I Hung My Head

Album: Mercury Falling (1996)
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song, a man grabs his brother's rifle to practice his aim. The gun accidentally goes off and kills a lone rider, and the shooter panics, runs off and throws the rifle into a stream. The song goes on to explain the verdict and how bad he felt and his plea for forgiveness. In the end, it is time for his own death, while the lone rider and him ride together to "kingdom come." It has much more of a Country/Bluegrass sound than most of Sting's songs. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jose - Houston, TX
  • Johnny Cash recorded this on his 2002 album American IV, The Man Comes Around. Careful listeners will notice Cash sings the lyric "My brother's rifle went into the stream" as "My brother's rifle went into the sheen," and the next line changes "salt lands" to "south lands." Sting assumes this came from a misprint but was nevertheless "so proud to hear my words and music interpreted by 'the master,'" he wrote in Lyrics By Sting.
  • "I wrote my version of the song in 9/8," Sting noted in Lyrics By Sting. "The guitar riff just occurred to me that way and reminded me of the gait of a galloping horse dragging a corpse. The story of a terrible accident, guilt, and redemption materialized out of the title and out of the haunting image of a riderless horse."
  • Johnny Cash's version was prominently featured in the sixth season premiere of The Shield and in the 2011 movie The Green Hornet.

Comments: 7

  • Gregory from La Verne, CaI see the song like this, A young man using his brothers rifle, he's a bit excited and the power of the gun like a teenager in powerful car, he spots the rider in the distance took aim thinks to himself "I could hit him" he makes the mistake...

    I felt the power
    Of death over life
    I orphaned his children
    I widowed his wife
    I begged their forgiveness
    I wish I was dead
    I hung my head
    I hung my head

    I believe the rider was Jebb his brother.

    Early one morning
    With time to kill
    I see the gallows
    Up on a hill
    And out in the distance
    A trick of the brain
    I see a lone rider
    Crossing the plain

    And he'd come to fetch me
    To see what they'd done
    And we'd ride together
    To kingdom come
    I prayed for god's mercy
    For soon I'd be dead
    I hung my head
    I hung my head

    And the 2nd Rider is also Jebb.

    That is my what thought are.

  • Katrina from Fate, TxI absolutley LOVE this song! I heard about it from my mom after a teacher told me about a book like it. I especially like the part where it says: I felt the power/ of death over life/ I orphaned his children/ I widowed his wife/ I beg their forgiveness/ I wish I was dead/ I hung my head, I hung my head. It's the best part! Go Sting!!!
  • Eve from Pécs, HungaryI also love the 9/8 rhythm. First I only felt it was something very extraordinary, then when I counted it I didn't believe my ears. Sting has always liked rare time signatures, and he can use them well in order to express what he wants. I also read in an interview that he said it wasn't easy at all to perform songs with such rhythm.
  • Blair from Parksville, CanadaI'm a drummer, and the odd 9/8 time intrigued me. It was tough to get a handle on it. Listening to it, it alternates between 'rock' beat and 'reggae beat. Now I've memorized the pattern and its so cool to do. The song '"Love is Stronger than Justice" from "Ten Summoner's Tales has a similar time signature.
  • Jason from Kingston, CanadaThis song is in 9/8 time-- not only hard to write a song in a weird time signature like this, but very hard to perform. Very cool.
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrI LOVE this song. Stings version is good but like so many other songs, Johhny Cash's version is great.
  • Pierre-yves from Belfort, FranceI like this song because Sting narration is very efficient. I like the song effect on "I set off running to wake from the dream" too.
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