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Tom T. Hall’s Musical Brilliance in “Ballad of Forty Dollars”

“The Ballad of Forty Dollars” is a classic country song written and performed by Tom T. Hall. It was released in 1969 as a single from his album “Ballad of Forty Dollars/Is It Any Wonder That I Love You.” The song is known for its narrative style and storytelling, a hallmark of Tom T. Hall’s songwriting.

The lyrics of “The Ballad of Forty Dollars” tell the story of a street musician who sets out to play his guitar in a crowded place, hoping to earn forty dollars to buy his wife a birthday gift. As he plays his music, the crowd passes him by, and he reflects on life’s struggles and the difficulty of making a living as a musician.

The chorus of the song includes the poignant lines:

“And the wind blowed across his face and he commenced to sing
And while he was singing, the onlookers all agreed
That the man on the stand, he had the strangest kind of delivery
And the song that he sang was so far from the plan
That the street musician staggered and fell dead in front of me.”

The song captures the harsh realities of life, the challenges faced by those trying to make a living through unconventional means, and the unexpected turns that can occur. Tom T. Hall’s storytelling prowess and the simplicity of the acoustic arrangement contribute to the song’s timeless appeal. “The Ballad of Forty Dollars” remains a notable example of Hall’s narrative songwriting style in the realm of classic country music.

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