Do you ever just want to break the law? You know that it’s wrong, but sometimes you just need an exciting thrill. Sometimes breaking the law is necessary, whether for financial reasons or just because of your own whimsical desires. The following 20 songs are all about those who took a step over the line and committed crimes.By the way, if you’re a fan of songs about breaking the law, you might also enjoy songs about disagreeing, songs about fighting, songs about getting in trouble, songs about maria, and songs about quitting.
Breaking the Law – Judas Priest
“Breaking the Law” was a song by British heavy metal band Judas Priest about a police officer who wants to take revenge against criminals that escaped his grip after being captured. “Breaking the Law” was first released as a single in July 9th, 1980 on Gull Records . In 2003, this song became listed as one of the greatest classic metal songs by VH1 as as one of their 100 Greatest Songs of the 1980s .
“Breaking The Law” has been covered by many artists. For example, the death metal band Death covers it in their album Scream Bloody Gore (1987). Also, Richard Cheese and Lounge Against The Machine covered this song on the album Tuxicity (2004). Al Murray performed “Breaking The Law” as his character the Pub Landlord on Top Gear (2002) to make fun of how much he hated British heavy metal.
Renegade – Styx
“Renegade” is a song by the rock band Styx. It was released as a single in November 1981 and reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Renegade” is one of the band’s most popular songs, and has been covered by several artists. The song is about a person who rebels against society and breaks away from the norms.
“Renegade” was inspired by the early life of singer/songwriter Dennis DeYoung, who was raised by a single mother. His father had abandoned them when he was very young. The lyrics are about a boy who runs away from his mother’s house after she tries to force him into being something he does not want to be.
Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, “Gimme Shelter” is one of the signature songs of the Rolling Stones. It was released as a single in 1969 and featured on the album Let It Bleed. The song is about the violence and chaos that occurred during the Altamont Free Concert.
“Gimme Shelter” was inspired by the Mamas and the Papas song “California Dreamin'”. Richards said, “It was a combination of California dreaming and the real grim reality of what was going down at Altamont… It was just too much for one song.”
Bad – Michael Jackson
One of Michael Jackson’s most popular songs, “Bad” was released as a single in September 1987. The song is about someone who is tired of being good and wants to be bad for a change.
“Bad” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1988. The song has been covered by many artists, including American rock band Guns N’ Roses. According to Quincy Jones, who produced Jackson’s Thriller album, “Bad” was originally written for James Brown. However, Brown turned it down,
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio
“Gangsta’s Paradise” is a song by American rapper Coolio featuring singer L.V.. It was released on July 3, 1995 as the lead single from his album of the same name. The song was written by Coolio and produced by Doug Rasheed. “Gangsta’s Paradise” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of living a life of crime.
“Gangsta’s Paradise” became very popular, reaching number one on charts in countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, it reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
I Fought the Law – The Clash
Written by Sonny Curtis and Bobby Fuller, “I Fought the Law” was released as a single in 1979 by The Clash. This song is about a person who has committed illegal acts but evades being caught by the police.
The music for “I Fought the Law” was originally written for a television show that never got picked up. However, it became popular after being used several times on the British television show Punking Out—which followed punk bands from around London.
In 2010, NME ranked this song as #300 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time . In 2011 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked this song as #269 of their Top 500 songs of all time .
I Shot the Sheriff – Bob Marley
“I Shot the Sheriff” is a song by Bob Marley and the Wailers. It was released in 1973 on their album Burnin’. The song was written by Bob Marley and produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry. “I Shot the Sheriff” is about a man who admits to shooting the sheriff, but claims he did not kill him.
The song was inspired by a case in which John Lennon’s friend, Bobby Hewitt, was arrested for murder after shooting a sheriff. Hewitt claimed that he had acted in self-defense. This is one of Marley’s most iconic songs and has been covered by many artists.
Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
This song is the opening track from Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, Appetite for Destruction. It was released as a single in 1988. “Welcome to the Jungle” is about life in Los Angeles, California.
Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose said, “I was playing around with the idea of Hollywood Boulevard being like a jungle, like you’re stepping into another world when you get there… I was thinking about how LA is a very strange place, especially Hollywood.” The music video for “Welcome to the Jungle” was directed by David Fincher and helped introduce him to the music industry. It speaks to the beautiful juxtaposition of affluence and crime in the city of angels.
Crime in the City – Neil Young
“Crime in the City” is a song by Neil Young. The song was first released as a single in 1977 and then on his 1978 album Comes A Time. This song is about how crime has become an increasingly common issue in the cities he used to frequent as a child.
“Crime in the City” made it onto Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, peaking at #80. It also peaked at number 21 on the Canadian RPM singles chart and number 17 on the RPM adult contemporary chart. This song has been covered by other artists, including Dave Edmunds and Rick Springfield, and has appeared on many of Young’s greatest hits albums.
Caught by the Fuzz – Supergrass
This song is from the British rock band Supergrass’s first album, I Should Coco, which was released in 1995. “Caught by the Fuzz” is about a boy who gets caught for smoking marijuana and fined £80—which is a substantial amount of money for him to come up with on his own.
“Caught by the Fuzz” was inspired by Alex James’ time as a roadie for Senseless Things , another British rock band that was popular in the 1980s. In 1993, Supergrass signed with Parlophone Records and recorded their first single, “Caught by the Fuzz.”
