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"Hangman Jury"
Single by Aerosmith
from the album Permanent Vacation
Released 1987
Format Cassette, CD, Record
Recorded 1987
Genre Hard rock, blues-rock, Country Rock
Length 05:31
Label Geffen
Writer(s) Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Jim Vallance
Producer Bruce Fairbairn
Aerosmith singles chronology
"Dude (Looks Like a Lady)"
(1987)
"Hangman Jury"
(1987)
"Angel"
(1988)

"Hangman Jury" is a song by American hard rock band Aerosmith. It was released as a promotional single in 1987 on the album Permanent Vacation. It was written by lead singer Steven Tyler, guitarist Joe Perry, and outside collaborator Jim Vallance.

Contents

Background

"Hangman Jury" is a re-working of an old blues song, used by numerous artists over the years, particularly Leadbelly and Taj Mahal. The chant it was based on was the refrain, "whoa boy, dontcha line the track-a-lack-a", which is often called "Linin' Track" or "Line 'Em". Joe Perry added the acoustic guitar, and Tyler re-worked the song, building it around the refrain, adding original verses of his own. Tyler and Perry had the song mostly completed when they worked with Vallance on the song in the spring of 1987.

Tyler received permission from Taj Mahal to use the refrain (thinking he wrote it), however he did not receive permission from Leadbelly. Tyler felt that the song was a classic American chant dating back to the days of slavery and that it was in the public domain, meaning nobody actually owned it. However, after Leadbelly recorded it, he claimed ownership of the song. Subsequently, Leadbelly's estate sued Aerosmith about a year after "Hangman Jury" was released.

Structure

"Hangman Jury" begins with special sound effects, including a creaking rocking chair and the sounds of a summer night, including chirping crickets. The song begins with acoustic guitars, a percussion instrument, and then a harmonica part. Tyler then begins the first verse and the refrain, while the acoustic guitars continue to play. After the first few lines, the song kicks into a hard rock song, with electric guitars, drums, and bass.

Chart performance

The song was released to rock radio in 1987. It hit #14 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 1987, and stayed on that chart for 12 weeks. It was the fourth most successful single from the Permanent Vacation album.

In concert

The band resurrected the song as a setlist staple in the mid 2000s, performing it at several concerts around the world on their 2007 World Tour. Tyler and Perry performed the acoustic portion of the song sitting down at the end of the catwalk, before going into "Seasons of Wither". In concert, Tyler often substitutes the line, "I'd stand on the rock that Moses done stood" for the line "I'd stand on the rock Joe Perry done stood".

References

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