June 18

The Story Behind “Delta Dawn,” Written and First Recorded by Alex Harvey

Did you know that before “Delta Dawn” became a hit for Tanya Tucker and Helen Reddy, it was first recorded by Alex Harvey – who’s actually the brilliant mind behind the country ballad? The song first appeared on Harvey’s eponymous album, released in 1971.

RELATED: Remember When The Song “Delta Dawn” Catapulted Tanya Tucker Into Stardom?

“Delta Dawn,” tells the story of a faded Southern belle whose reputation was tainted following a romantic encounter with a man of ill-repute. Fast forward to the present day, the 41-year-old woman now finds herself wandering the streets of Brownsville, Tennessee – with a suitcase in her hand – obsessed with finding her lost lover, whom she said will be taking her “to his mansion in the sky.”

Writing The Song Was A Emotional Process For Alex Harvey

In the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music, Alex Harvey detailed the story behind the song – which he said he wrote about his mother, who came from the Mississippi Delta. 

When Harvey was only a teenager, he was fortunate enough to land a TV gig with his band. He then told his mother – who apparently was a heavy drinker – not to come. Harvey was afraid that she would only embarrass and make him uncomfortable. 

Unfortunately, her mother died in a car crash that very night, which Harvey believed to be suicide sparked by his rejection. 

The guilt over his mother’s death stuck with Harvey for many years until a liberating incident happened the night he wrote “Delta Dawn.”

While hanging out at fellow songwriter Larry Collins’ house, Harvey found himself strumming his guitar. It was then that Harvey felt that his mother was in the same room with him and came to him in a vision! “I always felt like that song was a gift to my mother and an apology to her,” Harvey said.

You can listen to “Delta Dawn” by Alex Harvey in the video below.


Alex Harvey

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