It reached #88 on the UK Singles Chart after being released as a single on January 26, 1995. This song made it onto at least two of Supergrass’ compilation albums.
Whiskey in the Jar – Metallica
“Whiskey in the Jar” is a traditional Irish song that has been covered by many artists. The Metallica version was released on their 1998 covers album Garage Inc.
The Metallica version of “Whiskey in the Jar” is about a man who is betrayed by his lover and killed. The song has been criticized for its misogynistic lyrics, which portray women as deceitful and untrustworthy.
The Metallica version of “Whiskey in the Jar” reached number one on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
If you like Metallica, we have a list of bands that sound like Metallica you might like!
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – AC/DC
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” is the third song on the Australian rock band AC/DC’s album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, which was released in September 1976. This song is about a man who offers to do any task for money, no matter how dirty or illegal.
The title “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” comes from the movie Death Race 2000 (1975). The actor David Carradine says it by accident while pushing someone into a giant meat grinder. Lead singer Bon Scott watched this movie and thought that phrase would make a good album title for AC/DC’s next album.
This song has been featured in numerous video games, including Guitar Hero II , Rock Band 2 , and NBA 2K15 .
Jailbreak – Thin Lizzy
“Jailbreak” is a song by the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. The song was released on their 1976 album Jailbreak . “Jailbreak” is about a man who breaks out of prison and goes on the run.
The song was written by Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham and bassist Phil Lynott. It was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales.
“Jailbreak” reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart and number 41 on the Irish Singles Chart. In 2009, it was voted number 97 in Kerrang! magazine’s “The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs Of All Time.”
Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
This song is from Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album, which was released in 1992. “Killing in the Name” is about police brutality and the abuse of power.
The song was written by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. The title is a reference to the 1968 song “Walk On By” by Isaac Hayes.
“Killing in the Name” reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
The Highwayman – Johnny Cash
This song is from Johnny Cash’s 1987 album The Legend . “The Highwayman” is about a group of outlaws who rob and pillage people on the open road.
The song was written by Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. It was inspired by the life of the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.
“The Highwayman” reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. In 1989, it was named Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. Willie Nelson was also featured on the recording of this song.
Shoplifters of the World, Unite – The Smiths
“Shoplifters of the World, Unite” is a song by the English rock band The Smiths. It was released as a single in November 1987. “Shoplifters of the World, Unite” is about teenage rebellion and sticking it to the man. Morrissey, the lead singer of The Smiths, has said that the song is about “the kind of person who is never really accepted by society.”
The song was written by Morrissey and Johnny Marr. It was produced by Stephen Street. “Shoplifters of the World, Unite” reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2006, it was voted number 97 in NME magazine’s “100 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
Smokin’ in the Boys Room – Motley Crue
“Smokin’ in the Boys Room” is a song by the American heavy metal band Motley Crue. It was released as a single in October 1983. “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” is about a high school student who smokes cigarettes in the boys room.
The song was written by Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx. It was produced by Tom Werman.
“Smokin’ in the Boys Room” reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number three on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. In 1993, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
This song is from Johnny Cash’s 1955 album of the same name. “Folsom Prison Blues” tells the story about an outlaw who enters prison with hopes to get out after one year, but he ends up staying there twenty years. The song was inspired by Folsom State Prison in California.
The song was written by Johnny Cash and Merle Travis. It was produced by Don Law, Ken Nelson, and Norman Blake.
Johnny Cash first performed this song at Folsom State Prison on January 13, 1968, during his live recording concert I Walk the Line: Live Inside Folsom Prison . He later recorded a new version for his At Folson Prison album1968).
“Folsom Prison Blues” reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. In 2000, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
St. Anger – Metallica
“St. Anger” is a song from the American heavy metal band Metallica’s 2003 album, St. Anger . The music video for this song was recorded live at San Quentin prison, with an audience of real inmates back in 2003. It is reported to be inspired by the conditions in some of America’s worst prisons, and the hopelessness that inmates deal with.
“St. Anger” is about the anger that people hold on to, but don’t know how to express or get rid of it. The song was written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett. It was produced by Bob Rock and Metallica.
The title track of their St Anger album reached number one on 36 charts worldwide; it also became Metallica’s ninth number one single in their home country of the United States. In 2009, “St. Anger” won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance at the 49th Grammy Awards ceremony (the band’s first win since 1996).
Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix
“Hey Joe” is a song written and performed by American rock musician Jimi Hendrix. The song was recorded by Jimi in 1966 and released the same year, on his debut album Are You Experienced .
The song was inspired by an affair that Jimi had with a woman named Kathy Mary Etchingham. It tells the story of an outlaw who escapes to Mexico after killing his wife. “Hey Joe” is widely believed to be about violence against women, although Etchingham has disputed this claim. This song reached number six on the UK Singles Chart when it first came out in 1966.
Jimi Hendrix first learned how to play guitar when he was 14 years old. After leaving school, he began to play in minor clubs, hoping to get discovered. From there, he was given the opportunity to play at the Islington-Blues club in 1966. After his performance (where he played “Hey Joe”), pop manager Chas Chandler heard about Jimi and asked him to travel with him to London. He did, and soon after that, Jimi became a part of the rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Their debut album Are You Experienced was released in May 1967 (and went on to sell more than one million copies).