First off, O Death is actually an old Appalachian folk song. The Appalachians are a mountain range that spawned its own cultural area in the eastern section of America that stretch from southern New York all the way down through parts of various states and into Alabama. Appalachia has always been a very rural, poor area of America, and its well known for its extremely devout religiousness and conservative views. It’s made mostly of settlers from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the like, and most of its early culture was derived from being heavily religious members from these countries. O Death is actually a traditional Appalachian dirge from the southern section. In this, there is a quieter, more insidious echo: the underclasses have always been here. We’ve feared and believed the kinds of things that are a reality in the show, and which is partly the reason why all of the hunters you’ll see are from the underclass. Their social and cultural heritages are from the kinds of folks whose families were raised hearing about such things, and get passed down. For Death to be in a major American city, with a modernized Appalachian folk song as accompaniment, we’re invited to see the situation in a certain light.
For Death to “brush off” a middle-upper class man, counter-posed to the music, tells us something about social and cultural views. While the business guy was likely to have heard of Revelations and the Horsemen, he’s not about to accept or believe it. The underclasses, even now, are more likely to understand and accept it.
It’s not just a religious thing, although that’s part of it. Belief in evil, and respect and fear for things like death has been an inextricable part of our culture, even in our music, especially when so much of it exists among us. The way we fight and kill, and mourn, and live in spite of it all, live in ways that the middle and upper classes would flinch to see, much less understand. All of those ways in which I’ve been talking about how being in the underclass is dangerous and hopeless— perhaps the worst part is that we are so aware of it. And you know what?
You can hear it all in our music.