Songs inspired by Matthew Shepard

By Leslie Simon

After the murder of Matthew Shepard rocked Laramie, Wyoming, and subsequently the nation, there was an outpouring of songs influenced by the tragic event. Particularly poignant are the heartfelt songs written by LGBTQIA+ musicians. Listen and read some lyrics below of songs written about Matthew Shepard both directly and indirectly. The Laramie Project plays at the Arvada Center September 29 - November 5: The Laramie Project event page

Melissa Etheridge “Scarecrow”

Showers of your crimson blood

Seep into a nation calling up a flood

Of narrow minds who legislate

Thinly veiled intolerance

Bigotry and hate


But they tortured and burned you

They beat you and they tied you

They left you cold and breathing

For love they crucified you


I can't forget hard as I try

This silhouette against the sky


Scarecrow crying

Waiting to die wondering why

Scarecrow trying

Angels will hold carry your soul away

This was our brother

This was our son

This shepherd young and mild

This unassuming one

We all gasp this can't happen here

We're all much too civilized

Where can these monsters hide


But they are knocking on our front door

They're rocking in our cradles

They're preaching in our churches

And eating at our tables


I search my soul

My heart and in my mind

To try and find forgiveness

This is someone child

With pain unreconciled

Filled up with father's hate

Mother's neglect

I can forgive But I will not forget

Scarecrow crying

Waiting to die wondering why

Scarecrow trying

Rising above all in the name of love

Janis Ian “Matthew”

Footsteps on gravel at the neighborhood bar

Things start to unravel, then they go too far

The sound of pain written on the wind

Fades to grey and then goes dim


A boy is tied to a barbed wire fence

For the crows to ride and the claws to clench

For the sweet bouquet of blood and bone

To undermine the scent of collegiate cologne


What makes a man a man?

The cut of a coat, the hint of a tan?

It's not who you love, but whether you can

What makes a man a man?


Who did he harm, what was the crime?

Did he walk too lightly, did he seem too shy?

Did he make them wonder deep inside?

Did they feel like real men when he died?


Did the waning moon look down from on high?

Did the twinkling stars try to catch his eye?

Did the wind caress his flesh and bone?

Did they leave him there to die alone?


What makes a man a man?

The cut of a coat, the hint of a tan?

It's not who you love, but whether you can

What makes a man a man


Now the stars are nailed to an empty sky

The moon is pinned like a butterfly

And I'm afraid to shine too bright

Since the day they took his life


So mothers, teach your children this

Don't overreach, don't run the risk

Hide in the shadows, don't expect

Your good heart to save your neck


What makes a man a man?

The cut of a coat, the hint of a tan?

It's not who you love, but whether you can

What makes a man a man?

Neutral Milk Hotel "Little Birds"

Little birds born without a mother or a father

I can feel their feathers forming in the running water

Now there is another in the middle of my mouth

A hundred altogether inside of me now

Little birds, little birds, come into my body


Mother, they're within me every moment I'm awaking

Bodies multiplying till they finally overtake me

Put your ears up to my mouth and you can hear them singing

Put your hands within me and you'll know what I am feeling

I just want to swallow up and promise to protect them


Daddy, come towards me, I could see his hands are shaking

Put his hands against me, he could feel their bodies breaking

Pushed me to the floor and put his hands up for a beating

"I don't want to hear it anymore" he kept repeating

"Do you really want the burning hell to come and get you?"


"Did you see the burning hell? It took your baby brother?

Did you see how far he fell and how he made us suffer?

Another boy in town at night, he took him for his lover

And deep in sin they held each other


So I took a hammer, nearly beat his little brains in

Knowing God in heaven no could never could forgive him

So I took a hammer, nearly beat his little brains in"


Little boy born without a mother or a father

Taken to the river and then pushed into the water

And the priests are singing that the hell was getting hotter

La, la-la la la


Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the only ones to save him

From the thing he loves the most but we know will betray him

Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the only ones to save him


And here beneath the water

I can see how the light

Distorts so strange

And this is how

I would like to leave my body

And start again

Elton John "American Triangle"

Seen him playing in his backyard

Young boy just starting out

So much history in this landscape

So much confusion, so much doubt


Been there drinking on that front porch

Angry kids, mean and dumb

Looks like a painting, that blue skyline

God hates f*gs where we come from


'Western skies' don't make it right

'Home of the brave' don't make no sense

I've seen a scarecrow wrapped in wire

Left to die on a high ridge fence


It's a cold, cold wind

It's a cold, cold wind

It's a cold wind blowing, Wyoming


See two coyotes run down a deer

Hate what we don't understand

You pioneers give us your children

But it's your blood that stains their hands


Somewhere that road forks up ahead

To ignorance and innocence

Three lives drift on different winds

Two lives ruined, one life spent

Cyndi Lauper "Above the Clouds"

There's a place where the sun breaks through

And the wind bites cold and hard

Stings my ears and

Tears my eyes

When the day starts to shout out loud


Stand tall

And glide

When you're all alone in the crowd

Don't fall

Don't hide

When you walk above the clouds

When you walk above the clouds


When the light is against your face

And your smile is soft and sound

That's when you tell me all your fears

And all your dreams

So proud


Stand tall

And glide

When you're all alone in the crowd

Don't fall

Don't hide

When you walk above the clouds

When you walk above the clouds


I try and tell you

To keep your head upright

Don't swing your sword and shield against the night

Don't block your blessings, boy

You don't have to fight

You don't have to fight


Stand tall

And glide

When you're all alone in the crowd

Don't fall

Don't hide

When you walk above the clouds

When you walk above the clouds

Amy Ray "Laramie"

We hit snow on the road to Laramie

We all heard about that mess,

But that town ain't nothing different

Than the rest


Poor man do the bidding for the rich man

Those rednecks are just doing

What the classy fuckers' thinking

And tolerance it ain't acceptance;

I know you wanted it to be,

When you're out in Laramie


Hey all you jokers hunting seasons over

Hey coalition lay down your mission


What we need is a little addition,

An ounce of prevention,

And the weight of the law

'Cause without something you could put your finger on,

Somewhere somebody's gonna call,

Call out Laramie


Hey all you jokers hunting seasons over

Hey coalition lay down your mission

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