"The Long Black Veil" as written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin....
Ten years ago, on a cold dark night
Someone was killed, 'neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene, but they all agreed
That the slayer who ran, looked a lot like me

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

The judge said son, what is your alibi
If you were somewhere else, then you won't have to die
I spoke not a word, thou it meant my life
I'd been in the arms of my best friend's wife

Did I hear someone applaud?

Now the scaffold is high and eternity's near
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night, when the north wind moans
In a long black veil, she cries ov're my bones

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

Can I have a glass of water?
huh? Alright
Lemme have a, have a drink of water. I'm about to choke up
That's cocaine blues.
We got a special surprise for, you fellas
And especially for one fella.
In a few minutes we're going to record a brand new song that
I just sang last night for the first time
It was written by someone here in Folsom prison
Can I have a drink of water?
Last time, last time I was here I had a drink of water
And uh, I don't know what the hell it run off
I think it must have run off Luther's boots or something
Is that water?
You promise that's water, huh
Is that water bob?
That's water
Serve everything in tin cups?
He caught it, didn't he?
I have an announcement here
Sandoval, Sandoval, S-A-N-D-O-V-A-L. Sandoval
Eighty eight four one nine is wanted in reception


Lyrics submitted by ButNeverOutgunned, edited by chrisericksen

"The Long Black Veil" as written by Marijohn Wilkin Danny Dill

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Long Black Veil song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commentthis song is about a man who was accused of killing a man. His alibi is he slept with his best friends wife, but he would rather die than tell anyone. In the end he is killed, and the woman he slept with cries over him.
    redemptionmetalon May 30, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo hear Cash sing this song is amazing, he has such emotion in his singing, this song makes me cry every time I hear it, it's just so moving.
    newgirlon May 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA man would rather die that loose the friendship of his best friend. To die with honour. The girl could have done something about it...but doesnt, so she crys over her cowardness for all time(or a few years at least.lol)
    durham-redon June 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is amazing.
    R.I.P. Johnny
    ljwright88on June 03, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love the version with Joni Mitchell

    ohhh-its just really moving
    i love it
    veggiesauorouson December 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHas anyone seen when Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash perform this song on the Johnny Cash show? When she hits those high notes, it is so beautiful.
    bookid11on August 22, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentquestion . . .what is his motive in not speaking? . . .to protect the lady's honor or not to hurt his friend? Who actually did the killing . . . his friend was not at home with his wife? She wears a veil, don't you think people would talk if she is mourning her husbands best friend . . makes me think the friend is also either dead or she went off her rocker. Reminds me of the quote "all are punish-ed".
    zekenzoeyon January 29, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaning@zekenzoey: His motive was both. Although, I don't know if he quite "dies with honour" as durham red says. He was fooling around with his best friend’s wife, after all.
    Ya, his friend was not at home when he was fooling around with his wife. That would be strange, and he’d hardly die to not let out the secret of a threesome. She only wears the veil at night when she secretly visits his grave.

    This song is a traditional, and the lyrics are pretty straightforward, but I find it more interesting than, say, something by Radiohead. I really like Radiohead, but sometimes these old songs are just haunting, although lyrically simple. They are like a window into a different time. People wouldn’t let themselves die over something like this today. We (hopefully) also wouldn’t convict, and hang somebody, on such flimsy evidence either. The belief in an afterlife was much stronger then apparently. He dies knowing that he did the right thing, and they put him to death knowing that if they screwed up it will all be ok in heaven. There’s also an element of him punishing himself here, like Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, but much more severe. It really is an interesting song to think about.
    clovuson March 12, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationSince the first time I heard this song I thought his 'motive' in dying with a secret for a crime he didn't commit was to protect the woman in the song. He could have ruined the lives of the woman and her husband (his best friend) but instead took the high road if you will - maybe the characters way of atoning for what he did. In it's own twisted way, it was noble and Shakespearean in it's tragedy. The character took the 'manly' path in the sense that I think is under appreciated these days.

    He has a few different versions of it - the best IMO is a remake he did for "The Hits". Besides the superb quality of the music and vocals in this version, he switched the verses up so the last line (before the end chorus) is where he reveals that he was in the arms of his best friends wife. To me, this changed the depth of the song.
    DeadSeaSquirrelson March 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretationzekenzoey - I always gathered that the woman's mourning was done in secret, hence he (as the dead) is the only one who knows that she visits his grave at night in her long, black veil. She honored his death by keeping his secret long after his execution while still paying homage to him.

    I guess she's the real villain in the song - she let him die when she could have stepped up and sacrificed her (obviously flawed) marriage to save him.
    DeadSeaSquirrelson March 10, 2011   Link

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