Lost Highway

Album: Lost Highway (1949)

Songfacts®:

  • This song gave us two of the most famous metaphors in music: the Lost Highway and the Rolling Stone (from the line, "I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost").

    Both images represent a wandering spirit that keeps moving but often ends up in dark places. Many musicians who left town to pursue their dreams could relate to these concepts and used them in songs. The Lost Highway shows up in:

    "All I Left Behind" and "Guitar Town" by Emmylou Harris

    "Heart Is A Drum" by Beck ("You're falling down across your lost highway")

    "Happiness" by Lee Ann Womack ("Down by the lost highway cafe I met a man there with a map in his hands")

    "Jesus Of Suburbia" by Green Day ("At the end of another lost highway. Signs misleading to nowhere.")

    Those New Jersey ramblers Bon Jovi made their song "Lost Highway" the title track of their 2007 album; in 2009, Willie Nelson also released an album of that name. In 1997, director David Lynch released a suitably disconcerting movie called Lost Highway.
  • The saying "a rolling stone gathers no moss" dates to biblical times, but this song popularized it in the musical landscape. It was Williams' version that gave Bob Dylan the title for "Like a Rolling Stone," which has been the subject of many essays, including one written by Ralph Gleason, who used the phrase when he founded the magazine Rolling Stone.

    In 1950, Muddy Waters released the song "Rollin' Stone," which is where The Rolling Stones got their name.
  • This became one of Hank Williams' most famous songs, but he didn't write it. It was written by a blind singer named Leon Payne, who released the original version in 1948. According to an interview with Payne's widow published in the book Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, he wrote the song when he was hitchhiking from Texas to California when he got stuck for a stretch and was taken in by the Salvation Army.

    His version is surprisingly upbeat, featuring a string band and various quips by Payne throughout the song.

    Payne's version didn't reach the charts, but when Williams recorded it in 1949, that rendition made #12 on the Country chart. The song grew in popularity as Williams legend grew, as it was so associated with his itinerant lifestyle of wine, women and song.

    Payne, who died in 1969, also wrote the popular songs "I Love You Because" and "Psycho."
  • Lost Highway was used as the title for an off-Broadway play about Williams that ran in 2003.
  • Artists to cover this song include Leon Russell, Tom Petty, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Osborne Brothers, Bill Frisell and Johnny Horton.

Comments: 2

  • Paul Alge Moore from Kingston Springs Tn. There is also a named stretch of road in south Alabama where Hank and myself are from called Hank Williams Lost Highway
  • Dom Capobianco from New YorkLegends attach themselves to and grow out of songs such as this great one along with the immortality and popularity of the country and western legend himself, Hank Williams.
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