Galveston

Album: Galveston (1969)
Charted: 14 4
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This was written by songwriter Jimmy Webb, who also wrote Campbell's hits "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman." Webb also wrote "MacArthur Park," which was a hit for both Richard Harris and Donna Summer, and "Up-Up and Away," which was recorded by The 5th Dimension.

    When we spoke with Jimmy Webb in 2011, he said: "Glen was very, very good at commercializing my songs. He could come up with great intros and great solos, great breaks, and he wrote perfect strings, because he wrote very little. It was a minimalist approach and it just left Glen out there with the song and the guitar. I tended to write a little bit more as an arranger, and probably too much. So I could have done better to have stayed out of Glen's way, I think."
  • Galveston is a city on the coast of Texas that attracts lots of hurricanes. Webb was on a beach in Galveston when he wrote the song. He made up the story about a soldier in the Spanish-American war and the girl he left behind. Most songwriters never find themselves in places like Galveston or Wichita, but Webb found inspiration in the people he encountered in these places.
  • The Vietnam War was going on when Campbell released this. It was considered an antiwar song.
  • The Hawaiian singer Don Ho was the first to record this song, releasing it as the B-side of his single "Has Anybody Lost A Love?" in 1968. Ho recalled that when he appeared on Campbell's show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour in 1969, he gave Campbell a copy of the single and told him, "I didn't have any luck with this, maybe you will."
  • Little Richard, who speaks his mind and doesn't hand out praise lightly, said of this song: "When Glen Campbell says one word - 'Galveston' - it shakes me up. It takes me, man, that's the whole soul of it right there."
  • This made the CMT Top 10 list of all-time great country music songs. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Charles - Charlotte, NC
  • David Nail covered this for his 2014 I'm a Fire album. "Him being a huge hero of mine, it was very important for me to show that I had such a fondness for him," Nail explained to Taste of Country of his connection to Campbell. "I made a little elementary school note 'check yes or no' and just listened to the songs and held it up to my producer Frank Liddell, knowing full well that he would most likely pick 'Galveston.'"

    Nail turned the song into a duet with Lee Ann Womack. The songbird is married to Liddell, and he was able to get her to join Nail for its recording. "My wife is a huge Glen Campbell fan, so she came and sang on it," said Liddell. "I think it's one of the most beautiful things on the record."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 62

  • Ned Meyers from Barrins-dunkin, NcAmazing that Don Ho was able to introduce Galveston to Glen in 1969 given that Glen recorded it in May 1968.
  • Ron from Clifton, VaAgree with the comment that this song could be about any war - fear of dying - longing for home. So it will be timeless. Having said that - it was released by Glen Campbell at the height of the Vietnam War and the gut wrenching feel it gave to the nation and the deep chord it struck at the time will be its most lasting legacy.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaMy late dad and I both loved this song a lot.
  • Manman from The ZooFrom "Sound Observations"
    Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:44 by Dan Armonaitis

    ------------------------
    "I asked Webb about the song's subtle anti-war subtext."
    Webb replied, "If there was a statement, and obviously I was saying something, I prefer to say it wasn't anti-war – that it was more about an individual getting involved in a war and realizing that he'd rather be somewhere else.
    ------------------------

    Okay, so we are clear now that Webb did not write this as an "anti war" song.
    Next, about which war it was referring to...

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Webb then returned to his original thought about "Galveston."

