The Hanging Tree
Western Music
The Lone Writer  

Western Song: The Hanging Tree

“The Hanging Tree” became the theme song for the 1959 Western film The Hanging Tree, starring Gary Cooper, Maria Schell, Karl Malden, and George C. Scott. Max Steiner scored the Western ballad, while Mack David and Jerry Livingston wrote the song for the film. They received nominations for the 1960 Academy Awards (Best Music, Original Song) and 1959 Laurel Awards (Top Song). Members of the Western Writers of America have also included it in the top 100 Western songs of all time.

Marty Robbins performed the song over the opening credits of the Western epic. Although he first recorded the song on October 11, 1958, it was in January 1959 when they released it as a single. Marty also featured The Hanging Tree on his 1959 album (and its 1999 CD reissue), “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.” In 2003, Marty Robbins and Tompall and The Glaser Brother’s version were released more than ten years after its recording.

Various artists covered and made their version of the song. Frankie Laine was one of those, performing his famous cover at the 32nd Academy Awards.

Popular Recordings of The Hanging Tree

Some of the most popular versions of the song were recorded by:

  • Frankie Laine (March 1961)
  • Lee Conway (1980)
  • Johnny Western (Hangin’ Tree, 1984)
  • RW Hampton (1997)
  • Marty Robbins & Tompall & The Glaser Brothers (2003)
  • Andy Lee Lang (September 11, 2015)

Listen (Marty Robbins Version)

The Hanging Tree Lyrics

I came to town to search for gold
And I brought with me a memory
And I seem to hear the night wind cry,
"Go hang your dreams on the hangin' tree
Your dreams of love that could never be (could never be)
Hang your faded dreams on the hangin' tree!" (the hangin' tree)

I searched for gold and I found my gold
And I found a girl who loved just me
And I wished that I could love her too
But I'd left my heart on the hangin' tree
I'd left my heart with a memory (a memory)
And a faded dream on the hangin' tree. (the hangin' tree)

Now there were men who craved my gold
And meant to take my gold from me
When a man is gone he needs no gold
So they carried me to the hangin' tree
To join my dreams and a memory (a memory)
Yes they carried me to the hangin' tree. (the hangin' tree)

To really live you must almost die
And it happened just that way with me
They took the gold and set me free
And I walked away from the hangin' tree
I walked away from the hangin' tree (the hangin' tree)
And my own true love, she walked with me!

That's when I knew that the hangin' tree
Was a tree of life, new life for me
A tree of hope, new hope for me
A tree of love, new love tor me
The hangin' tree, (the hangin' tree), the hangin' tree, (the hangin' tree),
The hangin' tree!

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