Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Ray Charles with Willie Nelson, “Seven Spanish Angels”

“Seven Spanish Angels'”

Ray Charles with Willie Nelson

Written by Troy Seals and Eddie Setser

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

March 8, 1985


#1 (1 week)

March 25, 1985

How appropriate to be writing about “Seven Spanish Angels” just days after Willie Nelson joined Ray Charles among the elite group of artists who have been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“Seven Spanish Angels” showcases the vocal strengths of both artists, with a subtle production that incorporates light Latin instrumentation, allowing the lyric and the singers to shine. 

Garth Brooks once sang that “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” but the doomed lovers running for their freedom here would likely disagree with him.  The woman’s whispered belief that “God will keep us free” is quickly tested, as her lover is gunned down shortly afterward. 

She does get an answer to her second prayer, but she takes that matter into her own hands.  Claiming that she cannot live without her man, she picks up a gun that she knows is empty, inviting the riflers to shoot her down as well.  They do.

Charles and Nelson deliver this song with the reverence and empathy that it deserves.  It feels like the best music often comes from storytelling like this, where characters with such different lives than us listeners can imagine have their stories told with humanity.

In a world where supposedly mainstream politicians now openly discuss shooting migrants at the southern border, we could use a hell of a lot more of this kind of storytelling.  

“Seven Spanish Angels” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I have said before that Waylon & Bocephus’ ”The Conversation” is my favorite classic country duet, but this one is right behind it.

  2. Nelson and Charles make their western contribution to the country music genre with this gem of a ballad.

    The moody atmosphere of the storytelling, which has one foot in heaven and the other in the southwest, keeps good company with other story songs ranging from Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” to the Wagoneers’ ‘Stout and High” to Toby Keith’s “Bullets in the Gun” to Willie and Merle’s “Pancho and Lefty.”

    Mythic ambience sustains an ethereal song short on details but long on vibes of fugitives, lovers, faith, last-stands, and guns.

    Lovers have seemingly fled to Mexico and our being pursued by rifled riders.

    It is fascinating that the word posse is never used to describe the riders or outlaws to describe the lovers.

    All we really know of the characters is the man and woman are Texan and the angels are Spanish.

    The fugitive lovers number two, the angels number seven, and the riders are numberless.

    The “Valley of The Gun”, “The Alter of the Sun, “and the cosmic “Throne” exist in parabolic time and place. The clearing smoke and thunder further establish a sense of mystery and the divine.

    The entire song is an immersive cinematic wonder about love, fate, and reunion in a strange landscape just familiar enough to make us feel every last emotion the song pulls from us.

    This song evokes a dreamworld of the heart and imagination.

    Charles and Nelson deliver a brilliant performance of an equally brilliant composition.

    A real stunner of a song.

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