Song of the Day: Crime in Music (Day Seven). “Hey Little Girl, Do You need A Ride?”

Diane is a song recorded by St. Paul, Minnesota band Husker Du for their 1983 Metal Circus EP.  Written by drummer Grant Hart, the song concerns the abduction, rape and murder of West St. Paul waitress Diane Edwards, whom Hart vaguely knew, by Joseph Donald Ture in 1980.  Ture (pronounced Toor-ee) was convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder in 1981 and sentenced to life imprisonment.  Whilst serving his sentence, Ture was also found guilty of the 1979 murder of eighteen year old Marlys Wohlenhaus in rural Alton, Minnesota and sentenced to a second life, consecutive life term.  Ture was later also found guilty of the murder of thirty-six year old Alice Hurling and three of her four children at their home in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1978.  At the time of these convictions, Ture was also serving consecutive sentences of three Minnesota rapes.  Ture has always protested his innocence in relation to the homicide charges.

Diane is a graphically dark song telling how the abduction, rape and murder of Diane Edwards took place, told from the perspective of the murderer.  “Hey little girl, do you need a ride?  Well, I’ve room in my wagon, why don’t you hop inside, We could cruise down Robert Street all night long, But I think I’ll just rape you, and kill you instead” sings sings Hart in the opening verse of Diane, detailing what happened to Edwards and giving the listener a glimpse into the thoughts, desires and psyche of the killer.

In the second verse, the killer is seen attempting to convince his prey that his intentions are honourable by attempting to get her to go to a party with him:  “I heard there’s a party down at Lake Cove, It would be so much easier if I drove, We could check it out, we could go and see, Oh won’t you come and take a ride with me”.

As the song continues, verse three offers more insight into the killer’s depraved and twisted mind and we see the scene of the murder, with the lines, “We could lay down in the weeds for a little while, I’ll put your clothes in a nice, neat little pile, You’re the cutest girl I’ve ever seen in my life, It’s all over now, and with my knife”.

As with many of Husker Du’s songs, the lyrical content is brief, with Diane having three verses.  However, this briefness is the key to Diane’s effectiveness because it doesn’t say any more than it needs to.  What it does say though makes for some very dark and disturbing listening.  The wonderful verses are complimented by one of the most deceptively simple choruses in music history.  The chorus is simply Diane sung three times but with the backing vocals putting an inflection on the pronunciation of the name to emphasise the first syllable, making it:  “Die Anne”.

Whilst Husker Du’s original version of Diane is stirring and frightening enough, Northern Irish band Therapy? covered the song in 1995 for their album Infernal Love and released it as the third single from the record.  This version, as opposed to the fuzzy guitar that adorns the Husker Du original features just a haunting cello and singer Andy Cairns’ mighty voice on the main vocal and backing vocal.  The ingenuity of the backing vocal is made even more apparent on the Therapy? version, perhaps because of the starkness of the song’s cello only backing track.  When released as a single, Diane was coupled with a video every bit as graphic and powerful as the song itself, directed by W.I.Z, which breathed even more new life into the wonderful song.

Speaking of the song in an interview with Thumped in 2012, Grant Hart, when asked “How much of yourself do you put into what you do?  What I mean is, are you inseparable from the music you make or the art that you create?  Or is it a different you that we hear on record or see on stage?”, replied:

“Perhaps the best answer I can give to that question is … if an artist is honest and is not trying to come off as something they are not, then they are putting as much of their self into the songs they write as they can.  I stopped playing Diane because I could no longer stand putting on the mask of a monster.  A book came out about one of Diane Edwards’ murderer’s other victims [Justice for Marlys by John Munday (2004)] and it made me physically sick.  There was not as much info about the Edwards murder as the other girls.  The cruelty that this psychopath confessed to made me bloody-minded myself”.