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Travelin' Prayer

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Title: Travelin' Prayer  
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Subject: Prelude/Angry Young Man, Big Man on Mulberry Street, Christmas in Fallujah, The Night Is Still Young (Billy Joel song), No Man's Land (Billy Joel song)
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Travelin' Prayer

"Travelin' Prayer"
Single by Billy Joel
from the album Piano Man
B-side "Ain't No Crime"
Released 1974
Format 7"
Recorded Devonshire Sound, Los Angeles
Genre rock, folk rock
Length 3:03 (single)
4:16 (album)
Label Family Productions/Columbia
Writer(s) Billy Joel
Producer(s) Michael Stewart
Billy Joel singles chronology
"Worse Comes to Worst"
(1974)
"Travelin' Prayer"
(1974)
"The Ballad of Billy the Kid"
(1974)

"Travelin' Prayer" is a single by singer Billy Joel released as the 3rd single from his 1974 album Piano Man. The song is described as an urgent, banjo-fueled gem.[1] It reached number #77 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #34 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Lyrics and music

Joel wrote "Travelin' Prayer" about two years before it appeared on the album.[2] The song has four verses, the first of which is later repeated, and two instrumental breaks.[3] The lyrics offer a prayer that the singer's lover be protected until she returns to the singer.[3] The song has elements of country music, and is taken at a brisk pace.[3] Instrumentation includes honky-tonk piano, banjo, violin and drums, the latter of which are played with brushes.[3] Joel plays mouth harp during the second instrumental break.[3] Author Ken Bielen sees the song as being influenced by a traditional Irish blessing for an easy return home.[3] Bielen also notes that the song fits with a trend during the period in which religious images were often used in popular songs.[3] Author Hank Bordowitz describes the song as a "pop-grass on-the-road-again song."[2] Bordowitz particularly praises the banjo playing of Eric Weissberg.[2]

Cover versions

"Travelin' Prayer" was covered by Earl Scruggs Revue in 1973 on the album Rockin' Cross the Country.[4] Billboard Magazine rated it as one of the "best cuts" on the album.[5] It later earned Dolly Parton a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, when she covered it in 1999 on the album The Grass Is Blue.[6][7] CMJ noted the song as a "recommended track."[8]

Parton has stated that she "always loved Billy Joel's 'Travelin' Prayer', which [she] thought lent itself to pure bluegrass."[9] The CMJ New Music Report confirmed that Parton's arrangement transforms the song into a "legitimate bluegrass tune."[8] Allmusic critic Philip Van Vleck agrees that it works as a bluegrass song.[10] Author Ken Bielen notes that "Parton recognizes the roots music element" of the song.[3] Bielen notes that Parton's version begins with a slow violin introduction that lasts almost a minute, but the rest of the song goes at "pedal to the metal" speed.[3] In addition to the violin, Parton's backing instruments include banjo, dobro, mandolin, guitar and bass guitar.[3]

Chart positions

Chart (1974) Peak
position
Canadian Singles Chart[11] 61
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[12] 77
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks[13] 34

References

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