Written by Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill in , the song tells the tale of a man wrongfully hanged for a murder because his alibi happens to be married to his best friend. Rather than betray his love and ruin a marriage, he carries the secret to his grave, leaving his lover in a state of constant mourning. A relationship full of resentment, as the bedroom has turned cold and all his failings have been exposed, is something to mourn, and everything about this song super-charges that mopey feeling.
Or the song from the perspective of a crooked cop trying to hide his kickback money from his young son to not lose his respect. Or the song about the evil small-town mayor who tricks his illegitimate son into hooking up with his half-sister. Harry Chapin is not kind to the characters in his songs. Of all the indelible classics that Roy Orbison graced us with before shuffling off this mortal coil in , none feel more permanently etched into the shale of our collective psyche than this gorgeous heartbreaker that he released in Its power resides in its slowly stately build up with shuffling drums, a sly bit of marimba, and those weightless strings wafting through it all.
Stranded in the middle of this musical swirl stands Orbison, bleeding with emotion as he recounts all the reasons that his shattered heart is never going to heal and his tear-stained cheeks will never dry. Weddings are generally happy occasions—unless your true love is getting hitched to someone else. This is a song that more people should know, but that no one else should ever attempt to cover. So take R. Cohen has a way of invoking deep spiritual longing with Biblical references that turn extremely personal, and Buckley had a way of drenching it all in tremulous emotion.
The combination is transcendent. Leave it to the man who released 69 Love Songs to out-sad every other modern ode to heartbreak. With his deep, hang-dog voice, Stephen Merritt can no longer imagine that the sun would even bother to shine on a world where his love is gone.
His wife, June Carter Cash, died six months later—followed four months after by Cash himself. It features Eddie Van Halen on bass guitar, who said in an interview that he also played a very brief part on guitar uncredited. The former song was included on the album Live: Right Here, Right Now , the latter on the optional bonus disk as well as on the "Jump" single.
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