Billy Paul

Album: Guitar Slinger (2011)
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Songfacts®:

  • The story Gill tells in this song actually happened. He explained: "It's a song about a friend of mine who took his life after he took someone else's life. It's very, very dark, but I love that in music. I was always drawn to music with those kinds of things."
  • Vince Gill's daughter Corrina made her recording debut at the age of nine singing on this track.
  • Both Gill's daughters and his stepdaughter sing on Guitar Slinger, as does the singer/guitarist's wife, Amy Grant. However, he told The Boot that it was never his intention to make the album a family affair. Instead, all in his mind was that it had the right sound. "I really try to hear the voices," he said. "So even though it's a 9-year-old kid [who sings on 'Billy Paul'], I knew what I wanted that to sound like. Corrina was really compelled by that song. It's a very dark song about murder and suicide. I went to Amy and said, 'This is either the worst idea I ever had or it might be really eerie and cool.' She said, 'Let's try it.' Just hearing a little girl's voice singing those words, 'What made you go crazy, Billy Paul?,' is pretty haunting. It was the right voice. Not the fact that it was my kid."
  • Roughstock quotes Gill explaining whom Billy Paul was: "It's a true story that happened a year or so ago. Billy Paul was a friend of mine that caddied out at the golf club where I play golf. We had been friends for 20 years. Unfortunately he took a woman's life and then took his own. I was crazy about him. I wanted to understand how it happened. He meant enough to me to write a song about him. 'What made you go crazy, Billy Paul? Was it true love or too much alcohol? Was your back all the way against the wall? What made you go crazy, Billy Paul.' It's a story song that talks about redemption and has a spiritual side to it, even as dark as it is."
  • Two of the biggest influences on Gill's music are Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, although Vince prides himself on finding his own musical path while drawing from elements of these Country legends. In our 2014 interview with Gill, he explained: "There was one record I made a couple of years ago where I really got emotional because it was the first time I've made a record that I felt like I really seeped into Merle Haggard. It was a song called 'Billy Paul.' The sound of the record, everything about it was Merle. It was a true story about a friend of mine that unfortunately killed a woman and then took his own life. So it's a dark subject. But in listening to it, I said, 'Now that sounds like something Merle Haggard would do.'"

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