Three Artists Who Have Covered Charles Manson Songs

Charles Manson is one of the most notorious criminals of the latter half of the 20th century. If there’s one thing he’s known for besides his crimes (or his portrayals in movies and TV shows like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and South Park), it’s his music. Charles Manson’s music is an eclectic mix of rock, folk, and blues music; as a musician, Manson warrants comparison to both Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson.  Since he had some degree of musical talent, various musicians have recorded his songs over the years. Some of them did so before Manson became a notorious criminal while others recorded his songs for the sake of being edgy.  Let’s look at three artists who have recorded Charles Manson songs.

Charles Manson in 1969.

 The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys in 1964.

Back when he was trying to start a singing career, Charles Manson became acquainted with Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys. Wilson was able to help Manson record a demo album which was released in 1970 under the title Lie: The Love and Terror Cult. One of Manson’s songs was actually covered by The Beach Boys.  The Beach Boys changed the song’s title from “Cease to Exist” to “Never Learn Not to Love” but kept its lyrics intact. However, Manson did not receive a writing credit for his work on the song, which greatly angered him.

Guns N’ Roses

Guns N' Roses in 1992. From left, Duff McKagan, Gilby Clarke, and Izzy Stradlin
Guns N’ Roses in 1992.

As part of their 1993 covers album, The Spaghetti Incident?,  Axl Rose and company recorded a cover of what is possibly Charles Manson’s best track, “Look at Your Game, Girl.” While the song itself is fairly innocuous, Guns N’ Roses’  decision to record it was not. Music critics and casual observers alike feared that Charles Manson could profit off of the royalties from the song.  Eventually, the matter was settled so that royalties from the cover would go to relatives of the Manson Family’s victims.

Marilyn Manson

Rocker Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson

Having taken his stage name from Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, it seems incredibly obvious that Marilyn Manson would want to record a Charles Manson song at some point. Whether or not he will ever choose to record a Marilyn Monroe standard like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” or “I Wanna Be Loved By You” remains to be seen. 

The first time that the two Manson’s crossed paths in a musical sense was on Marilyn Manson’s first album. There, he released a bizarre song called “My Monkey” which included lyrics from the Charles Manson track “Mechanical Man.” The lyrics in question are about a man who raises his monkey on gingerbread before his monkey is tragically hit by a train. Say what you want about those lyrics, but they’re certainly creative.

Following the elder Manson’s death, Marilyn Manson tweeted a cover of Charles’s song “Sick City,” prompting one of the members of Kiss to deride the singer as tasteless and hungry for attention. Was Marilyn Manson’s cover of the song intended as some sort of commentary on the Manson Family or was it merely an example of shallow provocation?  Who knows? Either way, it’s a pretty good song.