One good characteristic of a country song as described by many is its stories. Sometimes, even when you think you are singing it for enjoyment, knowing the lyrics behind it will make you cry. Such with “The Letter Edged in Black”, which had its first recording in 1987 by Hattie Nevada. May C. Hyers first released it. In addition, from Vernon Dalhart’s 1925 version to Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass’ 2015 version, through the years it had 21 versions from all-genre artists. Of course, our very own, Johnny Cash, has his rendition of the song. He made the lyrics of the song feel like it is part of everyone’s daily reality.
Hattie Nevada was an unknown amateur songwriter from Kansas City, Missouri. “The Letter Edged in Black” is one of the many ballads she penned. Today, we will listen to Johnny Cash’s take on the song. It is within his 92nd album, Personal File. A two-CD set containing 49 unreleased tracks recorded between 1973 and 1982, has been recovered from a vault of material housed at the House of Cash studios. Isn’t it a treasure? Now, it’s time to hear one of the songs.
“The Letter Edged in Black”, Its Story, Sometimes a Lullaby
Some parents sing “The Letter Edged in Black” for their kids during bedtime without knowing the sad lyrics to the song, we could not blame the parents. It is an old song, and just singing the tune makes you feel a heartfelt sorrow.
“The Letter Edged in Black” details the story of a son who learned news from his family through a letter. In the old times, whenever you receive a black-edged letter, it means chaos, bad news, or a sad signal. As the son opens the letter from his father, sadness crawled within him. His poor old mother is dead. His mother pleads for him to come home while she is dying. What hurts the most is the whole thought of the letter. His father regrets everything he ever said to him. His father asks forgiveness for all the angry words he wished and had never spoken.
One of the worst and saddest stories, indeed. The fact to know all about these in a letter makes it more disheartening. Next time you receive a black-edged letter, you had better hold on to something before even reading it.
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Johnny Cash, The Letter Edged in Black