November 28

Tom T. Hall’s “Ballad of Forty Dollars” is Life’s Sad Reality 

In 1968, Tom T. Hall released “Ballad of Forty Dollars” as the fourth and final single off his album of the same name. The song became Hall’s first Top 10 hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart as a recording artist, peaking at No. 4. Outside the United States, it also reached No. 4 on the Canadian country chart.

Since then, it’s been hailed as one of Tom T. Hall’s greatest hits and signature tunes.

A Song Brought To Life From Personal Experience

Written by Tom T. Hall, “Ballad of Forty Dollars” tells the story of a gravedigger who keeps watch on a gentleman’s funeral as well as the family and friends coming to bid him goodbye. There’s the man who preached at the funeral, his great uncle riding in a big ol’ shiny limousine, his grieving wife who strangely looks good in black, and a bugler who plays the Military Taps.

RELATED: Tom T. Hall: A Storyteller’s Legacy

“So, I’ll just sit here in my truck. And act like I don’t know him when they pass,” the song goes.

He also noticed that those who attended the funeral seemed to care more about the man’s money and estate. However, the trouble is that the deceased man owed him forty dollars, and apparently, it would forever remain unsettled.

Like many of his hits, Hall wrote the song from a personal experience as he worked with his aunt at a cemetery and observed many funerals, as well as the people coming. More interestingly, the song has no chorus, and you’ll never hear Hall saying, “ballad of forty dollars.” 

Make sure to listen to “Ballad of Forty Dollars” by Tom T. Hall by playing the video below.


tom t hall

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