I grew up in the late 50s and 60s listening to the country music of that era. I stuck with country music through the 70s. I made it into the 80s but, by the late 80s, country music as I knew and loved was headed in a direction that, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t interested going. So I didn’t. (Get off my lawn.)
The old west gunfighter and trail ballads, drinking songs, and revenge songs had an influence on me that was, and still is, every bit as strong as the impact Louis L’Amour’s books left with me. My lifelong interest, perhaps fascination bordering on obsession, with everything old west—truth, legends, and myths alike—have roots in those old cowboy and country songs.
I’m inviting you to read along with me this year as I post one or two nostalgic-for-me country ballads on the first Wednesday of each month. I will share a snippet of trivia about each song along with a YouTube video.
Each month, I will include a link back to the previous month’s article as reference to those songs. The common thread that runs among the songs I’ve chosen for this musical memory lane excursion is tragic lost love.
January – Marty Robbins – El Paso and Feleena
February – Faron Young – The Yellow Bandana
This month’s song is the duet by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson, Seven Spanish Angels.
Seven Spanish Angels tells a story of an outlaw and his lover who are making a last stand against the 'riders', presumably a posse or Rangers, to keep from being taken back to Texas. The couple say their tearful goodbyes. The gun battle ensues, and the outlaw is killed. In her grief, the woman says she can't make it without him. She picks up the gun, even though she knows it’s empty, and points it at the lawmen. She knows they will assume she’s going to open fire upon them, and they will kill her, which is what she wants.
Regrettably, the record producer, Billy Sherill, didn't want the originally written final verse included, because he thought the song would be too long. This is the verse:
Now the people in the valley swear
That when the moon's just right
They see the Texan and his woman
Ride across the clouds at night.
What a shame this verse was omitted.
If the video doesn't show on your device, this is the URL: https://youtu.be/x8A9Y1Dq_cQ
Willie and Ray each planned to record the song individually at nearly the same time. Billy Sherrill suggested a duet to solve that issue, and what a wonderful collaboration it turned out to be.
Ray Charles released Seven Spanish Angels in 1984 as a single from his album Friendship. Seven Spanish Angels was his most successful of his eight hits on country charts. The song spent one week at No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart, No. 1 on the Canadian RPM Country chart, and 12 weeks on country charts worldwide. Willie Nelson included the song on his 1985 album, Half Nelson. The song was written as a tribute to Marty Robbins.
Until next time,
Writing through history one romance upon a time