“Music Noir: Top 50”

by Woody Haut

Blues, jazz, country, rockabilly, rock and roll: all contain within them, be it formm or content, a special relationship to what one might call a noir sensibility. Choosing pieces of music that best reflect that sensibility can only be arbitrary and of the moment. Today one list, tomorrow another. And, of course, any such list can only be subjective. Please note: I’ve purposely left out film noir soundtracks. Including them—as excellent as some are (e.g., Bernstein’s Man With the Golden Arm, Chico Hamilton’s Sweet Smell of Success, Johnnny Mandel’s I Want to Live, Miles Davis’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, Mingus’s Shadows, etc.)—seemed too obvious. For anyone interested in a rundown of jazz and film noir, see my blogpost http://woodyhaut.blogspot.com/2017/09/jazz-and-film-noir.html). So, what follows is my list. If you don’t like it, create one of your own:

1) Honeyboy Edwards: “Bloodstains on the Wall”

2) Jimmy Forrest: “Night Train”

3) Porter Wagoner: “Cold Hard Facts of Life”

4) Merle Haggard: “Running Kind”

5) Memphis Minnie: “Tricks Ain’t Walking”

6) Thelonious Monk: “Round Midnight”

7) Howlin Wolf: “How Many More Years”

8) Percy Mayfield: “Danger Zone”

9) Bob Dylan: “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

10) Drive By Truckers: “Used to be a Cop”

11) MC 900 FT Jesus: “Killer Inside Me”

12) Gary Stewart: “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”

13) Frank Sinatra: “One For My Baby”

14) Miles Davis Quintet: “Footprints”

15) Doris Duke: “I Don’t Care Anymore”

16) Warren Zevon: “I Was In the House When the House Burned Down”

17) Warren Storm: “White Cadillac and a Black Moustache”

18) George Jones: “The Window Up Above”

19) Big Star: “Femme Fatale”

20) Tom Waits: “Murder in the Red Barn”

21) Pat Hare: “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby”

22) Charlie Parker: “Night in Tunisia”

23) Charles Brown: “Black Night Falling”

24) Robert Johnson: “Hellhound On My Trail”

25) Webb Pierce: “There Stands the Glass”

26) Johnny Cash: “The Beast In Me”

27) Esther Phillips: “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”

28) John Zorn: “Spillane”

29) James Carr: “Dark End of the Street”

30)  Billie Holiday: “Strange Fuit”

31) John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman: “Lush Life”

32) Frank Evans: “99 Years is Almost Life”

33) Randy Weston: “Portrait of Vivian”

34) Jimmy Donley: “Born to be a Loser”

35)  Jimmy Smith: “Please Send Me Someone to Love”

36)  Wardell Grey/Dexter Gordon: “The Chase”

37)  Tampa Red: “Stockyard Blues”

38) Muddy Waters: “I’m Ready”

39) Peetie Wheatstraw: “Gangster’s Blues”

40) Cat Iron: “Jimmy Bell”

41) John Lee Hooker: “Serves Me Right to Suffer”

42) Charlie Haden/Shirley Horn: “Lonely Town”

43) Ray Charles: “Hard Times”

44) Eric Dolphy: “Something Sweet, Something Tender”

45) Ornette Coleman: “Just For You”

46) Charles Mingus: “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”

47) Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter: “Men With Broken Hearts”

48) Blind Willie Johnson: “Dark Was the Night”

49). Ralph Stanley: “Room at the Top of the Stairs”

50) Elmore James: “The Sky is Crying”


Woody Haut, born and raised in the U.S.now living London, is the author of three books on noir fiction: Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak & Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers Hollywood, as well as three novels, all published by Concord ePress: Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime; Days of Smoke; and Skin Flick. His book of film noir poems, On Dangerous Ground, is to be published in 2023. He has also published articles in a range of periodicals, and gave the NoirCon 2016 keynote address, “David Goodis on Central Avenue.”