"The Long Arm of the Law"
is a 1980 country
ballad performed by Kenny Rogers
The song is set in Cumberland, Kentucky
, and is the story of two lovers named Billy and Marianne. The two come from different backgrounds ("she was a rich Judge's daughter, he was the son of a miner") and Marianne’s wealthy father disapproves of the relationship.
The father is a successful judge and has been nicknamed "The Long Arm of the Law". He sets out to destroy the relationship between his daughter and Billy. Marianne becomes pregnant with Billy's child and there is a showdown between the judge and Billy.
In the third and final verse is sung "Seems like everyone down in Cumberland, Kentucky/Came out that day to see poor Billy's trial". At first the references to the court being "called to order" and "held that Holy Bible in his hand" seem to refer to a legal court case. This is thought until the end of the verse, until the final line ("Son, I sentence you to life ... with Marianne") concludes it is actually the wedding between the two. The Judge is no longer keen to split up the relationship after seeing his grandson.
The song was recorded as a potential single, but Rogers decided not to issue it because it sounded too similar to other ballads that were big hits for him, such as "Lucille
" and "Coward of the County
". Nevertheless it was twice issued as a single in the United Kingdom (once in 1980 and again in 1985
). It was featured on Rogers' 1980 Greatest Hits
album (Liberty/EMI), which was a world-wide top 40 success, reaching #1 in the United States. It was later included on The Kenny Rogers Story
(EMI, 1985) and the double CD The Best of Kenny Rogers
(EMI, 2005); however, none of these albums were issued in the USA. As of November 2006 (following the deletion of the Greatest Hits
album) the song technically remains out of print in the United States of America
. However, imports from Britain
of the 2005-issued The Best of Kenny Rogers
are widely available.