Rock's Backpages Library Rock's Backpages
the online library of pop writing

Mickey Newbury: An American Trilogy

Andrew Mueller, Uncut, June 2011

An overdue monument to overlooked songwriter.

'AN AMERICAN TRILOGY' is the Mickey Newbury track you'll know if you know one, though he didn't so much write it as assemble it from parts — of the Confederate anthem 'Dixie', the Union march 'The Battle Hymn Of The Republic', and the protest hymn 'All My Trials'. Newbury concocted the segue spontaneously during a show at the Bitter End West in May 1970. Since then, nearly 500 artists have had a lash at it, most famously Elvis Presley, sweating melodrama into his rhinestone-studded jumpsuit. For Newbury, the ubiquity of 'An American Trilogy' was the very definition of a mixed blessing. Elvis recording a song you wrote would make you rich. Elvis recording one you arranged just made you that guy who arranged that song. "It was probably detrimental, more than a help," sighed Newbury in a 1977 interview. "It was not indicative of what I really do."

Total word count of piece: 1055


Becoming a member is easy. Membership gives you access to all the thousands of articles in the library.

Click here to go to Subscribe page.

Click here for academic and other group subscriptions.