Music

'The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia' is the Ultimate Southern Gothic Story Song

Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP and ASSOCIATED PRESS

"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" is just one of those songs that sticks with you no matter how many times you've heard it. The murder ballad's story is so engrossing, you feel like the characters are almost real.

 The song, written by Bobby Russell in 1972, follows along with a character we only know as "Brother," who stops at a bar one night to hear from "Andy" that his wife has been cheating on him. He goes home to find small footprints trailing from his house to Andy's and he follows them with his gun. Once he gets there, he finds Andy dead and gets convicted for his murder. You find out later that the real culprit was the song's narrator -- Andy's "Little Sister" -- who killed Andy and Brother's wife.

When Russell first wrote the song, he couldn't find anyone to record it. It was presented to Cher, but her husband Sonny Bono (at the time) thought it might offend her fans in the south. Russell was married to Vicki Lawrence, so she decided to record the song with the musical backings of the Wrecking Crew.

Vicki Lawrence

At the time Vicki Lawrence released her single in 1972, she was a regular performer on the Carol Burnett Show. It was a huge shock to her when the single reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Carol Burnett even presented Lawrence with an RIAA gold record to celebrate over one million copies sold on the show.

Tanya Tucker

Tanya Tucker followed with her own version of the song in 1981. Her lyrics were slighly altered in order to fit the plot of the film by the same name which starred Kristy McNichol, Dennis Quaid, Mark Hamill and Don Stroud. The new lyrics really don't share any of the same plot points as the original. 

Read More: 14 of the Most Controversial Country Songs Throughout History

Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire covered the song for her 1991 album, For My Broken Heart. Though the song only reached number 12 on the charts, it had a successful and memorable music video directed by Jack Cole. The music video expanded on the plot of the song, showing McEntire playing the role of "Little Sister." In the video, Playboy model Barbara Moore played the role of "the wife."

"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" Lyrics:

He was on his way home from Candletop

Been two weeks gone and he thought he'd stop

At Webb's and have him a drink 'fore he went home to her

Andy Wo-Lo said hello

He said, "Hi, what's doin', Wo?"

And Wo said, "Sit down I got some bad news that's going to hurt"

 

Said, "I'm your best friend and you know that's right

But your young bride ain't home tonight

Since you've been gone she's been seeing that Amos boy, Seth"

Now he got mad and he saw red

Andy said, "Boy, don't you lose your head

Because to tell you the truth, I've been with her myself"

 

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia

That's the night that they hung an innocent man

Well, don't trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer

'Cause the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

 

Andy got scared and left the bar

Walking on home because he didn't live far - you see

Andy didn't have many friends and he just lost him one

Brother thought his wife must have left town

So he went home and finally found the only thing

Daddy had left him and that was a gun

 

He went off to Andy's house

Slipping through the backwoods quiet as a mouse

Came upon some tracks too small for Andy to make

He looked through the screen at the back porch door

And he saw Andy lying on the floor

In a puddle of blood and he started to shake

 

The Georgia patrol was making their rounds

So he fired a shot just to flag them down

A big bellied sheriff grabbed his gun and said

"Why'd you do it?"

 

The judge said guilty on a make-believe trial

Slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile

Said supper's waiting at home and I got to get to it

 

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia

That's the night that they hung an innocent man

Well, don't trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer

Because the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

 

Well, they hung my brother before I could say

The tracks he saw while on his way

To Andy's house and back that night were mine

And his cheating wife had never left town

That's one body that'll never be found

You see little sister doesn't miss when she aims her gun

 

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia

That's the night that they hung an innocent man

Well, don't trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer

Because the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia

That's the night that they hung an innocent man

Well, don't trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer

Because the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

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'The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia' is the Ultimate Southern Gothic Story Song