Remember Which Grammy-Winning No. 1 Song Glen Campbell Missed Out On?
Glen Campbell had a remarkable run of hits at the peak of his career in the '70s and '80s, but there was one song that he missed out on that went on to become an all-time classic for four of country music's biggest stars.
Songwriter Jimmy Webb wrote many of Campbell's biggest hits including "Galveston," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and more. In 1977 Webb wrote and recorded a song titled "Highwayman," which he included on his El Mirage album that year. Campbell heard the song and recorded his own version as the title song of his 1979 album Highwayman, and he was eager to release it as the radio single from the album.
Capitol Records refused, resulting in a rift that would only end when he left the label after three more albums. In 1984, Campbell played the song for Johnny Cash, who was working on a collaborative album with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Marty Stuart also played the song for Cash around that period, and though Jennings had previously passed on cutting it as a solo artist, the group decided it would be perfect for them.
Each singer took a verse in their version of the song, which featured four different iterations of the same character. In the first verse he's a highwayman who is hanged, only to be reincarnated as a sailor in the second verse. He returns as a dam builder in the third verse, while the fourth verse finds him as the captain of a starship in the future. Each verse ends with the assurance that he will always return.
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"Perhaps I may become a highwayman again / Or I may simply be a single drop of rain / But I will remain / And I'll be back again, and again and again and again and again," Cash sings to end the song.
"Highwayman" inspired the legends to call their group the Highwaymen, and they titled their album The Highwaymen as well. Released as the album's first single in May of 1985, "Highwayman" rose to the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart on Aug. 17 of that year, spending a total of 20 weeks on the chart. The song went on to earn Webb a Grammy in 1985 for Best Country Song.
Most recently, the new country and Americana supergroup the Highwomen — consisting of Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby — re-wrote the song from a female perspective for their all-female supergroup.
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