The Real-Life Murder That Inspired "The Sopranos" Theme Song

Long before streaming services offered the option of skipping past the opening credits, millions of HBO viewers looked forward to the song that introduced The Sopranos. The darkly humorous mob drama, which ran from 1999 to 2007, presented the domestic and business challenges of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a New Jersey capo who suffered anxiety attacks from the stress of being a criminal family man and sought the services of psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). After the famously static-ridden HBO logo appeared, the show’s credits rolled, with Tony driving through New Jersey and pulling into his driveway while “Woke Up This Morning” by the British-based band Alabama 3 played. The song was inspired by the case of Sara Thornton, a domestic abuse survivor in Warwickshire, England. In 1989, Thornton murdered her husband Malcolm by stabbing him while he slept on the couch. He had repeatedly made threats toward her and their young daughter, and Sara feared for their lives. She was convicted of murder in 1990, but women’s advocacy groups argued that Sara was battered and desperate to protect herself and her child. Ultimately, she won a new trial in 1996, at which time she was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced to 5 years in prison. She was immediately released for time served.