Song Meaning Henry Lee – Nick Cave

Passionate love, insidious betrayal, violent jealousy and brutal revenge – dozens of well-known folk ballads are based on this simple storyline, including the song Henry Lee by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds featuring PJ Harvey, discussed below.

The history of the creation of the song Henry Lee

The history of the work began, according to researchers, no later than the fifteenth century. It is generally accepted that Scotland is her homeland, but subsequently the ballad was well known in England and the USA.

As usual in folklore, the song had several versions of the lyrics and was found under different names: Henry Lee, Proud Girl, Earl Richard, Young Hunting, Love Henry and others.

They all told about a young man who wants to leave his beloved for another, more beautiful woman. The offended girl gets him drunk, kills him and throws the body into the river. Sometimes the song mentions a witness to the crime – a small bird. As a rule, most versions ended the same way: the truth came out, after which the woman was executed.

It is possible that the song would not have survived to this day if it had not been recorded in 1929 by Richard “Dick” Justice. His version of the song was included in Francis James Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Later Henry Lee was sung by many artists, including Bob Dylan.

Henry Lee

Modern music lovers who are not interested in folk music know the song thanks to Nick Cave, who performed it in a duet with PJ Harvey. They took a composition by Richard Justice as a basis, but musically they changed it so much that it is not easy to recognize the original.

Henry Lee is featured on Murder Ballads, the ninth studio album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It was also released as a single in Australia.

The video for the song Henry Lee – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was directed by Rocky Schenk.

Interesting Facts

  • Sensation-hungry music lovers claim that the song is about American serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.
  • Nick Cave and PJ Harvey were dating at the time of the recording of Henry Lee.

Henry Lee Lyrics

Get down, get down, little Henry Lee
And stay all night with me
You won’t find a girl in this damn world
That will compare with me
And the wind did howl and the wind did blow
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee

I can’t get down and I won’t get down
And stay all night with you
For the girl I have in that merry green land
I love far better than you
And the wind did howl and the wind did blow
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee

She leaned herself against a fence
Just for a kiss or two
And with a little pen-knife held in her hand
She plugged him through and through
And the wind did roar and the wind did moan
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee

Come take him by his lilly-white hands
Come take him by his feet
And throw him in this deep deep well
Which is more than one hundred feet
And the wind did howl and the wind did blow
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee

Lie there, lie there, little Henry Lee
Till the flesh drops from your bones
For the girl you have in that merry green land
Can wait forever for you to come home
And the wind did howl and the wind did moan
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee

Henry Lee Lyrics – Nick Cave

Get down, get down, little Henry Lee
And be with me all night
In this damn world you won’t find a girl
What can compare to me
And the wind kept howling, and the wind kept blowing
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-li
A little bird fluttered on Henry Lee

I can’t lie down and I don’t want to go to bed
And stay with you all night
For the girl who waits for me in the merry green land
I love so much more than you
And the wind kept howling, and the wind kept blowing
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-li
A little bird fluttered on Henry Lee

She leaned on the fence
To kiss him once or twice
And a small penknife
She hit him multiple times
And the wind kept howling, and the wind kept blowing
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-li
A little bird fluttered on Henry Lee

Take him by the pale hands
Take him by the legs
And throw it in a deep, deep well
In which more than a hundred feet to the bottom
And the wind kept howling, and the wind kept blowing
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-li
A little bird fluttered on Henry Lee

Lie there, lie there, little Henry Lee
Until the flesh falls away from the bones
And the girl you got in the merry green land,
Can wait forever for you to come home
And the wind kept howling, and the wind kept blowing
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-li
A little bird fluttered on Henry Lee

Song quote

A tale of the rage of a rejected woman

Nick Cave

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