Lady in Black (song)

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"Lady in Black"
Single by Uriah Heep
from the album Salisbury
B-side Simon the Bullet Freak
Released 1971
Format 7"
Genre Psychedelic rock, folk rock
Length 4:44 (album)
3:34 (single edit)
Label Vertigo (UK)
Mercury (US)
Writer(s) Ken Hensley
Uriah Heep singles chronology
"Gypsy"
(1970)
"Lady in Black"
(1971)
"Look at Yourself"
(1971)

"Lady in Black" is a song by the rock band Uriah Heep. It is the fourth track of their 1971 album Salisbury.

The song is credited to Ken Hensley. It tells the story of a man wandering through war-torn darkness and encountering a goddess-like entity who consoles him. It is often praised, by fans and critics alike, as Hensley's most poetic work to date. There were many b-sides for this song as a single. The most famous was "Simon the Bullet Freak" but "Bird of Prey" has also been the b-side for the song.[1] In 1981 the band released a single in Germany and in Netherlands and the b-side was "Easy Livin'".[2] The song was written in the key of A Minor.

A brief comment on the cover of the original vinyl release commented that for Ken Hensley inspiration was a real case: a surprise visit to his daughter's rural vicar at a moment when he was in very depressed state. The result of this meeting, and - some kind of insight - was the song "Lady in Black": a philosophical parable that tells us that evil cannot be overcome by evil itself. The song is Uriah Heep's most "listened to" song on Last.fm with more than 15,000 hits.[3]

History[edit]

"Lady in Black" has been performed in the form of rock ballads (and not having the traditional verse-chorus), and has become one of the most popular concert numbers of Uriah Heep. It achieved great success in Germany and Russia.[4] In the United Kingdom and United States the song was never released as a single, but when it was released as a single in Germany in 1977, it became a major hit. It stayed on the top of the charts 13 weeks,[5] and it prevented Paul McCartney and his hit "Mull of Kintyre" from reaching number one. For this achievement Uriah Heep got the "Golden Lion" award, the German equivalent Grammy and Brit Awards.[4]

"Lady in Black" is the story of a man who takes a walk one lonely Sunday morning, feeling very empty. He encounters a mysterious woman, her long hair flowing in the midwinter wind, imagery which conveys the cold feeling he's experiencing in the presence of destruction. He doesn't know how she found him since in darkness [he] was walking (dark thoughts), surrounded by the destruction of battle which he considers unwinnable from a fight [he] could not win. The lady is an analogy for good sense and the desire for peace.

When asked to name his enemy, he says, the need within some men to fight and kill their brothers without thought of love or God.

He begs the "Lady in Black" to give him horses to "trample down [his] enemies" suggesting that in his eagerness to stop this senseless waste of life, he has lost sight of what he was trying to stop in the first place, and he would use war to fight war. But she refuses to grant him his request - she wouldn't think of battle that reduces men to animals, so easy to begin, and yet impossible to end, saying that men who resort to war are no better than beasts.

After feeling the desperation that he could never end this senseless aspect of humanity, he asks her (the good sense that represented by her) to stay with him. But the "Lady in Black" responds that he should have faith and trust in peace rather, and gives him hope in this way. (Have faith and trust in peace she said, and filled my heart...).

She goes on to counsel him that war does not stop war (there is no strength in numbers, have no such misconception), but that he should not fear being alone with these thoughts and that he can always call on her when these feelings of desperation arise (when you need me, be assured that I won't be far away).

He concludes that while he is still unhappy with the nature of things, he now has help dealing with his struggles - My labour is no easier, but now I know I'm not alone, I'll find new heart each time I think upon that windy day[6]

Personnel[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

  • Acts who have covered "Lady in Black" include the gregorian chant project Gregorian on their 2006 album Masters of Chant Chapter V.
  • Finnish folk metal band Ensiferum covered the song.
  • The song was translated into Finnish and covered by another Finnish band Lemon in 1972 as "Nainen tummissa".
  • In 1972 Italian singer Caterina Caselli covered the song in her album Caterina Caselli 1972, with title L'uomo del Paradiso;[7] Italian translation has been made by Claudio Daiano and Ettore Carrera.[8]
  • The song was covered by the Spanish folk metal group Mägo de Oz in a translated version as "Dama Negra".
  • Serbian heavy metal band Kraljevski Apartman recorded a cover version with Serbian lyrics entitled Slike on their 2000 album Izgubljen u vremenu.
  • Czech version Slečna závist (Miss Envy) is by metal band Arakain. It was huge hit in 1995 in Czech Republic.
  • Italian singer Spagna covered the song in her 2002 album Woman.
  • There is also an Italian-language version, titled Di nero vestita, included in Io sono il vampiro, a 2005 album (O.S.T. of the homonymous 2002 horror movie) by the Italian progressive rock band Abiogenesi.
  • In 2002 the Romanian group Iris together with Mick Box and Bernie Shaw from Uriah Heep made a new version of this song named "Doamna in negru". This new version was a collaboration between Iris and the two members of Uriah Heep and the lyrics are bilingual in Romanian and in English.[9]
  • Ken Hensley also covered this song on his album "The Wizard's Diary" in 2004 and the version 8 minutes long while the original is no longer than 4 minutes and 44 seconds.[10]
  • The song was covered and translated on Ukrainian by singer-songwriter Yuriy Veres 2012 album 60/70.
  • John Lawton covered the song on one of his live concerts.[11]
  • Blackmore's Night covers this song in their album Dancer and the Moon in 2013.

Chart positions[edit]

1971+1978+2008 Weekly Chart Peak
position
German Singles Chart[12] 1
Swiss Singles Chart[13] 6
South African top 20[14] 6
1977 Year-End Chart Position
German Singles Chart 41[15]
1978 Year-End Chart Position
German Singles Chart 52[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Official Uriah Heep Discography". Heepfiles.info. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  2. ^ "Record sleeve image". Heepfiles.info. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  3. ^ "Uriah Heep’s Charts – Free listening, concerts, stats, & pictures at". Last.fm. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  4. ^ a b "Lady in black - single by uriah heep". Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  5. ^ Kirk Blows. "Uriah Heep Story, February 1970 - October 1970". www.uriah-heep.com. Archived from the original on 2011-08-26. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  6. ^ "Lady In Black Lyrics - Uriah Heep". Sing365.com. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  7. ^ "L'uomo del paradiso". Uriah Heep Italia. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  8. ^ "Archivio Opere Musicali". Operemusicali.siae.it. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  9. ^ "Biografie Iris" (in Romanian). Rockmania Romania. Retrieved 2010-04-18. 
  10. ^ "Ken Hensley - Lady in Black". YouTube. 2011-01-21. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  11. ^ ""Lady in black" - John Lawton and B.T.R.". YouTube. 2009-08-18. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  12. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche". musicline.de. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  13. ^ Steffen Hung. "Uriah Heep - Lady In Black". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  14. ^ http://rock.co.za/files/springbok_top_20_(U).html Retrieved 8 April 2014
  15. ^ "INFINITY CHARTS: German Top 20". Ki.informatik.uni-wuerzburg.de. 2000-01-14. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  16. ^ "INFINITY CHARTS: German Top 20". Ki.informatik.uni-wuerzburg.de. 2000-01-14. Retrieved 2013-11-26.