those bands that we are perfectly willing to acknowledge the genius and depth of, but will never really like. The band's exploration of Gary Gilmore's thought process during the night before his death is one of their more poetic and cutting songs.
As we might have mentioned, Gilmore had a pretty bad childhood, mostly due to the violent man who was his father. He would beat Gilmore constantly for little to no reason, and while we're not saying that excuses Gilmore's actions, it does hopefully serve as a cautionary tale to abusive douchebags. Our own Judy's explored Gilmore's family life in this track on 1980's Wonderful World of Appliances.
Trust the Saturday Night Live cast to really drive home the historical significance of the case.
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The Chain Gang was never overly burdened with anything resembling our normal reality, yet somehow they manage to make a deep and insightful point about man as a predator amid all the cannibalism jokes.