Hazard (song)

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"Hazard"
Single by Richard Marx
from the album Rush Street
B-side "Big Boy Now"
Released January 1992
Recorded 1991
Genre Soft rock, adult contemporary
Length 5:17 (Album Version)
4:48 (Edit)
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Richard Marx
Producer(s) Richard Marx
Richard Marx singles chronology
"Keep Coming Back"
(1991)
"Hazard"
(1992)
"Take This Heart"
(1992)

"Hazard" is a 1992 hit song written and performed by American singer/songwriter/producer Richard Marx. It peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching #6 in Cash Box.

In addition, the song was Richard's third #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.[1] Internationally, it topped charts throughout the world, hitting #1 in Australia and #3 in the United Kingdom.

Song overview[edit]

"Hazard" tells the story of an implied relationship of some kind between a narrator (usually considered the protagonist) and a woman named Mary. Mary dies in suspicious circumstances, and the protagonist, shunned by many in the small town since his childhood ("That boy's not right."), is immediately considered the main suspect. The protagonist, however, maintains his innocence throughout the song, and the question of such is left open to the listener's interpretation.

Music video[edit]

Overview[edit]

The music video for "Hazard" reveals additional video cues and other details that led viewers to speculate about the question of the protagonist's innocence while still following the song's lyrics and ultimately leaving the outcome open to interpretation. The narrator also refers to the state of Nebraska, United States, and specifically a town called Hazard, NE. "Miss Mary" is played by actress Renee Parent[2]

Details[edit]

The music video opens with several older men teasing the protagonist's character as a child with his mother in the background; the description of his character as "not right" may imply slight mental illness or simply being different. The video then shows Mary, who is depicted as having features very similar to the protagonist's mother. Various scenes in this sequence can cause the viewer to become unclear about the nature of their relationship. As the story continues, the town's sheriff is shown taking photographs of the couple and following one or both of them in his vehicle.

It is implied that the protagonist goes to see Mary but catches her making love to an unidentified person. Again, the video flashes back to his childhood, where he sees his mother committing adultery. In present time, the sheriff arrives and sees the protagonist, who then flees, leaving his scarf behind on the branch of a bush. He returns home and weeps about Mary.

Mary is then shown alone near the river spoken of in the song. She turns to face the camera with a look of surprise on her face, and it is then made to look as if she lay in water. The next morning (as the song states), several people assist in arresting the male character for Mary's murder.

While in the interrogation room, he is shown a white cloth, which the sheriff identifies as the item used to strangle Mary. He then denies that he and Mary were romantically involved, and the sheriff asks if Marx was jealous. At this point, the video reveals a larger picture of the protagonist's childhood: that after his mother's affair, his father leaves her for another woman. He is then shown as a child running out of a burning house, although it is unclear whose it is or if he actually set the fire.

Locals are shown vandalizing the male character's home, breaking windows and setting fire to it. It is implied that he cannot be proven guilty when the sheriff drops him off at his ruined home. As the video ends, a woman walking by covers her young son's eyes, again implying he is an outcast or considered guilty of Mary's murder.

Who Killed Mary?[edit]

Throughout the song, backed by the video, it is unclear and thus left to the listener/viewer to decide who killed Mary. Marx's character is set up to be neither innocent or guilty, depending on how the evidence is viewed. For example, the video makes it apparent that he flees the scene where he sees Mary with the unidentified person, leaving his scarf behind, which is later used as an attempt to place him at the scene. Yet the lyrics state that he 'left her by the river [...] left her safe and sound', which contradicts the video. Additionally, how would he know that he left her there, if he had not been with her, because she 'went walking alone and never came home'? Furthermore, the video opens up the possibility that the sheriff himself could be responsible for Mary's death. He is depicted photographing her with the narrator and following her in his car, but it is never established whether his motives for doing so are borne of jealousy or protectiveness, perhaps on account of the narrator's reputation. But what of the lyrics "..there's no escape for me this time, all of my rescues are gone.." The words "this time" imply that this situation has occurred before. Three different versions of the video were shot and aired on VH-1, and Marx himself appeared several times, challenging viewers to watch for all three versions, "...and see if you can figure out who killed Mary."

Charts[edit]

End of year chart (1992) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[3] 56
Australian ARIA Singles Chart[4] 10

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 160. 
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0661301/otherworks
  3. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1992". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  4. ^ "ARIA Charts - End Of Year Charts - Top 50 Singles 1992". 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton
Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single
May 9, 1992
Succeeded by
"Hold on My Heart" by Genesis
Preceded by
"Save the Best for Last" by Vanessa L. Williams
ARIA (Australia) number one single
July 25, 1992 - August 14, 1992
Succeeded by
"Amigos Para Siempre" by José Carreras and Sarah Brightman