Music

'Seven Bridges Road', The Eagles’ Stunning Harmony Showpiece, Has Country Music Roots

Seven Bridges Road by Steve Young was famously covered by the Eagles.

Remember when Vince Gill joined the Eagles on their 2017 tour? He really did an incredible job joining the iconic group in their performance of the classic song "Seven Bridges Road." The beautiful five-part harmonies of the Eagles' live version (and captivating a cappella opening) turned this obscure country song into a classic rock staple over the years. 

When performing the song on tour, Gill honored Eagle's co-founder Glenn Frey (whose son is also on stage in the clip above) as well as Steve Young, a lesser-known yet extremely influential singer/songwriter who actually wrote "Seven Bridges Road." Both men passed away the prior year in 2016.

Steve Young

Young found inspiration for "Seven Bridges Road" on a rural stretch of dirt road just outside of Montgomery, later identified as Woodley Road. A child of eastern Alabama, Young's song pays homage to his southern roots.

Young's acoustic version first appeared on his 1969 solo debut, Rock Salt and Nails. It's an underrated album, featuring guest appearances by Byrds alums Gene Clark and Gram Parsons. An even more emotionally-draining version was cut in Nashville for Young's 1972 album Seven Bridges Road, which included two songs that helped shape outlaw country, "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean" and "Montgomery in the Rain."

Joan Baez

Joan Baez also recorded a version of the song in 1969. Her arrangement sounds more traditional country than the original. She had a great track record with country covers, including one of the greatest versions of the early hillbilly gospel song, "A Tramp on the Street."

Rita Coolidge and Tracy Nelson

The mighty voices of Rita Coolidge and Mother Earth's Tracy Nelson furthered the song's reach in the early '70s. Both versions maintain the song's original feel of folk-rock meets rural storytelling.

Ian Matthews

Former Fairport Convention member Ian Matthews completely revamped the song's arrangement in 1972. He worked alongside producer, background singer, and ex-Monkee, Mike Nesmith. Matthews and Nesmith's multi-part harmonies and sparser arrangement sound very similar to the Eagles' live treatment of the song. While Young wrote the lyrics heard on the 1980's Eagles Live album, Matthews and Nesmith could easily get credit as arrangers.

Young's Legacy

Separating Young's legacy from the Eagles' version of "Seven Bridges Road" became impossible over the years. Later covers by the Carter Family and Dolly Parton owe more to the inspirational vocal harmony of the Eagle's version. That's more of a tribute to the Eagles' grasp of the song than a slight at Young. Conversely, most reports on Young's March 16, 2016, passing rightly identify "Seven Bridges Road" as his timeless contribution to country and rock's often-visited crossroads.

"Seven Bridges Road" Lyrics

There are stars in the southern sky
Southward as you go
There is moonlight and moss in the trees
Down the Seven Bridges Road

Now I have loved you like a baby
Like some lonesome child
And I have loved you in a tame way
And I have loved you wild

Sometimes there's a part of me
Has to turn from here and go
Running like a child from these warm stars
Down the Seven Bridges Road

There are stars in the southern sky
And if ever you decide you should go
There is a taste of time sweetened honey
Down the Seven Bridges Road

 

This article was originally published on July 31, 2017, but has since been updated.

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'Seven Bridges Road', The Eagles’ Stunning Harmony Showpiece, Has Country Music Roots