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The Highwayman

The Highwayman (Remastered)

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“The Highwayman” is Track 10 and the last track on Bella Donna (1981), Stevie Nicks’ first solo album. It follows “Outside the Rain” in the album track order.

About the Song

“‘The Highwayman’ I wrote probably in 1975, probably. I basically wrote it with the idea of the old poem ‘The Highwayman.’ The Highwayman comes riding, riding and Bess, the lady at the inn is waiting, and she’s set up with a rifle that’s gonna go off as soon as he comes through the door, and she can hear the hoofbeats.

I mean, The Highwayman was like the wonderful person that stole from the rich and gave to the poor, right? He was the romantic figure on the horse with the cape. Well, I paralleled that to today’s male rock and roll musician, which they’re all highwaymen. No other way to look at it. They steal from the rich and give to the poor sometimes. And they are that romantic on-the-road figure, you know? They could just as well be in coaches with seven black horses leading them.

Basically, Don Henley is The Highwayman. I used him as my idea, The Eagles, you know, on the road because this was before I was, you know, I could only look in awe at all these men because I’m a songwriter and what I really wanted to do was I wanted to be accepted by these people as a lady songwriter and not as just a girl. And I never really got accepted as anything else but a girl by any of them, right? But I wrote this song and Don sang it with me. We did a demo of it. And I call him the old Highwayman himself.

So it’s a story, you know? It’s basically about a girl who sort of has a dream that’s a premonition, and she’s like a asleep in a rocking chair and she wakes up and she realizes at the end of the song, it says ‘A dream as the thunder wakes her / And the highwayman disappears / Or a life already lived before in eyes wet with tears / Today and still today they ride / Will they ever win? / He the glory she the love / Still They try again’ — and that’s Don and I. I mean, we just try again, you know, over and over. And it is very much like the old, elegant, sort of… It’s very romantic. I’d love to do a video to this song because it’s a perfect… I mean, it says, ‘She in the distance sees him against the sky / A pale and violent rider / A dream began in wine.’ And I see him riding against the moon on his horse just a black charger, you know, going away.”

Recording

“Don played drums, and we have this videoed. We videoed the whole thing with just a kind of a cool home-video camera. So I have Don Felder playing bottleneck slide, and Don playing the drums, and Davey Johnstone playing the acoustic guitar, Benmont playing organ, and all these wonderful people. It was like staring out and looking at The Eagles standing in front of me ’cause if you see Don Henley and Don Felder, that’s enough of The Eagles to look like The Eagles. A lot of these recording sessions were very romantic because I would just be standing there in the middle of this room singing and looking at these incredibly famous people, who I had sung along with for years before I had ever achieved any success. So I was unknown completely when I was really, really involved with their music.

“So to be sharing my first album with them was like I can’t even tell you. It was like being homecoming queen. I mean, it was just the neatest thing that ever happened to me. And Don Felder played wonderful guitar on it — he knows it too. He knows he was wonderful. They all know they were wonderful because they felt it, you know. They walked out of the room, I mean, grinning, all of them.”

Lyrics

Alas he was the highwayman
The one that comes and goes
And only the highway-woman
Keeps up with the likes of those
And she in all her magic
With hands as quick as light
Took him to be a challenge
And went into the night

And he in all his glory
Was far ahead of her
But she was never sorry
For wishes that would burn
Enter competition
She chases beneath the moon
Her horse is like a dragonfly
She is just a fool

And she wonders is this real
Or does she just want to be Queen
And he fights the way he feels
Is this the end of the dream

And then he sees her coming
Heartbeats on the wind
Considers slowing down
But then, he could never win
And she, out in the distance
Sees him against the sky
A pale and violent rider
A dream begun in wine

And she wonders is this real
Or does she just want to be Queen
And he fights the way he feels
Is this the end of the dream

A dream as the thunder wakes her
And her highwayman disappears
On a life already lived before
In eyes welled with tears

Today and still today they ride
Will they ever win
He the glory
She the love
Still they try again
He the glory
She the love
Still they try again
He the glory
She the love
And still they try again

(Stevie Nicks) © 1975 Welsh Witch Music (BMI) admin. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Reference

Nicks, S. (1981). Stevie Nicks Interview.  Denis McNamara, interviewer, WLIR 92.7 FM.

Nicks, S. (1981). Breaking the chain

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