Living In The Promiseland

Album: The Promiseland (1986)
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Songfacts®:

  • Written by country singer David Lynn Jones, this heartfelt tune paints an optimistic picture of America as a safe haven for immigrants in search of freedom. Jones started writing the song in 1980, around the time Florida's population was multiplying due to an influx of immigrants from Cuba during a period of economic crisis in their own country. But the move wasn't quite what they expected.

    "The Cuban thing was goin' on and the Cubans were supposed to get all these things and they weren't gettin' anything," Jones recalled in The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits. "But it was all the boat people from Vietnam, too, and I suppose subconsciously, that's what inspired the song, because the song isn't about America the Great or America the Beautiful. It's about America the Dream, and it's whatever you make it. A lot of people come here thinkin' it's one thing and find something else."
  • Jones abandoned the unfinished song for a while and forgot all about it until he got a new publisher who wanted him to submit all of his works, even the incomplete ones. After he stumbled upon it again, he finished it up in five minutes and cut a demo that featured a handful of other songs.

    Willie Nelson's bass player, Bee Spears, got a hold of the demo and played it for the singer during a round of golf. "Living In The Promiseland" stood out, and he asked Jones to perform it at the inaugural Farm Aid concert in 1985. A week later, Nelson recorded the track in Austin for his album The Promiseland.
  • This was a #1 hit on the Country chart. It was Nelson's 12th trip to the summit as a solo artist.
  • When Nelson was honored with the Library of Congress' Gershwin Award in 2015, he performed this tune as a political statement in response to debates over immigration policy during the Syrian refugee crisis.

    "I think this is one of the most appropriate songs that we could do for this period in America," Nelson explained. "Many years ago, I recorded this song and I felt like this might be a good time to kind of try to bring it back."
  • Jones recorded his own version in 1988. It was released as the B-side to his Waylon Jennings duet "High Ridin' Heroes."
  • A week after this went to #1 in June 1986, it was used in the re-dedication ceremonies for the Statue of Liberty.
  • Promiseland was Nelson's last #1 album on the Country Albums chart until 2014's Band Of Brothers.

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