Charles Milles Manson (né Maddox, November 12, 1934 – November 19, 2017) was an American criminal and cult leader. In the late 1960s, he formed what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune in California. Manson's followers committed a series of nine murders at four locations in July and August 1969. In 1971 he was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people, including the actress Sharon Tate, all of which were carried out at his instruction by members of the group. Manson was also convicted of first-degree murder for two other deaths.
At the time the Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed ex-convict who had spent half of his life in correctional institutions for a variety of offenses. Before the murders, he was a singer-songwriter on the fringe of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly through a chance association with Dennis Wilson, drummer and founding member of The Beach Boys. Manson believed in what he called "Helter Skelter", a term he took from the Beatles' song of the same name to describe an impending apocalyptic race war. He believed the murders would help precipitate that war. From the beginning of his notoriety, a pop culture arose around him in which he ultimately became an emblem of insanity, violence and the macabre. After Manson was charged with the crimes of which he was later convicted, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially, starting with Lie: The Love and Terror Cult (1970). Various musicians have covered some of his songs.
Manson was originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life with the possibility of parole after California invalidated the state's death penalty statute in 1972. He served out his life sentence at California State Prison in Corcoran and died at age 83 in 2017.
On March 6, 1970 (the day the court vacated Manson's status as his own attorney),:258–269 LIE, an album of Manson music, was released. This included "Cease to Exist", a Manson composition the Beach Boys had recorded with modified lyrics and the title "Never Learn Not to Love". Over the next couple of months, only about 300 of the album's 2,000 copies sold.
Since that time, there have been several releases of Manson recordings – both musical and spoken. One of these, The Family Jams, includes two compact discs of Manson's songs recorded by the Family in 1970, after Manson and the others had been arrested. Guitar and lead vocals are supplied by Steve Grogan:125–127 additional vocals are supplied by Lynette Fromme, Sandra Good, Catherine Share, and others. One Mind, an album of music, poetry, and spoken word, new at the time of its release, in April 2005, was put out under a Creative Commons license.
According to a popular urban legend, Manson unsuccessfully auditioned for the Monkees in late 1965; this is refuted by the fact that Manson was still incarcerated at McNeil Island at that time.
In 2010, Manson recorded an album of acoustic pop songs with additional production by Henry Rollins, titled Completion. Only five copies were pressed; two belong to Rollins, while the other three are presumed to have been with Manson. The album remains unreleased.