Music

Flashback: Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell Sing Chilling Country Classic 'Long Black Veil'

Screengrab via YouTube

One of the most haunting country songs ever recorded was "The Long Black Veil," penned by songwriters by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin in 1959. Lefty Frizzell was the first to record the country song in Nashville, and the tune was an instant hit, reaching No. 6 on the country music charts. When Dill and Wilkin finished the song, Dill called it an "instant folksong." When writing the song, Dill was inspired by a newspaper story of a New Jersey priest who was killed under a streetlight surrounded by witnesses. It's said for the chorus, Dill drew from the song "God Walk These Hills With Me."

The song didn't just catch the attention of Frizzell; many artists have covered the folk/country standard. Johnny Cash, John Anderson, The Band, Dave Matthews Band, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger & The Chieftains, Marianne Faithfull, Joan Baez and Bruce Hornsby are just a few names on the long list of artists who have told the story of the veiled woman. In fact, Cash loved the song so much he recorded it several times. The song made two of his records Orange Blossom Special and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. He also performed the song with Joni Mitchell on The Johnny Cash Show.

With Halloween just around the corner, the characters of the song seem to come to life as you listen along to the spine-chilling story of a man who refused to give an alibi because he had been in the arms of his best friend's wife. The man was hanged for a crime he didn't commit, and the woman mourns his death under the sheath of a long black veil.

While curating your perfect spooky playlist, be sure this greatest hit makes your list!

"The Long Black Veil" Lyrics:

Ten years ago, on a cold dark night

There was someone killed 'neath the town hall light

There were few at the scene, but they all agreed

That the slayer who ran looked a lot like me

The judge said, "Son, what is your alibi?

If you were somewhere else then you won't have to die."

I spoke not a word though it meant my life

For I had been in the arms of my best friend's wife

She walks these hills in a long black veil

She visits my grave when the night winds wail

Nobody knows, nobody sees

Nobody knows but me

The scaffold is high, and eternity nears

She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear

But sometimes at night, when the cold wind mourns

In a long black veil, she cries over my bones

She walks these hills in a long black veil

She visits my grave when the night winds wail

Nobody knows, nobody sees

Nobody knows but me, nobody knows but me, nobody knows but me

 

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Flashback: Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell Sing Chilling Country Classic 'Long Black Veil'