Friday Five: Horseracing

Juli Thanki | May 4th, 2012

Tomorrow is the 138th Kentucky Derby. Put on an ostentatious hat and get ready for the Run for the Roses with these songs. (It’s not the Friday Six, but you can’t go wrong with adding Tim O’Brien’s “Hoss Race” to your Derby Day playlist.)

5. Johnny Cash, “Camptown Races”

It’s a good thing the Kentucky Derby is the greatest two minutes in sports: if the horses were “going to run all night/going to run all day” the stands would be littered with the prone bodies of spectators who didn’t pace their mint julep consumption.

 

4. Lead Belly, “Stewball”

“Skewball” is a traditional British folksong based on a racing horse from the mid-1700s. American artists like Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, and Cisco Houston altered the name and changed the setting to the States in their versions.

 

3. Slaid Cleaves, “Quick as Dreams”

This fantastic story song about Depression-era jockeys from Cleaves’ Wishbones is based on a true story.

 

2. Bill Monroe, “Molly and Tenbrooks”

Here’s another one about real horses—Mollie McCarty and Ten Broeck—but the song takes more than a few creative liberties: Mollie didn’t die. Also, I’m pretty sure the horses didn’t talk to each other during the race.

 

1. George Jones, “The Race is On”

Jones co-wrote this song, which topped out at #3 on the country charts in 1964. Don’t go placing any bets with the Possum: the winner loses all.

  1. badrockandroll
    May 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

    As much as I love Johnny Cash, I have to endorse the Duhk’s version of Camptown Races, from the great Stephen Foster tribute album “Beautiful Dreamer”.

  2. bob
    May 4, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Dan Fogelberg’s “Run for the Roses”

  3. Barry Mazor
    May 4, 2012 at 10:16 am

    OK; I’d add Richard Thompson’s not that well-known “The Angels Took My Racehorse Away.” Always wished Del McC would take on this one (and “Jet Plane in a Rocking Chair”) :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-bgFPrMTOc

  4. nm
    May 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    It’s not exactly about going to the races, but I’ve always liked Tom T. Hall’s “Faster Horses.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFKdXV63_Cc

  5. Jack Williams
    May 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Well, the Band’s Up on Cripple Creek does have that one verse about a horse race, where Levon bet on one horse to win and Bessie bet on another to show. That’s all I got.

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