Charles Manson: How Music Morphed the Murderous Cult Leader

Charles Manson orchestrated attacks that led to the deaths of nine people in 1969, including actress Sharon Tate. 

On Sunday Charles Manson was pronounced dead at the age of 83. His legacy: two nights of killings, 169 stab wounds and 22 gun shot wounds.

Charles Manson during his time in prison. Photo Credit: Huffington post

The man built upon delusions of grandeur managed to manipulate runaway teens to commit the heinous crimes.  The group responsible gained national notoriety as the Manson Family.

For much of Manson’s troubled life, music played an influential role.  His original goal was to pursue a record deal and when he failed it ultimately played a part in his undoing.

As a regular law breaker in his early years, he spent half his first 32 years of life behind bars.  Learning guitar during his time in prison led to a fascination of the blues and song-writing.  Urged by one of his fellow inmates to record some his tracks forged Manson on a quest upon release to get his music public.

For the next couple of years, he spent time rubbing shoulders with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and producer Terry Melcher.  Wilson, much like the Family members was taking in by Manson’s charisma and charm.

Although praised upon his guitar skills, Terry Melcher dealt the blow to Manson’s musical aspirations by refusing him a record contract.  The cult leader’s aura failed to conceal his lack of raw talent.

The Beach Boys went on to record a Manson-written song Cease to Exit, under the title “Never Learn Not to Love”, with Dennis Wilson taking full writing credits.  Both situations left Manson furious and vengeful.

He ordered his gang to a house owned by Terry Melcher in Hollywood Hills to slaughter the occupants.  The next 24 hours was to be the defining moment that would lead Manson to his so desired worldwide fame.

The murder scenes had its own musical reference with the words Helter Skelter, a song by the Beatles written on the walls in Sharon Tate’s blood.  Manson’s interpretation of the song mixed with his obsession with the Book of Revelations led him to envisage the start of a race war between whites and blacks and his murders, in the hope of framing the black community would be the catalyst.

It was a barbaric concoction created in a mind of absolute lunacy.  A successful musical career was inevitably unfeasible for someone as insane as Manson, however his brief spell as a musician still carries cultural relevance after the murders.

Bands such as Guns N’ Roses, and the Lemonheads have covered different versions of Charles Manson songs.  Rock singer Marilyn Manson created his name using a juxtaposition of two cultural icons; Marilyn Monroe and Charles himself.

Charles Manson ironically featured as the front cover for popular music magazine, Rolling Stone.  The headline was as follows: “Charles Manson – The incredible story of the most dangerous man alive”.  Music aside this is the statement Manson should be remembered for.


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