Long Black Veil

Album: The Best Of Lefty Frizzell (1959)


  • Written in 1959 by Danny Dill with Marijohn Wilkin, this was deliberately crafted to resemble a traditional ballad. Dill called it an "instant folk song." It was originally recorded in Nashville by Lefty Frizzell (with Wilkin on piano), produced by Don Law. It reached #6 on the country music charts.
  • Now considered a folk/country standard, it has been covered by myriad artists including Johnny Cash, The Band, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, The Chieftains, The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, and Bruce Hornsby.

    The song had a particular impact on Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek. Her family would take her to see a group called Bluegrass Etc., and she loved their rendition of "Long Black Veil." When she was just four years old, the group had her come on stage and sing it with them.
  • The lyrics concern a man accused of murder on circumstantial evidence, who will not speak up to exonerate himself because he was sleeping with his best friend's wife on the fatal night. Remaining silent to save her life and reputation, he goes to the gallows, and she visits his grave secretly. The composers said they were inspired by Red Buttons' "God Walks These Hills With Me" as well as contemporary news reports about the death of a New Jersey priest who actually was murdered under a town hall light in full view of 50 witnesses. Neither the motive nor the killer was ever named. The writers combined these elements with the story of the mysterious veiled woman who annually visits Rudolph Valentino's tomb to leave red roses.
  • Like this song, Valentino's veiled mourner was also deliberately invented "folklore." Publicist Russ Birdwell made up the story of the mystery woman for a 1928 documentary and hired an actress to play the part. The subsequent veiled women are Valentino fans who picked up on the story.
  • The song's actual title is "The Long Black Veil," but most people know it without the article. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ekristheh - Halath, for all above
  • The Band, who included the song on their 1968 album Music Trom Big Pink, performed it at Woodstock the following year.

Comments: 1

  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaThat steel guitar of Don Helms (I believe) just makes this tune.
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