(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance

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"(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance"
Single by Gene Pitney
from the album Only Love Can Break a Heart
B-side"Take It Like a Man"
GenreCountry pop
Songwriter(s)Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Gene Pitney singles chronology
"Town Without Pity"
"(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance"
"Only Love Can Break a Heart"

"(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, which was released by Gene Pitney in 1962. It spent 13 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 4,[1] while reaching No. 2 on Canada's CHUM Hit Parade,[2] and No. 4 on New Zealand's "Lever Hit Parade".[3]

Although it was not used in the film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, there is disagreement about whether the song had been intended to appear in it.[4] Nevertheless, Pitney stated that the recording session was paid for by Paramount, and that it was midway through the effort when he found out that the song was not going to be included in the film; one of the orchestra members told him that the movie had been released. Session drummer Gary Chester played on the recording.[4]

The Pitney and the Jimmie Rodgers versions of the song are noted for a solo violin that plays in the upper register. Both versions are noteworthy for the chorus, where a quick half-second strike on the tympani is heard, depicting the gun shots, which go:

"The man who shot Liberty Valance, (bong) He shot Liberty Valance, (bong), He was the bravest of them all".

The first verse describes the outlaw's intimidating presence and ability with a gun, the second focuses on the man who comes to town prepared to defeat Valance with the law alone. Further along we learn how the law-book toting hero falls in love with a girl who, when he is forced to confront Valance, waits alone and prays, knowing that: "When two men go and face (or "fight") each other, only one returns". The lyrics generally parallel the film’s plot with some exceptions. In the film, Ransom Stoddard, the lawyer thought to have shot Valance, never remained in town because of “the love of a girl.” Stoddard stayed out of stubbornness. And although “the girl,” Hallie, was attracted to Stoddard more than to her beau, Tom Doniphon, and worried about Stoddard facing Valance, she is never depicted praying for Stoddard or discouraging him from dueling.

The song was ranked No. 36 in the Western Writers of America's list of the top 100 Western songs of all time, as compiled from a survey of its members.[5]

Jimmie Rodgers released a cover similar in form to the Gene Pitney version.

The Greg Kihn Band included their take on their 1980 album Glass House Rock. James Taylor recorded it for his 1985 album That's Why I'm Here.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1962) Peak
Australia 1
Canada - CHUM Hit Parade 2
New Zealand - Lever Hit Parade 4
US Billboard Hot 100 4


  1. ^ "Gene Pitney - Chart History - The Hot 100". Billboard.com. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  2. ^ "1050 CHUM - CHUM Charts, chart No. 271". CHUM. June 4, 1962. Archived from the original on June 3, 2006. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  3. ^ "Flavour of New Zealand: Lever Hit Parade". July 12, 1962. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Dominic, Serene (2003). Burt Bacharach, Song by Song: The Ultimate Burt Bacharach Reference for Fans, Serious Record Collectors, and Music Critics, Music Sales Group. p. 75. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  5. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010.