    "A lot of people didn't get the idea that there was anything in there about Vietnam at all," he said. "I've had people come up to me and say, 'is that song about the Civil War?' And, the first couple of times, I guess my mouth must have fell so far open that I looked like the champion at a bass fishing tournament. It was like, 'excuse me, Civil War? No, it wasn't.'
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Webb makes it pretty clear in the above interview remarks that the song was
    a) not an "anti war" song and
    b) it was about the Vietnam War
  • Don from San Angelo, TxTrue story. In 1991 I was in Iraq, fighting in the 1st Gulf War. My driver was a big Glen Campbell fan, and had several tapes (yeah... cassette tapes back then). We stopped just outside an Iraqi base so our artillery could pound the place before the tanks went charging in, so I hauled out my M-16 and started cleaning it. Z-man (my driver) did the same, but started his tape player. Galveston started playing, which got me thinking: I hadn't seen my wife & kids for 9 months, and it would be nice to take them down to the beach when I got back. Then it hit me - my life was mimicking the damn song! "As I watch the cannon flashing/I clean my gun/And dream of Galveston." Every hair stood up on the back of my neck and I literally had chills running down my spine. To this day, every time I hear the song, I flash back to that day. (It never struck me as anti-war; it's about a lonely, scared soldier praying that he gets back home. )
  • Coy from Palestine, TexasCampbell's version was an anti war protest about the Vietnam War. Webb has said many times he wrote the song thinking about the Spanish American War (the Rough Riders met in Galveston before sailing to Cuba). Cannon was also changed in Campbell's version to mean artillery cannon--while Webb originally wrote "Cannon splashing"--it's a fish that splashes in the water at Galveston. Campbell borrowed Carol Kaye's Danelectro 6 string bass for the song--he had used it on Wichita Lineman and considered it lucky. Danelectro still is in business and they make great 6 and 12 string bass guitars that have a unique sound.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 2nd 1969, Glen Campbell performed "Galveston" on his own CBS-TV program 'The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour'...
    At the time the song was at #5 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; a week later it would peak at #4 {for 1 week} and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #1 {for 3 weeks} on April 13th, 1969 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart...
    And on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart it reached #1 {for 6 weeks} on March 23rd, 1969...
    North of the border in Canada it would reached #1 on both the RPM Country Singles* and Contemporary Singles chart...
    * On the Canadian Country Singles chart it was his third of six straight #1s on that chart.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPianist Roger Williams released an instrumental version of this song, also in 1969; it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 on June 1st at position #100, the next week it was at #99 and then it fell off the chart...
    It was his 22nd and last Top 100 record; his biggest hit was his 1st charted record, "Autumn Leaves", it reached #1 (for 4 weeks) in October 1955 on Billboard's Best Selling in Stores chart...
    R.I.P. Mr. Williams, born Louis Jacob, (1924 - 2011) and may God bless and watch over Mr. Campbell.
  • Joanne from Seaford, Nyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arYwREJ2KnU

    for those who have never heard the Don Ho version ...
    he was the first one ever to record the song.

    Glad Glen Campbell was able to turn it into a hit it would have been a shame
    if it never was heard by the masses it is a beautiful song. Campbell also took
    Jimmy Webb's song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" after Johnny Rivers
    first recorded it and turned that into a hit (Johnny's version was an album cut
    not a single, though.)
  • Joanne from Seaford, NyCOMPARE different lyric!


    GLEN CAMPBELL'S version of - GALVESTON

    Galveston, oh Galveston
    I still hear your sea winds blowing
    I still see your dark eyes glowing
    She was 21 when I left Galveston

    Galveston, oh Galveston
    I still hear your sea winds crashing
    While I watch the cannon flashing
    And I clean my gun
    And I dream of Galveston

    I still see her standing by the water
    Standing there looking out to sea
    And is she waiting there for me
    On a beach where we used to run?

    Galveston, oh Galveston
    I am so afraid of dying
    Before I dry the tears she's crying
    Before I see your sea birds flying in the sun
    At Galveston
    At Galveston
    At Galveston

    ~ ~ ~

    DON HO'S version of - GALVESTON

    Galveston (female background singers – 4 times)

    Galveston, oh Galveston
    Why do I hear your sea winds blowin'?
    Why do I see her dark eyes glowin'?
    She was 21 when I left Galveston

    Galveston, oh Galveston
    Wonder if she could forget me?
    I'd go home if they would let me
    Put down this gun
    And go to Galveston

    I can almost see her by the water
    Standing there looking out to sea
    And is she waiting there for me
    On the beach where we used to run?

