“Hazard” – Richard Marx
My mother came to Hazard when I was just seven
Even then the folks in town said with prejudiced eyes
That boy’s not right
Three years ago when I came to know Mary
First time that someone looked beyond the rumors and the lies
And saw the man inside
We used to walk down by the river
She loved to watch the sun go down
We used to walk along the river
And dream our way out of this town
No one understood what I felt for Mary
No one cared until the night she went out walking alone
And never came home
Man with a badge came knocking next morning
Here was I surrounded by a thousand fingers suddenly
Pointed right at me
I swear I left her by the river
I swear I left her safe and sound
I need to make it to the river
And leave this old Nebraska town
I think about my life gone by
And how it’s done me wrong
There’s no escape for me this time
All of my rescues are gone, long gone
I swear I left her by the river
I swear I left her safe and sound
I need to make it to the river
And leave this old Nebraska town
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Richard Noel Marx (born September 16, 1963) is an American adult contemporary and pop/rock singer, songwriter, musician and record producer who has sold over 30 million records. He had a stream of hit singles in the late 1980s and 1990s, including “Endless Summer Nights,” “Right Here Waiting,” “Now and Forever,” and “Hazard.” Although some of his major hit songs were ballads, many of his songs have had a classic rock style, such as “Don’t Mean Nothing,” “Should’ve Known Better,” “Satisfied,” and “Too Late to Say Goodbye.”
Marx placed himself in the record books by being the first solo artist to have his first seven singles hit the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 4). His record sales worldwide exceed 30 million. Aside from songs that he has written, composed, and recorded for himself, he has written and/or composed, collaborated on the writing and/or the compositions of, and produced such successful selections for other artists as “This I Promise You” by NSYNC and “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross. The latter song won several Grammy Awards. His 14th and latest chart topper, “Long Hot Summer,” performed by Keith Urban, gave Marx the distinction of having a song he wrote or co-wrote top the charts in four different decades.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In addition, the song was Richard’s third #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Internationally, it topped charts throughout the world, hitting #1 in Australia and #3 in the United Kingdom.
“Hazard” tells the story of an implied relationship of some kind between a narrator (usually considered the protagonist) and a woman named Mary. Mary disappears 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.
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.
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 in regard to her disappearance.
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 implicated in her disappearance.
Who Killed Mary?
Throughout the song, backed by the video, it is unclear and thus left to the listener/viewer to decide who might be implicated in her disappearance. Marx’s character is set up to be neither innocent nor 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 disappearance. 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.”
What Really Happened?
By Elizabeth A. Hopkins
This is my interpretation of both chapters of the Hazard video. I write this only after reading and hearing several theories. After hours of breaking down these theories and scrutinizing both chapters of the video, I have come to entertain my own theory on who killed Mary. One which is most discredited for being boring or improbable. I am writing to unleash the only theory which could possibly be true– the theory that the man from the car, Mary’s boyfriend, murdered her in a jealous rage.
Sure my theory may not be the most creative, or the most exciting, but it’s the only theory that makes sense. Allow me to state the absolute truth about Hazard and then explain why it’s the only possible answer. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
Let’s start at the beginning. Richard’s mother moves to Hazard when he is still a young boy. He doesn’t have a father, which automatically makes him a target for ridicule in the small, family centered town. People are prejudiced against him from the beginning and spread rumors about him.
The next sequence of events to occur is that a fire is accidentally set in Richard and his mothers’ home. He runs to her room to warn her and finds her making love to a man who is a stranger to him. Being a young boy who has already been turned against the outside world by their merciless taunts, he is shocked and horrified by this. So horrified in fact, he decides not to interrupt, and instead runs to the safe embrace of the river, while the house burns to the ground with mother and lover inside. The Sheriff is infuriated by this because of some involvement or relationship with one of the two parties in the house. He blames Richard for their deaths, and decides from that day forward he will watch Richard’s every waking move, hoping someday to catch him doing something illegal, or perhaps admitting guilt to the first crime.
