THE NIGHT THEY DROVE OLD DIXIE DOWN

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs

THE NIGHT THEY DROVE OLD DIXIE DOWN
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is a song by The Band, recorded in 1969 and released on their eponymous second album. Joan Baez’s cover of the song was a top-five chart hit in late 1971.
The lyrics tell of the last days of the American Civil War and the suffering of Southerners. Robertson stated that he had the music to the song in his head but at first had no idea what it was to be about. Then the concept came to him and he did research on the subject. Levon Helm, a native of Arkansas, stated that he assisted in the research for the lyrics.[2] In his 1993 autobiography, This Wheel’s on Fire, Helm wrote, “Robbie and I worked on ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ up in Woodstock. I remember taking him to the library so he could research the history and geography of the era and make General Robert E. Lee come out with all due respect.”
Dixie is the historical nickname for the states making up the Confederate States of America. The first lines of the lyrics refer to one of George Stoneman’s raids behind Confederate lines attacking the railroads of Danville, Virginia at the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Virgil Caine is the name
And I served on the Danville train
‘Till Stoneman’s cavalry came
And tore up the tracks again

In the winter of ’65
We were hungry, just barely alive
By May the 10th, Richmond had fell
It’s a time I remember, oh so well

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, na”

Back with my wife in Tennessee
When one day she called to me
Said “Virgil, quick, come see,
There goes the Robert E. Lee!”

Now, I don’t mind chopping wood
And I don’t care if the money’s no good
You take what you need
And you leave the rest
But they should never
Have taken the very best

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, na”

Like my father before me
I will work the land
And like my brother above me
Who took a rebel stand

He was just 18, proud and brave
But a Yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the mud below my feet
You can’t raise a Caine back up
When he’s in defeat

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, na”

The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, na”