A night ago or so I was flipping stations on the radio when I heard the unmistakable howl of Dave Alvin and the Blasters. I haven’t really written about it here, but Alvin is one of my favorite songwriters and I have an especially strong appreciation of his work with the Blasters, his earliest stuff.

Night wolves moan

the winter hills are black

I’m all alone

sitting in the back

of a long white Cadillac

Somehow, although the song has apparently been covered by the likes of Dwight Yoakam, I had managed to never hear the Blasters side “Long White Cadillac.” When I stopped on the station, I was halted simply by the happy feel of hearing a beloved artist. Shortly, as happens often enough with Alvin’s work, I was paying very careful, wondering attention. The driving feel of the song is in direct contradiction to the lyrics, which focus on solitude, failure, and death, and combine an existential dread with the redemptive imagery of the funeral train that provides a winking subject for many great American pop songs.

Headlights shine

highway fades to black

I’ll take my time

in a long white Cadillac

in a long white Cadillac

As I digested this complex work of art, the unmistakable thought crossed my mind: “This song is about the death of Hank Williams.”

One time I had all that I wanted

But it just skipped through my hands

One time I sang away the sorrow

One time I took it like a man

At the time, our internet access was down, and thus I was unable to look into my suspicion. Imagine my satisfaction on googling the song and coming across the link above, on Alvin’s website. The last line on the page containing the lyrics?

-Dedicated to Hank Williams

2 thoughts on “Long White Cadillac

  1. One of the finest tributes to Hank Williams. I’ve been really disappointed by Dave Alvin’s post blasters stuff. I want to like it, and I just can’t. Just because he’s Dave Alvin, I’ll keep trying. There are bright spots.

  2. HEY! I haven’t heard this song in years. one of my favorites in high school! haha. I don’t think it’s on thier 1st lp though, I think I maybe had it on a best of slash records lp?! the one with moses on the cover with the 10 commandments. I think that lp had the germs,X,the gun club, rank n’ file, and the violent femmes(!) on it, too. this lp turned me on to some great stuff. I think I got it around 1983. it was one of those bargin bin kinda lp’s. anyhow, I once won a radio contest because of this song. it was woxy out of oxford ohio, and they played that song on their “new wave show” haha! and asked what the song was about!! I called in and said…”hank williams!” and won two free tickets to the cincinatti playhouse in the park…I gave the tickets to my parents…they play turned out the be TORCH SONG TRILOGY…HAHAHA…my parents came home very confused. they asked me…”are you trying to tell us something?!?!”

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