BARRY WHITE

20 February 2011

I know of the “The Long Black Veil” because I dabbled a wee bit in the pub folk scene.  After I heard it a few times I asked whose song it was — a difficult question as I got a different answer each time!  The Chieftains, Nazareth, Lefty Frizzell, Dave Matthews — even Johnny Cash.

If you don’t know this song, you can get a pretty good idea of what it is like just from who has covered it!  The lyrics reinforce this; they are very story-telling, moral and folksy:

[D] Ten years ago on a cold dark night
There was [A] someone killed beneath the [G] town hall [D] light
There were few at the scene, but they all agree
That the [A] slayer who ran looked a [G] lot like [D] me
The judge said “Son what is your alibi
If you were [A]somewhere else then [G] you won’t have to [D] die ”
I spoke not a word though it meant my life
For I had [A] been in the arms of my [G] best friend’s [D] wife

She [G] walks these [D] hills
In a [G] long black [D] veil
She [G] visits my [D] grave
When the [G] night winds [D] wail
Nobody knows, [G] nobody [D] sees
[G] nobody [A] knows but [D]  me

The [D] scaffold’s high and eternity near
She [A] stood in the crowd and [G] shed not a [D] tear
But [D] sometimes at night when the cold wind blows
In a [A] long black veil she [G] cries o’er my [D] bones .

So – imagine my surprise to find “The Long Black Veil” covered by Barry White!

It was on one of my father-in-law’s CDs — a greatest hits compilation of all things.  I just had to give it a spin — and it could well be the soundtrack of the summer! This is now my favourite version, even though it is completely instrumental.  It is so perfectly dated, so wonderfully cheezy: early soul drumming, great fat bass guitar, soulful horns, lush strings, wah wah guitar.  They redid the tune like it was “Shaft“.

I found a link to buy this track for a few pence at Amazon — click here to do that or to listen to a free sample.  Some girl with an afro ought to sing an R&B version of this song based on Barry’s instrumental interpretation.  It instantly transported me back to the very hot summers of the early ’70s “Sigh”!  Check out Barry White in general for this summer – that’s what I might do myself.

I’m big enough and old enough now to be able to admit to Barry White being part of my life tapestry.  His stuff is interwoven into the fabric of growing up — I cannot say I ever bought a Barry White record, or that I know the names of his tunes or albums.  Still, though, he has a strong presence.

As soon as Barry sings, men go into lethario mode.  Barry meant seduction. Hence my ignorance of his work!

Now, it is nostalgia for the oranges, browns and beiges of the early 1970s, and the warmth that era evoked.  It also reminded me that it was the time of the afro, the tan leather jacket, big collars and flares.  That was the time when Black people in America styled themselves, and hustled and shuffled themselves into the mainstream media.  Polo-necks and medallions, side burns and Cuban heels — all appeal more to me than the image of a hoodie with his trousers pulled down with the gusset at the knee, and his underpants showing.  Just shows how wrong things can get!

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