    Galveston, oh Galveston
    I am so afraid of dying
    Before I dry the tears she's crying
    Before I see the sea birds flying in the sun
    At Galveston
    At Galveston
    At Galveston
  • Staley from Dallas, Tx"Galveston" is only an anti-war song in that it expresses the longing of a soldier at war for his home and his beloved. It's not explicitly a condemnation of Vietnam (or any war, for that matter); it's just a song about fear he won't make it back home.
  • Jack from Westerville , OhThe definitive Webb version of Galveston is on "letters" circa 1972. bizarre open tuning that rips at you because it's an unresolved chord and expresses that yearning so purely. First time you hear it, hang on to your heart.
  • Jack from Westerville , OhYeah, it could be about this war or that.... but IT IS NOT! It's about Vietnam. saw a YouTube vid where he mocked the way Campbell did the song. I don't know how many times he has to say it. IT'S ABOUT VIETNAM WRITTEN WHEN AMERICANS WERE DYING BY THE TENS OF THOUSANDS. That wouldn't be a particularly good time to write a song about the Spanish American war not would it?
  • Chomper from Northampton County, PaGlenn Campbell is still alive and living ; but is suffering from Alzhimer's Disease ( as though I've read on Wikipedia and a little of the past news)... I always thought this song was about the City of Galveston, Texas ; not about the Vietman War.
  • Matthew from London, United KingdomIs anybody else wondering what the protagonist of this song is referring to when he sings about "cleaning his gun"? Especially while he thinks of his lovely lass back home? After all, Jimmy Webb was noted for his use of metaphor. Striped pair of pants, for instance.
  • Kent from Lodi, CaI'm not totally sure, but I think Campbell is playing either a 6 string bass or a baritone guitar to get those low "twangy" notes. Campbell was an established studio musician and played on many (uncredited) songs, some of them hits. He was definetly a better guitarist than most singer/songwriters at the time and could hold his own with any conterpory guitar "star" of the day.
  • Bill from Concord, NcWhy does this song have to be about any war in particular? Common to all wars are fear and sacrifice
  • Roger from Chicago, IlA tribute to this song.
    http://chicagoguy14.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/jimmy-webbs-soldiers-writing-home/
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyI always associated this song with the Vietnam war, likewise "Galveston Bay" by Bruce Springsteens has an underlying theme concerning the Vietnam war. Both songs are very thought provoking and beautiful written!!!
  • Ernest from Brooklyn, NyMy very favorite song!
  • David from Austin , FlJimmy Webb also wrote Wichita Lineman which has the most poignant line ever written about love and longing: "And I need you more than want you... and I want you for all time". I don't know another single lyric that is more haunting and meaningful except maybe the line in this song: "I am so afraid of dying before I dry the tears she's crying". Webb is one of a kind. Beautiful, haunting and captivating. You can't listen to either song without sharing intimately the feelings of the soldier or the lineman.
  • Edward from Birmingham, AlI like the Jimmy Webb recorded version, which, I believe is piano only. Different tempo than Glen Campbells hit version. If you don't have that version, get it from iTunes. I had always thought it was the Vietnam War he was refernceing. As an historian of the Spanish-American War, I am curious as to the basis on that war comes from. Any comments/contributions very appreciated. It's an extraordiary song, regardless.
    -Ed, Alabama
  • Michael from Illinois, IlGalveston is a great,great song. I always dug
    the Duane Eddy Twangy guitar as the song goes
    out. Once you hear it you wanna play it over
    and over.
  • Tom from Ny, NyGreat song but wish it had more lyrics
  • Michael from Illinois, IlGalveston is a great, great song. I always dug
    the Duane Eddy Guitar as the goes out. I wished
    it didn't fade so quickly.
  • Guy from Green Bay, WiHi...

