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Charles Manson, Mass Murderer Who Twisted Beatles Lyrics, Is Dead

Charles Manson
California Department of Corrections, via Getty Images

Charles Manson, a failed musician who nevertheless made several notable connections in classic rock before orchestrating one of the nation’s most horrifying crime sprees, has died according to multiple media sources including Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and TMZ. He was 83.

Serving a life sentence in connection with seven vicious murders over two nights in 1969, Manson was hurried to the hospital in early January 2017 with an undisclosed issue – but returned to prison without having surgery. He was said to have been suffering “significant intestinal bleeding,” but ultimately was deemed too weak to survive any medical procedure. He finally succumbed to lingering health issues on Sunday, Nov. 19, at a Kern County Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif.

Manson’s death brings to a close a life defined by lawlessness, and framed by a deeply misguided obsession with the Beatles.

Born Charles Milles Maddox on Nov. 12, 1934, Manson began life in a troubled home where he was reportedly sold by his mother for a pitcher of beer. Kathleen Maddox had been a teenaged prostitute; Charles’ father was one of her boyfriends. His uncle was said to have eventually tracked down the childless woman who’d taken him in order to bring back Charles. The future mass murderer ultimately took his stepfather William Manson’s last name; Manson’s mom ended up in jail.

By 12, the youngster was already in a detention home for stealing. He’d spend the next couple of decades in and out of reform school and then prison for various offenses. He met music teacher Gary Hinman after finishing a seven-year jail stint in 1967, and Hinman in turn introduced Manson to Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. By then, Manson had begun leading a cult-like existence – and writing his own off-kilter songs.

Wilson took Manson to meet producer Terry Melcher, and he was said to have recorded some music at Dennis’ brother Brian Wilson‘s home studio. Neil Young approached his label about signing Manson, and the Beach Boys released their own reworked version of Manson’s song “Cease to Exist” on 1969’s 20/20. But when Melcher refused to help the increasingly unhinged songwriter with his career, Manson apparently sent his brainwashed so-called “family” to the house where they’d originally met to kill everyone inside.

Watch News Coverage of Charles Manson’s Arrest

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Unfortunately for actress Sharon Tate and her guests, they were now renting the same remote home at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles. The actress, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, was killed along with five others on Aug. 9, 1969. The next night, Manson ordered his followers to murder Leno and Rosemary LaBianca – reportedly neighbors of a former friend who lived at 3301 Waverly Drive, a few miles away.

Prosecutors later said the Manson family were trying to incite a race war which he believed had been described in Paul McCartney‘s song “Helter Skelter.” In fact, Manson said he’d been emboldened by a number of lyrical themes from the Beatles catalog, as evidenced by the words smeared in blood at their grisly crime scenes.

Manson was sentenced to death for his role in the killings on Jan. 25, 1971, but not before releasing an album of his own titled Lie: The Love and Terror Cult. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison when California struck down the death penalty. Over the ensuing years, Manson was charged with more than 100 rules violations – including assault, threatening staff and repeated possession of weapons – while Guns N’ Roses covered his music and Ozzy Osbourne wrote a song inspired by his crimes.

As rumors of Manson’s failing health spread, Tate’s sister Debra Tate tried to make sense of her feelings. “I would probably say a prayer for [the victims] and shed a tear and ask God to have mercy on their souls, but so far I haven’t allowed myself to feel anything because it’s unsubstantiated,” Tate told the Associated Press. “I’m not allowing myself to feel anything until I know that it’s true.”

Prior to his final health issues, Manson most recently made headlines in 2014, when he was apparently engaged to a woman who’d been working to secure his release. However, the marriage license expired before they made it to the altar. Manson wasn’t up for parole again until 2027, when he would have been 92.

Charles Manson’s Musical Connections

Next: Were the Beatles the Catalyst for the Charles Manson Murders?

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