Willie Nelson/Johnny Cash “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” (Country) [Music/Track]

Year: 1997
Genre: Country
From: “The VH1 Storytellers

This version was recorded live with Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson on the 1997 album “VH1 Storytellers”. The song was written and originally recorded by actor Stan Jones in 1948. He said that being a twelve-year old he heard a story about doomed ghost cowboys forced to chase the Devil’s cattle forever. There are more than 50 versions of the song in different languages. Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and Johnny Cash all recorded their versions of this track, and it became a cowboy standard. Johnny Cash’s version peaked at No.2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

It was released on “The VH1 Storytellers” in 1997, but unfortunately only has a CD release, but I’m hoping for a vinylversion some day.

My knowledge of country is extremely limited, but I loooooove this song, and especially this version. Just the melody gives me goosebumps, and it has that melancholic feeling that makes me stop in my tracks, sit down, and think about life.

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(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend” is a cowboy-styled country/western song written in 1948 by American songwriter, film and television actor Stan Jones.

A number of versions were crossover hits on the pop charts in 1949, the most successful being by Vaughn Monroe. The ASCAP database lists the song as “Riders in the Sky” (title code 480028324, but the title has been written as “Ghost Riders”, “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, and “A Cowboy Legend”. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as the greatest Western song of all time.

The song tells a folk tale of a cowboy who has a vision of red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them, forever “trying to catch the Devil’s herd across these endless skies”. The story has been linked with old European myths of the Wild Hunt, in which a supernatural group of hunters passes the narrator in wild pursuit.

Stan Jones stated that he had been told the story when he was 12 years old by an old Native American who resided north-east of the Douglas, Arizona border town, a few miles behind D Hill, north of Agua Prieta, Sonora. The Native Americans, possibly Apache, who lived within Cochise County, believed that when souls vacate their physical bodies, they reside as spirits in the sky, resembling ghost riders. He related this story to Wayne Hester, a boyhood friend (later owner of the Douglas Cable Company). As both boys were looking at the clouds, Stan shared what the old Native American had told him, looking in amazement as the cloudy shapes were identified as the “ghost riders” that years later, would be transposed into lyrics. The melody is based on the song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”.

Hundreds of performers have recorded versions of the song. Charting versions were recorded by The Outlaws, Vaughn Monroe (“Riders in the Sky” with orchestra and vocal quartet), which topped the Billboard magazine charts, by Bing Crosby (with the Ken Darby Singers), Frankie Laine, Burl Ives (two different versions), Marty Robbins, The Ramrods and Johnny Cash.

“(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” Lyrics

An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw
Plowing through the ragged skies and up a cloudy draw

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cries

Yippie I oh oh oh
Yippie I aye ye ye
Ghost riders in the sky

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat
He’s riding hard to catch that herd but he ain’t caught em yet
Cause they got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire as they ride on hear their cries

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
‘If you wanna save your soul from hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the devil’s herd across these endless skies

Yippie I oh oh oh
Yippie I aye ye ye
Ghost riders in the sky
Ghost riders in the sky
Ghost riders in the sky