    In the "Trivia" near the bottom of this site/page (re: Don Ho): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0387290/bio it says that Don Ho gave the song "Galveston" to Glen Campbell...any clue what that is all about? Ho didn't write it or anything.

    Just wondering....found it curious!
  • Kaser from Singapore, SingaporePaul, you've got it spot on regarding the line "I'm so afraid of dying before I dry the tears she's crying." To me, that is one of the most profound lines ever written for a song. When I listen to it every time, I don't picture a young soldier who is fearful of death, but one who is so afraid that he will never see his love ever again.
  • Harold from San Bernadino, CaEspecially love the bridge.
  • Gavin from Cardiff, United KingdomA great song and, as others have said, pro-soldier rather than anti-war (although it is probably both). The sad thing is not that there is disagreement about which war but that there have been so many wars which it could be. A Texan soldier waiting to attack in the Wilderness would have felt much the same as one waiting to attack in the Meuse-Argonne in 1918 (or any of the others wars mentioned).
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, Calove the coda to this song!("watch the seabirds flying in the sun....at Gal-ves-ton")great writing
  • Joel from Wheeling, WvI agree (John from Australia), this song is about the Spanish-American war.
  • Ginny from Richmond, VaI believe that this is during the spanish american war. He left his young woman in Galveston and said his last goodbye to her before leaving to war. He had his his navy uniform and they were together at the beach in Galveston where they frequently visited.

    He and she knew that he would never come by and he was ultimately killed during the spanish american war by cannons, which did eventually sink the USS Maine in the spanish american war. He unfortunately was on that ship preparing for war. Cleaning his gun and thinking about his love and Galveston and wishing he was there and not in war.

    She was left behind as he never did return.
  • Brian from Boston, MaPaul from Seminole, I think you have a clear understanding of the song and you expressed yourself beautifully.
  • Paul from Seminole, FlAs a kid, when the song was popular, I always thought that the song was within the context of the Civil War. Mostly the "cannons flashing" line I suppose. Subsequently, it occurred to me that it was from the perspective of the soldier being in Viet Nam. Just as pertinent for a guy now in the mountains of Afghanistan. I guess it doesn't even matter. Just people trying to protect the inner thoughts of their childhood. Any war. Great song. Period.

    Also haunting to me is the line "I am so afraid of dying". If you read the lyrics and the punctuation, that's not what he said at all. What he said accurately is "I am so afraid of dying before I dry the tears she's crying, etc"...There just happens to be a pause between the phrases in the music, no punctuation.

    The young, heroic soldier had come to terms with death in war. What he could not resolve was never seeing his girl again. That's the whole beautiful, poetic point of the song, to me. In this guy's moment that we get to share with him, Love is more important to him than his life. Gorgeous.
  • Farrah from Elon, NcThis is such a beautiful, yet haunting song. A real classic!!!
  • Dave Bower from Poky, IdOn the DVD Glen Campbell In Concert he talks about the song Galveston. In fact he says Don Hoe did record it & gave him a copy of the 45-rpm record. Glen redid it & made it a hit. He sates the song was not about Vietnam but seemed appreciate due to what was going on in Nam.
  • Mark from Byrdstown, TnJimmy Webb is just an awesome songwriter.This simple song really impacts you with the horror of war without ever using any brutal words about war really,just a young man afraid of dying ,which is what all wars are....young men dying in their prime.
  • Scott from Aberdeen, SingaporeThat the song is DEFINITElY about Galveston Texas is proven by the orginal video which shows lots of shots of Galveston Texas:

