Tanya Tucker‘s legendary hit “Delta Dawn” turned 50 years old yesterday, first released in 1972 as a single from her album of the same name.
The song had actually first been recorded and released by one of its writers, Alex Harvey, a year earlier, and a version was also released by Helen Reddy in 1973 that hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
But 50 years later, it’s Tanya Tucker’s version of the song that remains the best known.
The song about a woman with an obsession for a “mysterious dark-haired man” who had years earlier promised to “take her for his bride” was written by Harvey along with Larry Collins, and Harvey says the main character was actually inspired by his mother:
“My mother had come from the Mississippi Delta and she always lived her life as if she had a suitcase in her hand but nowhere to put it down.”
And Harvey wrote the song with Collins after years of guilt over his mother’s death, after he had told her not to come to one of his shows because he was afraid she would get drunk and embarrass him. His mother would die in a car crash that night, which Harvey believed to be a suicide.
But on the night he wrote the song, Harvey says his mother appeared to him that night, sitting in a rocking chair and laughing – and that Harvey believes that was her way of telling him that it was ok.
“Delta Dawn” was then written as a gift to Harvey’s mother – an apology and a thank you of sorts.
And 50 years later it’s still Tanya Tucker’s best known hit.
Last night Tanya returned to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to celebrate 50-years of “Delta Dawn,” along with special guests including T. Graham Brown, Brenda Lee, Jessi Colter, LeAnn Rimes and many others.
For the finale performance, Tucker brought the house down as she performed “Delta Dawn” alongside the rest of the night’s all-star lineup – and with a full choir singing backup.
And you can bet the packed house there to see it knew every word.