Long Black Veil

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"Long Black Veil"
Single by Lefty Frizzell
B-side"When It Rains the Blues"
ReleasedApril 20, 1959 (US)
RecordedMarch 3, 1959
LabelColumbia 4-41384
Songwriter(s)Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill
Producer(s)Don Law
Lefty Frizzell singles chronology
"Cigarettes and Coffee Blues"
"Long Black Veil"
"Forbidden Lovers"

"Long Black Veil" is a 1959 country ballad, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell.

It is told from the point of view of a man falsely accused of murder and executed. He refuses to provide an alibi, since on the night of the murder he was having an extramarital affair with his best friend's wife, and would rather die and take their secret to his grave than admit the truth. The chorus describes the woman's mourning visits to his gravesite, wearing a long black veil and enduring a wailing wind.

In 2019, Frizzell's version of "Long Black Veil" was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[1]


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".

Wilkin played piano on the original recording by Frizzell. The song was a departure from Frizzell's previous honky tonk style and was a deliberate move toward the then current popularity of folk-styled material and the burgeoning Nashville sound.


Recorded in Nashville in 1959 by Lefty Frizzell and produced by Don Law, the single reached #6 on Billboard Hot C&W Sides chart. In the process, the song became Frizzell's best-performing single in five years.

Cover versions[edit]

"Long Black Veil" has become a standard and has been covered by a variety of artists in country, folk and rock styles. The highest charting cover version was a #26 country hit by Sammi Smith in 1974.

Johnny Cash performed the song on the first episode of The Johnny Cash Show in 1969, duetting with Joni Mitchell. The song has also 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 Band performed the song at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, and it appears on their first studio album, Music From Big Pink.

The song appears on David Allan Coe's 1984 compilation 20 Greatest Hits and on Marianne Faithfull's Rich Kid Blues, recorded in 1971 but shelved until 1985.[2]

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recorded a version for the 1986 covers album Kicking Against the Pricks.

The song was performed by Bruce Springsteen on his 2006 Seeger Sessions Band Tour.[3] The chorus is frequently sung by Bruce Hornsby during live performances of his song "White Wheeled Limousine", including the version on the retrospective box set Intersections (1985-2005).

Mick Jagger recorded a version with The Chieftains for that group's 1995 album The Long Black Veil.

Mike Ness, principal songwriter and guitarist of punk-rock band Social Distortion, covered the song on his 1999 debut solo album Cheating at Solitaire.

Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and Tony Rice cover the song on the 2000 Pizza Tapes recordings.

It has been covered by Harry Manx, including a version on the compilation Johnny's Blues: A Tribute to Johnny Cash, and in October 2009, by Rosanne Cash on her album The List. A version by Scottish rock band Nazareth was never released on an album, but is played at live concerts[4]

On the 2011 album Rancho Alto by Jason Boland & the Stragglers, the song "False Accuser's Lament" is a follow up to "Long Black Veil", describing a witness's view of the events and the role that he played.

Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead performed the song several times, with a variety of musicians, in his rotating line-ups of Phil Lesh and Friends at his venue Terrapin Crossroads. Jamey Johnson has covered the song on tour.[5] Black Rebel Motorcycle Club occasionally perform the song during their live shows.[6] The Black Crowes have covered the song, for instance during their December 17, 2010 performance at The Fillmore in San Francisco.

Richard Hawley covered the song as a B-side to "Just Like the Rain".[7]

The Proclaimers' version is included as a bonus track on the 2001 release of their 1988 album Sunshine on Leith. [8]

Hit singles[edit]

Tracks on hit albums[edit]

Other versions[edit]


  1. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (March 20, 2019). "Jay-Z, a speech by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and 'Schoolhouse Rock!' among recordings deemed classics by Library of Congress". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Rich Kid Blues". Discogs. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  3. ^ "Long Black Veil - Bruce Springsteen & the Seeger Sessions". YouTube. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Nazareth - Long Black Veil (Ekaterinburg, 29.10.2008)". Retrieved 15 June 2014 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ "Jamey Johnson Long Black Veil July 4th picnic at Billy Bob's Fort Worth Texas". YouTube. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  6. ^ "BRMC "Long Black Veil/A Fine Way To Lose" @ High Noon Saloon". YouTube. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Just Like the Rain - Richard Hawley | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-08-31.
  8. ^ "Sunshine on Leith - the Proclaimers | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  9. ^ May 4, 1964, The Tangent, Palo Alto, CA, The Grateful Dead Family Discography, retrieved 15 June 2014
  10. ^ Johnny Williams and The Jokers - The Long Black Veil, Discogs, retrieved 15 June 2014
  11. ^ The Move - The BBC Sessions, Discogs, retrieved 15 June 2014
  12. ^ The Byrds - Live In Boston 1969, Discogs, retrieved 15 June 2014
  13. ^ Guitars 101 Forum discloses the "unnamed" track 3 of that recording. Track 3 is Long Black Veil. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  14. ^ Bill Monroe And His Blue Grass Boys - Kentucky Bluegrass, Discogs, retrieved 15 June 2014
  15. ^ Hank Williams Jr. With The Mike Curb Congregation, Discogs, retrieved 15 June 2014
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-01-07. Retrieved 2014-08-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ Baby Opaque - Fugue In Cow Minor, Discogs, retrieved 15 June 2014
  18. ^ The Proclaimers - King Of The Road, Discogs, retrieved 15 June 2014
  19. ^ Don Walser: Official Website, DonWalser.com, archived from the original on 10 July 2011, retrieved 16 June 2014
  20. ^ Sally Timms - Cowboy Sally, Discogs, retrieved 16 June 2014
  21. ^ Jason & The Scorchers - Wildfires + Misfires, Discogs, retrieved 18 June 2014
  22. ^ Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash - Distance Between, Discogs, retrieved 18 June 2014
  23. ^ Deadstring Brothers - Deadstring Brothers, Bloodshot Records, 20 December 2013, retrieved 18 June 2014
  24. ^ Jon Langford And The Pine Valley Cosmanauts, Discogs, retrieved 18 June 2014
  25. ^ Rob Coffinshaker = Fairytales From The Dungeon, Discogs, retrieved 18 June 2014
  26. ^ Tim O'Brien - Fiddler's Green, Discogs, retrieved 13 July 2014
  27. ^ Charming Hostess - Punch, Discogs, retrieved 13 July 2014
  28. ^ Various - Like A Version Two, Discogs, retrieved 6 September 2014