Admittedly, this one is getting included not entirely for its musical merits (though it does have those), and at least in large part because, as I put the finishing touches on The Alchemist of Middlesbrooke (tentative-though-likely release date in July), given that the antagonist is quite insistent on calling himself a highwayman, the word “highwayman” has been on my mind lately.
So, anyway, here’s the song Highwayman.
In a way, The Highwaymen are the Traveling Wilburys of musical supergroups. Bringing together country music icons Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson in the mid-eighties recorded three albums, two of which went platinum.
The album Highwayman topped the US Country music charts, and its self-titled single was the number-one country single in both Canada and the US.
It’s pretty deep for a song that’s barely three minutes long. Each of the group’s four members sings one verse, telling the story of a reincarnating soul that meets an untimely end in each of its lifetimes — Willie Nelson is the highwayman of the title (caught and hanged), Kris Kristofferson is a sailor (fell off the mast), and Waylon Jennings is a worker building the Hoover Dam (fell into the dam’s still-wet concrete; there are about 100 recorded deaths during construction but none of them involved drowning in wet concrete, which would create major issues with the dam’s structural integrity).
In the last verse, Johnny Cash is one of that soul’s future incarnations, singing about exploring the cosmos one day and the eternal recurrence of death and rebirth:
I[‘ll] fly a starshipLyrics via Genius.
Across the Universe divide
And when I reach the other side
I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
And I’ll be back again.
Again, it’s a pretty short song, it’s not a terribly musically complex song, but it’s a pretty cool thematic statement, perhaps even more so since we’ve lost both Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash…
Have a listen here:
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