Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Repost: The Long Black Veil

I'm reposting this for both negative and positive reasons.  The negative reason is that I'm entering a pretty-much-too-busy-to-post period over the next few weeks; the positive reason is that I was thinking about this performance and how much I love it.

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There's a long tradition in both high art and folk poetry of the voice from beyond the grave. Tennyson wrote:

Come not, when I am dead,
To drop thy foolish tears upon my grave,
To trample round my fallen head,
And vex the unhappy dust thou wouldst not save.
There let the wind sweep and the plover cry;
But thou, go by.

Child, if it were thine error or thy crime
I care no longer, being all unblest:
Wed whom thou wilt, but I am sick of Time,
And I desire to rest.
Pass on, weak heart, and leave me where I lie:
Go by, go by.


The 1959 song "The Long Black Veil," by Lefty Frizzell, has one foot in that tradition, and the other in the equally long tradition of crime balladry. Here is a wonderful performance of the song as a duet sung by Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell, from Cash's short-running television show at the end of the 1960s.

16 comments:

The Cottage Child said...

I'd forgotten about that song - I've spent what must be $100 and what seems like 100 hours doing husbands and my annual Valentine's exchange "mixed tape" (yes, we're dorks like that). There's a lot of Johnny Cash on it this year, and I'm not sure why...I might need to try to add this one, too.

Nice touch, the Tennyson - well worth the re-post.

It sounds like you're well, and good-busy? Praying so!

Pentimento said...

Thanks, CC. Actually super-stressed busy. I'll write more later.

Melanie B said...

Lovely. Thank you for that.

Rodak said...

I also like the version by The Band on (as I remember) "Music from Big Pink."

Pentimento said...

I like that version too.

Rodak said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zubzjaL5y9A

Anne-Marie said...

I only know this song as sung by Joan Baez, and her version is so much a sound of my childhood that I have a hard time accepting any other. In such musical company I hardly dare admit that this is the first time I've ever heard Joni Mitchell.

Pentimento said...

Anne-Marie, am I correct in my understanding that you're Canadian? I thought Joni would be a national hero in your country. At least she should be.

Anne-Marie said...

She probably is. My parents were American and I grew up in Quebec, so English Canada is kind of foreign territory to me. On the other hand, we all knew about Celine Dion before Titanic!

Pentimento said...

Funny! Well, it's never too late to be amazed by the great Ms. Mitchell.

Was Mavis Gallant a hero in Quebec? I love her stories.

lissla lissar said...

Yes, I've never listened to Joni Mitchell, either, and I'm Canadian, too.

My MiL lives five minutes from the Home Hardware that whatshername... annoying teen singer... Avril Lavigne! That's it! Worked at.

We're so sorry about her.

cnb said...

I think it would be fair to say that Joni Mitchell has "national treasure" status in Canada, for better and for worse. She hasn't been much in the spotlight these past few decades, but she is fairly well known to Canadians of a certain age. Blue is an album with a devoted following among connoisseurs of Canadian music. Most people, though, probably only remember "Big Yellow Taxi".

In any case, I wanted to thank you for posting that song. I hadn't heard the two of them sing it before, and it was wonderful.

Good luck and prayers to you with your adoption.

Pentimento said...

There's a certain perversity necessary for a Canadian chick never to have listened to Joni Mitchell, I think, but I can imagine that it must have been annoying growing up with her as an icon, since her life has been such a parody of itself. But her music (I say this as a doctor of music, for what that's worth) truly has often reached the level of genius; I think she's one of the most important musicians and composers of the past hundred years.

So that's a fair exchange for Avril Lavigne AND Céline Dion.

lissla lissar said...

I think it's mostly because I grew up in a musically ignorant family, plus my Dad and Mum were an older couple. Dad's turning eighty this year.

Mum listened to WWII music when I was growing up, and Dad has never listened to anything as far as I can tell.

Pentimento said...

May I humbly suggest you listen to Joni now? :) I'd say her masterpiece is the 1971 album Blue. It's a good place to start.

Pentimento said...

Craig, I didn't see your comment hiding there under a pile of others! Joni is a genius. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes.