13 Songs for Halloween: "Diane" by Hüsker Dü

Janice Headley
photo by Daniel Corrigan

🚨WARNING: For Halloween, KEXP is exploring the horrifying true stories behind some of the creepiest songs we play. Please note, this post contains highly disturbing and graphic content. Please continue at your own risk. 🚨

Of all the songs in Hüsker Dü's discography, I think this song gets played the least on KEXP. The last time I can recall someone playing this on the air is when its composer Grant Hart passed away from cancer in 2017. With "Diane," the horror isn't veiled within poetry; instead Hart takes on the persona of the murderer and the lyrics are unsettlingly direct. The starkness is only intensified by the fact that this song is based on a true story.

Hey little girl, do you need a ride?
Well, I've got 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

In 1980, 19-year-old Diane Edwards was walking home from her waitressing job at the Perkins Pancake House in West St. Paul when she was accosted by serial killer Joseph Donald Ture. She was forced into his car, raped, murdered, and thrown into a ditch in rural Sherburne County where she was discovered two weeks later. Upon capture, Ture confessed to the crime. He told law enforcement officials that he frequented the Perkins restaurant where she worked and asked her out on dates. 

Ture was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. While serving his sentence, Ture was later connected to two cold cases: the 1979 murder of 18-year-old Marlys Wohlenhaus and the 1978 murder of Alice Huling and three of her children, Susan, 16; Wayne, 13; and Patti, 12. 

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

In a 1984 interview with the zine Conflict (conducted by Gerard Cosloy, later of Matador Records), bandmate Bob Mould confirms that Hart knew Edwards personally, though vaguely. Hart was also 19-years-old at the time and surely saw himself and his friends in Diane. In regards to the song, he confirms:

Yeah, it's through the rapist's eyes. It's anything but pro-rape. I feel sorry for people who take these things at face value, but you take that risk any time you're dealng with printed or spoken expression, I guess. People want things made easy.

The song "Diane" first appeared on the 1983 Metal Circus EP but on YouTube, there's an even earlier version, filmed in 1981, a mere year after her death, and filmed at the 7th Street Entry, right across the river from where she was abducted. When Grant repeats her name over and over during the chorus, his bellowing is almost mournful and certainly impassioned. While the song's perspective is from that of the killer, the performance is from that of a peer. 

We could lay in the weeds for 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.

The song is definitely not easy to listen to, not even for its composer. In a 2012 interview with Thumped, Hart stated:

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 the song ‘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 and it made me physically sick. There was not as much info about the Edwards murder as this other girl’s. The cruelty that this psychopath confessed to made me bloody-minded myself.

• Justice for Marlys: A Family’s Twenty Year Search for a Killer by John S. Munday (2006, University of Minnesota Press)

In 1995, the band Therapy? covered the song for their album Infernal Love. The book Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock by Andrew Earles claims that they actually asked Hart to re-write the song with "toned-down lyrical content" and he declined. Because as horrible as the content of the song is, what's truly more horrible is that it actually happened. And you can't rewrite that. 

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