The Lost Highway of Appropriation


So back in the songwriting days, I was obsessed with the Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back, and with one scene in particular that had Dylan and Joan Biaz riffing on Hank Williams covers.

Later in some 3am writing session, I stumbled upon a progression with a capo on the third fret, rambled out the three chords I knew, and created an homage to Hank’s Lost Highway.  Seemingly clever, I called it Superhighway that told a story of lost love on the internet.

I always felt a little guilty about how close it was to the original, but I kept playing it live and never recorded it properly (obviously).  As I ironically look back at my obsession with Don’t Look Back, it’s fascinating how I was able to copy it without ever hearing the original version.  Through the osmosis of Hank’s influence on Dylan, the Stones and countless others, it came through.  Now with the Replacements version on their new EP, I was confronted with the ghost of my appropriation sins, and forced to do the research and come clean.

Apparently Hank didn’t write it either.  It was blind blues musician Leon Payne that wrote it in the late 1940‘s, while waiting for a ride to see his sick mother in Texas.

His version is surprisingly more upbeat than Hank’s.  No matter what version, I think the magic of the song is the vocal melody that tells a story, and delivers the lesson at the end.

What did I learn?

The Replacements are the greatest garage band in Rock Roll, Hank knew a good song when he heard it, and never record your ideas in mono digital.  I never captured that feeling again, like I did on the mono version, and that feeling wasn’t mine to begin with.

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