“Highwayman” is a song written by American singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb, first recorded in 1977 by country music artist Glen Campbell. However, the most well-known version of the song is the one recorded by the supergroup The Highwaymen in 1985, which consisted of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson.
The song tells the story of a soul who has lived through multiple lifetimes as different incarnations of the titular “highwayman” – a thief who robs travelers on the road. The four verses each describe a different highwayman, starting with a sailor who becomes a pirate, then a highwayman who is hanged for his crimes, then a dam builder who dies in an accident, and finally a starship captain who explores the universe. Despite their varied lives, they all share the common theme of living by the code of the highwayman.
The song features each of The Highwaymen taking a verse, with the group joining together for the chorus. The melody and arrangement are characterized by a mournful, haunting quality, and the lyrics reflect a sense of longing and restlessness.
“Highwayman” was a commercial and critical success, becoming one of The Highwaymen’s signature songs and a beloved country classic. Its enduring popularity is due in part to its timeless themes of adventure, rebellion, and the yearning for freedom.
Another popular song by The Highwaymen is “The Devil’s Right Hand.” The song was written by Steve Earle and tells the story of a gunman and his weapon of choice, the “devil’s right hand.” The lyrics describe the destructive power of guns and the ways in which they can be used to harm or kill. The song features powerful vocals from all four members of The Highwaymen and a driving country rock sound that complements the gritty, outlaw themes of the lyrics. “The Devil’s Right Hand” was included on The Highwaymen’s 1985 self-titled debut album and has since become a classic of both the outlaw country and Americana genres.