Listening to music yesterday while getting some work done at my desk here, a wonderful song came up on my rotation, one that I know quite well and have loved for years. What’s remarkable about it is its human depth and searching pathos AND that it was written by a 22 year old kid from Hibbing Minnesota. His performance of it – the stirring soulfulness of it – is far beyond his years also. The song is “Seven Curses”, a ballad about a young woman who must find a way to free her father, a horse thief, from the gallows. She pays a deep price for his freedom to an evil judge, only to be terribly cheated. But she has the last word on the matter.
Here is a rare live performance of this artist performing the song in 1963 in New York City.
The lyrics to this wonderful song are here.
This song was inspired by an old folk tune – “The Maid Freed from the Gallows” – a story of a young maiden sentenced to die, waiting for someone to come pay her ransom. This classic version was performed by varied artists from Lead Belly to Led Zeppelin on III to Judy Collins. Here is the most classic performance by John Jacob Niles, one of the leaders of the folk revival in the middle of the previous century.