Sings Hank Williams
1957 | Country
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“I found him by the railroad track this morning, I could see that he was nearly dead. -- I knelt down beside him and I listened just to hear the words the dying fellow said. -- He said they let me out of prison out in Frisco, for ten long years I've paid for what I've done. -- I was trying to get back to Louisiana to see my Rose and get to know my son."
- Cash said a prisoner from San Quentin State Prison asked him to take a message to his wife if he ever went through his hometown.
- The song was the last one which Sam Phillips supervised as a producer.
- It appears on the 1960 album Sings Hank Williams, even though the song is not one of Williams'.
THE HOT TAKES
Most of us--myself included--can't imagine being in prison for 10 years, let alone one. This sad song invites us to consider losing so much of our lives, only to die on the way back home to see those who kept us going while locked away. The shocking inhumanity of prison is accentuated by the heartbreak, but it's a rotten way for humans to treat other humans, family or no family.
This mournful song elucidates the pain and fracturing of families caused by incarceration. Of course we don't know this mans crimes, but what we do know is that there are so many people sitting in prisons today, away from their kith and kin for "crimes" that are not crimes at all. Drug use, prostitution, gambling, etc, these are the kinds of activities that are labeled crimes in most places in the United States, that is of course, unless the power that be have created magic spells that make these things OK. Many people talk about all the reasons that these activities should stay crimes, and most just boil down to the fact that they just don't like these activities. Seems like a really shallow and terrible reason to tear a family apart.
A terribly sad song about the American criminal justice systems toll on its victims. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the system wasn't so massive and Byzantine as to make every member of our society a criminal in waiting. The song is about a man cash purported to meet in prison who told him that if he ever passed through the town is wife and child lived in to tell her he loved her. For me the song illustrates that these are men in these places not monsters. In many cases they are ripped away or estranged from their families by bullshit laws peddled by morality police. There are very few crimes worth destroying families over especially when the science is there to show that multi-generational criminality is the end result. That systemic racism people bitch about, it's not racist cops, it's this.