"Long Black Veil" is a 1959 country ballad about a man suspected of murder. The alleged refuses to provide an alibi, because he was having an affair with his best friend's wife at the time, and would rather die than reveal this. Subsequently, he is executed by hanging, taking their secret to the grave. The chorus describes the woman's mourning visits to his gravesite in her long black veil. The song is sung from the point of view of the executed man.
Originally recorded in Nashville in 1959 by Lefty Frizzell and produced by Don Law, it reached #6 on the U.S. Country chart. The song was written by composer and singer Danny Dill with Marijohn Wilkin in a folk music style in 1959. Wilkin also played piano on the original recording by Frizzell.
The writers later stated that they drew on three sources for their inspiration: Red Foley's recording of "God Walks These Hills With Me"; a contemporary newspaper report about the unsolved murder of a priest; and the legend of a mysterious veiled woman who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino's grave. Dill himself called it an "instant folksong".
The song was a departure from Frizzell's previous honky tonk style and was a deliberate move toward the current popularity of folk-styled material and the burgeoning Nashville sound. It has become a 'standard' and has been covered by a variety of artists in country, folk and rock styles. It appeared on landmark albums by Johnny Cash and The Band in 1968 (see list below), and charted again in 1999 with the Dave Matthews Band, who performed the song live with Emmylou Harris at a Johnny Cash tribute concert. Early in her career, Joan Baez incorporated the song into her live repertoire, and recorded it twice (see list below). The song was performed by Bruce Springsteen on his 2006 Seeger Sessions Band Tour. The chorus is frequently sung by Bruce Hornsby during live performances of his song White Wheeled Limousine.
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