Richard goes through life from that day on with people talking behind his back, pointing fingers, staring, and basically prejudicing against him. That is, until the day he meets Mary. She doesn’t care what the people in town think or say. Richard and Mary both become close friends longing for a romantic relationship. They can’t commit though, due to the fact that she is already involved with someone who mistreats her. They still have as close to a romance as a friendship can get. They walk by the river, watch the sun go down, and talk to each other about how someday they’ll leave that old Nebraska town. Mary also speaks about how she’ll leave her abusive boyfriend. Richard sees hope for them to be together. Of course, the Sheriff stands close by, silently hidden, watching these exchanges.
One night, Mary decides to break it off with her boyfriend like she’s always promising herself she’ll do. She meets him and they go for a drive. When they park near the woods and start talking, she loses her strength to leave him, and instead they start making out. Unfortunately, Richard catches this exchange and is reminded of the similar scene he witnessed between his mother and the stranger so many years ago. He even has the same reaction, running to the safe banks of the river, this time losing his scarf amongst the tree branches. The Sheriff, distantly behind Richard, still follows. Mary sees Richard and runs after him, not hesitating to exit her boyfriend’s car considering the fact that she hates him and just might have lost her true love forever.
Mary catches up with Richard on the bank of the river, but not before grabbing the scarf, torn from his neck by the branches. They talk. Richard, hurt because he thought he actually had a chance with her, gets his point across that they can’t see each other anymore, friendship or otherwise, because he can’t take the pain of another loss. Mary protests, but Richard heads toward his dark trailer to attempt sleep, letting her keep the scarf as a memento of what they once had. The Sheriff sees this, and decides to head home to get some shut-eye himself, satisfied that Richard’s happiness has been revoked.
Sleep does not come easily to Richard because of that night’s goings on. He tries to watch TV but is overcome by the sorrow of yet another loss, which sends him into a blind rage contained within his trailer. All the while, Mary is dwelling in her sorrow on the bank of the river where she and Richard had the confrontation. She turns around when she hears a noise and discovers her jilted, abusive lover. She tries to help him understand, begging his forgiveness so he won’t be that upset. This only makes him angry, so he grabs the scarf adorning her neck and strangles her to death, dumping her limp, lifeless body into the river.
Early the next morning, the Sheriff goes back to the river. For what reason, I’m not sure. Maybe to cover up the fact that he had been there the night before spying. Maybe for some kind of memento of the past night’s debacle to appease his insatiable need to make Richard suffer, or something sick and twisted like that. Either way, he comes across Mary’s body instead. He then wishes he had never left Richard’s trail the night before or this could have been prevented.
The Sheriff automatically assumes Richard’s guilt because of the argument he witnessed. Seeing the scarf only fuels his suspicions. He has the Sheriff’s Department bust Richard on suspicion of Murder. After a relentless interrogation by the Sheriff, they decide to release Richard because there is no proof of any wrongdoing on his part. The Sheriff fights it because he has wanted Richard to be guilty of something–anything, since the day that house caught ablaze and killed two people. His argument holds little weight though, and Richard is released.
Richard does one last thing before leaving Hazard, The old Nebraska town which has caused him so much heartache and suffering. He cuts his hair as a symbol of moving on from the pain he has undeservedly been dealt. He then abandons his trailer, everything in it, and everything surrounding it, for a life as a drifter who can only hope for things to get better.
That’s my theory. It’s truly the only plausible solution to the great mystery of Hazard. Lots of points, I know, seem unfounded. Only certain points even took place in the video. The rest is just the breaking down of the video & other people’s theories and using common sense & imagination to fill in the gaps left in the storyline. Here’s how I was led to choose my suspect and why every other scenario is not even a possibility.
Why Richard Didn’t Do It
Besides the fact that no one would want, or even think, that a man as perfect as Richard would be capable of such a heinous crime, there is a solid reason why he couldn’t have killed Mary– the words to the song. He sings: ” Three years ago when I came to know Mary/First time that someone looked beyond the rumors and the lies/And saw the man inside” and ” I swear I left her by the river/ I swear I left her safe and sound”. The first line I quoted indicates that what the people say is nothing but rumors and lies. The second line is simply Richard professing his innocence. Since it is a story song with one of the characters narrating, it makes me highly doubt that he would lie, or be so mentally imbalanced that he actually believes he isn’t guilty. That is why Richard couldn’t be the murderer, leaving only two possibilities– suicide and her boyfriend as the killer.
Why Mary Didn’t Commit Suicide
Aside from the point that Mary’s suicide would be the most boring of possibilities, it’s also eliminated by logic. First off, someone surprises Mary at the river, and when they leave she’s dead. There is another reason why she couldn’t have killed herself, and that would be her possible modes of death.
Obviously, no tell-tale signs of a suicide were detected, or else there wouldn’t have been Richard’s big murder interrogation scene. That’s not what kills this theory though. What ruins this theories merit is the small details of a possible suicide. I’ll start with the ever- popular drowning theory.
The only things that could have aided her in drowning herself are:
-A strong current
-Some kind of weight
-Entangling in grass and weeds
-Severe physical or mental trauma
I eliminate current by a tiny observation. In the video they show a shot of the scarf underwater. If there were a strong enough current to help kill someone, the scarf would have been whipping and flailing about. It wasn’t. It was almost perfectly still.
I eliminate a weight by the fact that it would have been too obvious. There is a big difference between what a murder and suicide victim look like.
I eliminate the entangling theory because of common sense. It would have been ridiculously complicated to intentionally tangle yourself in weeds and grass just to die.
I eliminate physical or mental trauma, again, by common sense. She didn’t have any big, gaping wounds or large bruises or anything, so that eliminates physical. Mental is a bit harder to decipher. When I say “mental trauma” I mean a very serious mental illness or some kind of head trauma causing total disorientation. Neither one of these things was ever indicated. Sure she was distraught over what went over with Richard, but I don’t think distraught enough to trigger some kind of mental illness. Depressed, yes. Psychotic, no.
All of these things combined eliminate drowning herself as a theory.
Another popular theory is that she strangled herself with the scarf. That is almost totally impossible. She would pass out before she would ever have a chance to finish the job. Even if she passed out in the river, she would be more likely to be woken up by the water than drown in it. This and all other theories eliminated leave only one possibility, and that would be my theory that the man from the car, Mary’s boyfriend, murdered her in a fit of rage and jealousy.
Why the Man from the Car Did It
Sure having the man from the car as the murderer isn’t the most fun answer. We don’t even get to see the guy’s face or get his name after all. But after a lot of breaking down and a little bit of imagination to fill in the gaps in the storyline, it’s the only possible answer. I know some of my points go unexplained, but that’s because I needed to fill in the big, gaping holes in the storyline. I tried to account for more of the night of the murder. In the video, hours go unaccounted for, so I concocted a few ideas (like that Mary and Richard had met and spoken on the riverbank before she had her final meeting with the killer on that very spot. I do similar piecing together in numerous places throughout the story). These things didn’t necessarily take place that way. They all fit into my final scenario, so that’s why I selected them. The whole point of this video is to make your own interpretations. Taking all of mine into effect, I believe I have found what could be the only plausible explanation to the two chapter epic. When Richard wrote Hazard, he may have intended for it to remain a mystery. All things provided, at least in my mind, the mystery of Hazard has been solved.
There’s a particular reason that I’ve chosen “Hazard” as the theme of this blog.
The protagonist of the song – Richard – is not quite “all there.” As people would rudely state, he is not “right in the upper storey.” It is thus implied that he is slow in his mental faculties and mentally impaired in his thinking and ways.
It is very easy to lay blame at the doorstep of such people – one assumes that a moment of mental instability makes such persons commit terrible and vicious crimes. Yet, mental instability is not a sign of criminal behaviour and should not be treated as such. The sanest people – in a fit of uncontrollable rage and madness – are known to commit the most heinous crimes known to humankind.
People like Richard often suffer undue ridicule and mockery due to no real fault of theirs – one cannot control the circumstances and genes of one’s birth. It is easy to blame such people for other people’s wrongdoings, knowing full well that such mentally impaired cannot defend themselves, like normal people.
The story of “Hazard” is a story of how ‘Chance’ (Hazard) plays a cruel game against a good and innocent man. It is not only a beautiful and thought-provoking song, it should serve as a lesson to us all that one cannot lay accusation and blame at another’s doorstep without the full burden of proof to substantiate such an accusation.