    see
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIUPCfIihQ4

    Scott, ABerdeen, Scotland
  • Craig from Ottawa, CanadaI heard Jimmy Webb interviewed this past Saturday, and he talked about "Galveston." It is about the Vietnam war. He said, "I wanted to write a song about a soldier who just wants to go home. He's past caring about the politics or the right or wrong...he's just done...he just wants to go home."
  • Mister P from Magnolia, TxHey....Darrell, Eugene,....take a handful of laxatives and you'll feel a lot better. Ease up and maybe you'll make it to 2016. You will get at least one vote when you run for president...yours!! Just stick with the music commentary and skip your opinions about coastal flooding.
  • Darrell from EugeneAs for Galveston and hurricanes, I believe that all areas within 30 miles of an ocean should be permantly evacuated, abandoned and left to rot, or better yet, evacuated, destroyed and allowed to go back to nature because of hurricanes and tsunamis. That applies to Galveston, Texas as much as it does to Indonesia, the rest of the Gulf Coast, South Florida, Southern California (a place that I despise), Cape Cod, Long Island, Manhattan and many other places. By the way, I hope to run for president in 2016 (if I am still alive then) and make this comment law, as well as the one that I left on the "Alyssa Lies" by Jason Carrol page and many other ideas of mine.
  • Michael from Nashville, TnI am from Nashville. Jimmy has stated several times that this song is about "a young man in Vietnam who yearns for his girl and hometown while trying to stay alive." There is no Galveston South Carolina.(There is a Gaston). "Cannons flashing" can refer to the big artillery cannons used in modern war. This song is not really an anti-war song, but more about the young men sent to fight as they have what they are fighting for on their minds. Vietnam was a bad time and this song struck a lot of chords with people.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnBeautiful lyrics, perhaps Webb's best (which is saying something).
  • Paul from San Antonio, TxThis song is about a Soldier, not a war, any war.
  • Rick from Seattle, WaOne of the reasons this song was so popular in the U.S. in 1969 was that it honored the sacrifices of the soldier, regardless of how you felt about the war (or war in general). It was especially popular in the U.S. South, which since the Civil War has preserved the custom of honoring its soldiers while seperating their sacrifice and devotion to duty and country from the politics of the war itself. That's why I don't think of it so much as an "anti-war" song, as it was a "pro-soldier" song. As such, it can pretty much apply to any war.

    Just for clarification: U.S/Mexican war was in 1847-48. The U.S Civil War was from 1861-65. The Spanish-American war (fought in Cuba and the Phillipines) begain in 1898. I just mention this because there seems to be some confusion here.
  • Al from Madison, NjBack when this was the number one hit, I thought it was a song opposed to the war in Vietnam. But now "cannons flashin'" seems to me to be a reference to an earlier war. Texas provided many of the troops for the War of 1898 ( a/k/a Spanish-American War ) . Given that in 1898, when the soldierin this song is dreaming of Galveston, Galveston had not yet been hit by the killer hurricane of 1900, the lyrics are even more haunting. In fact, before the hurricane, Galveston was the major gulf city. It was a bigger deal than Houston, too. I appreciate the song even more now.
    One last point for our friend in Scotland-- the American Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter, which is in Charleston harbor, SC. There is no Galveston , SC.
  • George from Rural Retreat, VaThis song expresses the universal feelings and yearnings of any soldier of any nation in a wartime situation. The exact war is not important. He is dreaming of his girlfriend back home in Galveston, TX, yet thinking about things that every soldier thinks about.
    "While I watch the cannons flashing/I clean my gun and dream of Galveston" refers to the muzzle flashes of artillery (especially at night) while he is idle and cleaning his rifle.
    "And is she waiting there for me?" Every soldier often wonders if his girlfriend will be there for him when he gets home, while thoughts such as "I am so afraid of dying" are constantly in the back of his mind. Overall a very visual, heart-tugging song for anyone who has been separated from home during a time of danger.
  • Kerouac's Ghost from The Void, TxAndrew from Scotland: Not sure where you got your info, but it is incorrect. Webb, on many occasions, has discussed the origins of this song and having been in Galveston, TEXAS and being inspired to write it. Campbell, when performing it, almost always says, "This is dedicated to the Texans in the audience."
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnGalveston, oh Galveston. What a great country hit for Glen Campbell. It was also part of a stellar 1968 for writer Jimmy Webb, who also hit it big with MacArthur Park and The Worst That Could Happen.
  • Collin from Texas, TxWell, actually, I wouldn't say Glaveston attracts many hurricanes, although it did attract the worst unnamed hurricane in American history, killing more than six thousand people. Katrina was one state over, and most of the others have gone towards Florida or the east coast.
  • Rafael from Pasadena, CaI must admit that before I read all of these posts I never thought about the meaning of the lyrics.

