Seven Spanish Angels

Seven Spanish Angels

performed by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson
written by Troy Seals and Eddie Setser
released in November, 1984

He looked down into her brown eyes
And said "say a prayer for me"
She threw her arms around him
Whispered, "God will keep us free"
They could hear the riders comin'
He said, "this is my last fight
If they take me back to Texas
They won't take me back alive"

There were seven Spanish angels
At the altar of the sun
They were prayin' for the lovers
In the valley of the gun
When the battle stopped and the smoke cleared
There was thunder from the throne
And seven Spanish angels
Took another angel home

She reached down and picked the gun up
That lay smokin' in his hand
She said, "Father, please forgive me
I can't make it without my man"
And she knew the gun was empty
And she knew she couldn't win
But her final prayer was answered
When the rifles fired again

There were seven Spanish angels
At the altar of the sun
They were prayin' for the lovers
In the valley of the gun
When the battle stopped and the smoke cleared
There was thunder from the throne
And seven Spanish angels
Took another angel home

There were seven Spanish angels
At the altar of the sun
They were prayin' for the lovers
In the valley of the gun
When the battle stopped and the smoke cleared
There was thunder from the throne
And seven Spanish angels
Took another angel home

There were seven Spanish angels
At the altar of the sun
They were prayin' for the lovers
In the valley of the gun
When the battle stopped and the smoke cleared
There was thunder from the throne
And seven Spanish angels
Took another angel home

___________________

From Wiki:

Seven Spanish Angels” is a song written by Troy Seals and Eddie Setser, and recorded by Ray Charles as a duet with Willie Nelson. It was released in November 1984 as a single from Charles’ 1984 album Friendship. Charles and Nelson split the verses, with Charles singing the first and Nelson the second, Charles sang the first and second choruses with Nelson joining for the outro. It was also included on Nelson’s 1985 compilation album Half Nelson. “Seven Spanish Angels” was the most successful of Charles’ eight hits on the country chart. The single spent one week at number one and a total of twelve weeks on the country chart.

Setser had suggested the title “Seven Spanish Angels” and he and Seals had written the song as a homage to the tejano flavored classic hits of Marty Robbins exemplified by Robbins’ career record “El Paso” (Troy Seals quote): “When we finished it we thought ‘Who in the world’s gonna do it?’ because Marty was [deceased].” Within two days “Seven Spanish Angels” had been successfully pitched to Willie Nelson. Before Nelson was able to record it, producer Billy Sherrill happened to hear the demo and wanted the song for Ray Charles. Sherrill proposed that Nelson and Charles duet on the song after learning of Nelson’s having reserved it.

What is this song about?

The first stanza introduces us to two folks, a man and a woman, on the run. He can hear pursuit coming and tells his lover that he will be dead before he is taken back to Texas. She assures him that God will keep them free. The first stanza provides the religious imagery that the chorus subsequently expands upon. In addition to the line about God keeping them free, line 2 includes the man asking his lover to say a prayer.

In the second stanza, the man is dead and his gun is empty. His lover asks God to forgive her. She picks up the empty rifle, points at the lawmen, and is gunned down herself. The stanza states that her death was an answer to a prayer.

The chorus of this song is repeated four times.

There were seven Spanish angels
At the altar of the sun
They were prayin’ for the lovers
In the valley of the gun
When the battle stopped and the smoke cleared
There was thunder from the throne
And seven Spanish angels
Took another angel home

There is an ethereal quality to the chorus. We do not know who the “seven Spanish angels” are. We also do not know where “the altar of the sun” is. It is possible that the seven Spanish angels refers to the members of the posse sent in pursuit of the couple. The reason to embrace this potential interpretation is that the angels are described as “Spanish.” Literal angels generally are not described as having a nation of origin. It stands to reason then that the description of Spanish is intended as a clue of identity. If so, then the altar may represent high ground from which they were firing their weapons. The valley of the gun would then represent the low ground wherein the couple are as they run.

The trouble with this interpretation is that the “thunder from the throne” (rifle fire?) does not occur until *after* the battle stops and the smoke clears. Perhaps the thunder is not from the battle but rather represents the deaths of the two lovers.

In any case, I do not believe the intent of the writers is clarity – quite the opposite. The story as provided gives us a blending of the physical and the spiritual. The end result is that you are forced to sit with the words and give thought to what you think happened, and to what the song’s message might be.

  • Is the posse “the seven Spanish angels?”
  • If they are not, why are the angels Spanish?
  • Why are the two lovers on the run also described as angels after they die?
  • What does God think about all of this and what does “thunder from the throne” mean here?

As written the song included the lines: “Now the people in the valley swear/ That when the moon’s just right/ They see the Texan and his woman/ Ride across the clouds at night.” The stanza was not to record due to a belief the track would run too long.

The song charted well.

Chart (1984–1985)Peak position
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks1
New Zealand Singles Chart6
Australian Kent Music Report29

You can listen to a live performance at the video link below.

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2 thoughts on “Seven Spanish Angels

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