Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Highwaymen - Highwayman

Image via La Wik
The enduring attraction of Country music is that it tells a story.  Sometimes it's a story of something like what's happened to you, or to someone you know.  Other genres of music do this, too.

But sometimes the stories are epic, like something out of Homer or the Chansons de Geste.  If this is your bag, baby, then you typically only have two choices: Opera, or Country.

This song could have been sung around a campfire of Caesar's Legions, or on a Viking Longship, or in Valley Forge.  It is but the latest addition to the timeless list of Epic Poetry that has come down through the ages.  Gilgamesh knew this song.  So did Roland.  The words and tune change, but the song remains the same.

Songs like this don't get much air play these days.  They are seen as a quaint relic of a less enlightened past, not useful for the cultural elites and their dreams of a transformed society.  That's why they need to be played.



Highwayman (Songwriter: Jimmy Webb)
I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride.
With sword and pistol by my side.
Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade.
Many a soldier shed his lifeblood on my blade.
The bastards hung me in the spring of twenty-five.
But I am still alive.

I was a sailor. I was born upon the tide.
And with the sea I did abide.
I sailed a schooner round the Horn to Mexico.
I went aloft and furled the mainsail in a blow.
And when the yards broke off they said that I got killed.
But I am living still.

I was a dam builder across the river deep and wide.
Where steel and water did collide.
A place called Boulder on the wild Colorado.
I slipped and fell into the wet concrete below.
They buried me in that great tomb that knows no sound.
But I am still around.
I'll always be around, and around, and around, and around, and around.

I fly a starship across the Universe divide.
And when I reach the other side,
I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can.
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again.
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain.
But I will remain.
And I'll be back again, and again, and again, and again, and again.
The words and tune change, but the song remains the same.
But Patroclus, overcome by the stroke of the god and by the spear, drew back into the throng of his comrades, avoiding fate. But Hector, when he beheld great-souled Patroclus drawing back, smitten with the sharp bronze, came nigh him through the ranks, and smote him with a thrust of his spear in the nethermost belly, and drave the bronze clean through; and he fell with a thud, and sorely grieved the host of the Achaeans. And as a lion overmastereth in fight an untiring boar, when the twain fight with high hearts on the peaks of a mountain for a scant spring, wherefrom both are minded to drink: hard panteth the boar, yet the lion overcometh him by his might; even so from the valiant son of Menoetius, after he had slain many, did Hector, Priam's son, take life away, smiting him from close at hand with his spear.
- Iliad,  Book XVI

7 comments:

greg said...

You point out that this song doesn't get air time much, and you're right...but it doesn't make sense. Sure, it's 'old'...but it as close to genre less as any song comes.

There is a 'live' version of this posted on youtube also that I prefer a bit more to the version you posted. To hear the crowd lose it when Mr. Cash does his verse adds another level. You wonder if they new they were getting a chance to see something historic.

I have never tried to rank my Top 10 Songs of All Time, but I have not doubt this would rank in the Top 10...maybe even into the Top 5.

greg said...

You point out that this song doesn't get air time much, and you're right...but it doesn't make sense. Sure, it's 'old'...but it as close to genre less as any song comes.

There is a 'live' version of this posted on youtube also that I prefer a bit more to the version you posted. To hear the crowd lose it when Mr. Cash does his verse adds another level. You wonder if they new they were getting a chance to see something historic.

I have never tried to rank my Top 10 Songs of All Time, but I have not doubt this would rank in the Top 10...maybe even into the Top 5.

Old NFO said...

It's a great one, and no, it WON'T get airplay today...

Robert Fowler said...

Here's another great one by them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8Q0sX2cv-Q&list=FL_LJVlulDmu7LUlgpP3XzeQ&index=39

America Remains. Good stuff.

Erik Onstott said...

I had forgotten that was a Jimmy Webb tune. He was also the genius responsible for several of Glen Campbell's most memorable hits, including "By the Time I Get To Phoenix," "Galveston," and "Wichita Lineman."

housefitter said...

I've loved this song for ages because of the message of a free spirit that lives on, not to mention that when Waylon and Willie and Johnny do something together, it's always BA.
I have never seen this video however, and it sure looks like the Northrup F-20 tigershark makes an appearance... you know... I like it even more now. :-) pardon me while I hit rewind!

.45ACP+P said...

Wow, I just had a flashback to Art Bell's overnight show on AM radio. He used to play this as ending music. At that time I did not know its origin. It still sends chills.