Band – Long Black Veil

I’ve heard many versions of this song but when I heard Rick Danko sing it with the Band…that was it.

Long Black Veil was written in 1959 by Danny Dill with Marijohn Wilkin. Dill called it an “instant folk song.” One of Dill’s inspirations was a newspaper story about a mysterious woman who, wearing a black veil, repeatedly visited the grave of film star Rudolph Valentino.

Long Black Veil tells a compelling story from an unusual perspective. It is told from the grave by a man who was hanged for a murder he did not commit. He could have saved himself but chose not to because his alibi carried a terrible price: “I’d been in the arms of my best friend’s wife.”

It was originally recorded in Nashville by Lefty Frizzell, produced by Don Law. The peaked #6 on the Country Music Charts.

The Band’s version was on Music from Big Pink. The album peaked at #30 in the Billboard Album Charts and #18 in Canada in 1968.

Now considered a standard, it has been covered by many artists including Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Hornsby, and many other artists.

Long Black Veil

Ten years ago on a cool dark night
There was someone killed ‘neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene and they all did agree
That the man who ran looked a lot like me

The judge said “Son, what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else then you won’t have to die”
I spoke not a word although it meant my life
I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

The scaffold was high and eternity neared
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night when the cold wind moans
In a long black veil she cries over my bones




Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

46 thoughts on “Band – Long Black Veil”

  1. Molly Felder of the great Nashville band, Swan Dive. once told me a great story about this song. In her early days in Music City, she was singing the song on a stage in the shopping mall and during a break, a woman came up to her and told her that she really like her version of the song she wrote! It was Marijohn. Only in Music City.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a thrill that had to be!You are right only in Nashville. My friend Hanspostcard told me about your blog… Love the list of 79 you had…
      I live in Cheatham county next door to Davidson… nice to see other locals on WordPress.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw a clip of Cash singing it with Joni Mitchell. My dad always said that the Beatles & Cash made a living singing off key. Cash & Mitchell don’t exactly mesh but, it’s interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I get why he says that about Cash or Dylan but not The Beatles…because if they are…that means the Everly Brothers and the Eagles were also…because all did similiar ….


      3. IDK. He did say the Beatles, specifically, all harmonized well…off key. He was a HUGE Everlys fan and never made that remark about them. The Eagles? IDK about that, either. I think he liked some Eagles stuff but, nothing in particular comes to mind. He may have had the Hotel California album but…I may be thinking of my uncle, his younger brother. They were eight years apart and their music tastes differed. He never said a word, that I recall, about Dylan. And, there wasn’t a Dylan record in the house.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The reason I brought up the Eagles is because they harmonized close to what the Beatles did…and the Beatles basically copped the Everly Brothers.

        I don’t know…when I hear Nowhere Man or This Boy I don’t hear flat…now maybe it’s something earlier he heard.

        The Eagles stuff before Hotel California was more harmony.


      5. I think some people didn’t like them because A: they just didn’t like the music or B: because everyone else did…or hype.
        Steven Spielberg once said he didn’t like them because everyone else did until The White Album…he said he couldn’t hold out anymore when he heard it.

        I did talk to a country musician when I bought an amp…he was telling me how the world changed…not just music but the world after they were on Ed Sullivan. He was talking people’s outlooks, clothes, hair, music…even he said country music changed… It was a cool conversation and he wasn’t a big Beatles fan.

        PS….I’m watching some WKRP…OH you need that!


      6. My dad never changed his mind…from beginning to end. He didn’t like the Beatles and he didn’t like any of their solo stuff. There was nothing about them that appealed to him what so ever. My mom got into Wings.

        I developed a like for certain pieces on my own. My taste in music is pretty broad. I can find something to love in any genre…though some genres are a little harder to find good stuff. Rap is a bit tough for me and so is jazz.

        Bring on the WKRP…

        Liked by 1 person

      7. My tastes are not bold…I have more of a narrow view…I can broaden it if there is small section I like but the most part I like what I like. I respect some that I don’t like. Some progressive bands I respect but never liked much.


      8. Well I did what we talked about… 3 album tracks today…not one top 40 though this one and the ZZ Top ones are at least known.


      1. It does I will say that. Maybe they adapted it from an older folk song but I couldn’t find that.
        It fit the Band perfectly.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. John I was going to add that one along with The Band version. I listened to a version by them last night and it was great.
      I found out about the Chieftains through Van Morrison…he has played with them a lot.


      1. I have friends that are really into Irish music. That’s how I found The Chieftains. Incidentally, Van’s version of “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” with The Chieftains is the best version I’ve heard…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The story the song tells haunts me every time I hear it. Did you see my Memorial Day poems? (Haikai Challenge?) I used the title in a poem. Jim’s right, Danko’s vocals make this song.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yup Max. Another one of my favorite singers (and band). The Band are or were so good. I’m always pretty close to their music. I went on to discover Lefty Frizzel’s version. Merle Haggard pushed me there. You’re hitting the spot with your choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could blog just about The Band and be happy. So much talent in that band. I love Merle…I grew up on that with my dad playing him.
      Old Country I really like. My family made guitars for George Jones and other custom made guitars for different artists in the 50s through the 70s…so I grew up with that country.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve seen the Baseball and Civil War but not the country one…I do love documentaries…and Burns is one of if not the best.

        If you get bored…and I don’t like pushing things on people but here is a post I made on my families guitar business…a business I had nothing to do with…I was too young.

        Liked by 1 person

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