Thursday, May 31, 2007

Long Black Veil


Murder ballads have a long history in the Southern Appalachians, but one of the most popular songs of a tragic death adds a few twists. “Long Black Veil” is the story of a man who didn’t murder anyone. The song is sung from the point of view of a man wrongly accused of a murder. When asked by the judge to provide an alibi, he refuses to tell that he had been having an affair with his best friend’s wife. Without an alibi, the man is hung for the murder and takes the secret of their affair to his grave.

But, ”Long Black Veil” is not a traditional Appalachian ballad. It was written in the late 1950s and first recorded by Lefty Frizzell in 1959. Even though the song is sung from the point of view of the wrongly hanged man, it was written by a woman, Marijohn Wilkin, an ex-school teacher who moved to Nashville after her first husband was killed in WWII. During the mid-1950s she toured with Red Foley and wrote many hit songs. Her songs were recorded by many of Country music’s biggest names. In 1959, she, along with Danny Dill wrote, ”Long Black Veil”. Wilkin, later reworked and recorded the song as ”My Long Black Veil”, sung from the woman’s perspective.

Many riders on the Bus may recognize Marijohn Wilkin as the one credited with discovery of Kris Kristofferson. As a songwriter, Marijohn also owned a publishing company in Nashville. One of Marijohn Wilkin’s cousins was in the army with Kristofferson and sent her several of his songs, which she published for him. "For the Good Times" was recorded by Ray Price in 1970 and went straight to the top of both the Country and Pop charts, giving Kristofferson instant credibility as a songwriter.

Marijohn Wilkin remained active in the music publishing business until her death last October. Her most recent hits were recorded by LeAnn Rimes.

The Country Gentlemen - Long Black Veil.mp3

Marijohn Wilkin - My Long Black Veil.mp3

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