    Now listening to it on my IPOD I am reflecting and thinking that he yearns for Galveston while he is away at war.
  • Wesley from Edmond, OkJimmy Webb was featured on the CMT special, "20 greatest city songs" and talkes briefly about the song. He mentions that he is talking about the song in context of the Vietnam war.
  • Heather from Belfast, OtherCan't understand this obsession with the exact war/battle the song refers to. When I listen to it, I hear a soldier in the in the heat of battle, thinking of home and girl, left behind - in Galveston, Texas. He is desparately hoping to survive to get home again. It's such a sad song and haunting. Which war matters not at all!
    Peridot, N Ireland.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumGene Pitney, Harry Nilsson, Glen Campbell, Sonny and Cher, all people who worked with Phil Spector and became famous. The opportunity working with a great talent like Phil Spector was the start of many successful careers.
    Remember always the good things someone did for you and keep them in your heart.
  • Jenifer from Tokyo, JapanI think that this is a beautiful song, but the fact is that he is NOT *in* Galveston while he is watching the cannons flashing and cleaning his gun. This is his "dream of Galveston". Whether Texas or SC, he is NOT in Galveston...that's kind of the point.

    I also would like to know if Jimmy Webb ever discussed this lovely song.
  • Roger from Grapevine, TxUnfortunately for your theory Andrew, there's NOT a Galveston, South Carolina. The battle you're thinking about was in Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

    But everything else is probably accurate.
  • Jim from San Jose, Ca"I still hear your sea waves crashing
    While I watch the cannons flashing
    I clean my gun and dream of Galveston"

    Sounds like it's about a Confederate soldier.
    As part of the Civil War Union blockade, a squadron of eight ships entered Galveston harbor to demand surrender of the most important Texas port on October 4, 1862, occuping the wharf and patrolling the town.

    The Confederates entered Galveston on New Year's night, January 1, 1863, and opened fire before dawn. Naval guns helped drive back the assault. Then the Confederate "cottonclads" struck from the rear of the Union squadron retaking Galveston.
  • Andrew from Scotland, ScotlandHang on folks, although I come from Scotland, I think I'm right in saying that this song doesn't concern Galveston, Texas, but Galveston, South Carolina, where the American Civil War started in earnest in 1861.
    My understanding is that Jimmy Webb was writing about a young man going to war thinking about all he was sacrificing. The fact it was written around the time of the Vietnam conflict made it all the more pertinent and may have been Webb's subtle critique of that war.
    Indeed, considering world events now, some might even say it's more pertinent than ever in December 2004!...Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
  • John from Sydney, AustraliaHas Jimmy ever discussed this beautiful song and the meaning(s) behind it?

    I always assumed it was about Vietnam, because of the time it was written. But the references to "cannons flashin'" (cannon being very much a weapon of the late 19th century) and "lookin' out to sea" (i.e south from Texas) do suggest the Spanish-American War.

    Any thoughts?

    Cheers

  • Sarah from Ottawa, CanadaThis my mom's favorite song by Glen Campbell, she told me.
  • Dan from Auckland, New ZealandJimmy Webb also wrote such classics as "MacArthur Park", "The Moon's a harsh mistress", and "Up, Up and away (in my Beautiful Balloon)", the latter making him a millionaire songwriter by the tender age of 21.
  • Hamilton from Chicago, IlI believe this was about the Vietnam war.
see more comments