The Meaning of Willie Nelson & Ray Charles’ “Seven Spanish Angels”

In 1984, Willie Nelson and Ray Charles came together to record “Seven Spanish Angels”, a wonderful song that tells the story of an outlaw and his lover on the run in Mexico who find themselves in a gunfight with a posse of lawmen who came to bring them back to Texas, but not alive.

In the first verse, sung by Ray Charles, the outlaw turns to his lover in one final embrace before deciding to stand and fight the approaching posse. They delicately exchange acknowledgements that they would likely die, seeking prayers and trusting that the grace of God will keep them free after death.

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 coming
He said “This is my last fight
If they take me back to Texas
They won’t take me back alive”

First verse to “Seven Spanish Angels”

The chorus depicts seven Spanish angels “at the altar of the sun”, which we can assume is heaven. The angels pray for the lovers, but then a boom of thunder from the throne adds another angel to their ranks. The boom of thunder is representative of the gunfight that ends both of their lives.

As for the seven Spanish angels, they could represent the outlaws who have gone before the two lovers in this story, whom are up in heaven praying that these two don’t meet the same fate that they do. Alas, the lovers do meet this same fate, and the outlaw joins them as angel number eight.

There were seven Spanish angels
At the altar of the sun
They were praying 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

Chorus to “Seven Spanish Angels”

Willie Nelson’s verse finishes the story, with the settled dust revealing that the outlaw has been gunned down and only his lover remains. Not for long, however, as she reaches for the still-smoking gun and utters one final prayer, expressing to God that she can’t make it without her man. She knew the gun was empty, and that these are her final moments, and soon she is gunned down in the next volley of rifle fire.

She reached down and picked the gun up
That lay smoking 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
Her final prayer was answered
When the rifles fired again

Second verse to “Seven Spanish Angels”
Willie Nelson and Ray Charles in 1988.

The Making of “Seven Spanish Angels”

The song was written by Troy Seals and Eddie Sester, who had initially pitched the track to Willie Nelson. Willie liked what he heard and planned to record the track at a future date. However, before Nelson had a chance to record it, the noted produced Billy Sherill heard it and thought it would be a good fit for Ray Charles.

When informed that Willie Nelson had already expressed interest in “Seven Spanish Angels”, Sherill suggested that Nelson and Charles record the song as a duet and release it together.

Everyone thought that was a great idea, and thus the beautiful country duet “Seven Spanish Angels” was born. It was released on both Ray Charles’ 1984 album Friendship, and Willie Nelson’s 1985 album, Half Nelson.

According to Seals, the song was originally written with another verse that continued the story. Sherill decided to cut the song because he was concerned that it would run too long with the extra verse. The scrapped lyrics are as follows:

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

Scrapped lyrics to “Seven Spanish Angels”

The song was a hit and found its way to number one on the country charts, marking the only number one hit that Ray Charles had in the country genre. As we know, Ray Charles was one of the pioneers of soul music, but he also recorded several country songs, eight of which found their way onto the charts.

“Seven Spanish Angels” was one of two duets that Willie Nelson and Ray Charles recorded together, with the other being “Georgia On My Mind”. The two have remained great friends over the years and have spoken very highly of one another.

Watch the official video for “Seven Spanish Angels” below.

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One thought on “The Meaning of Willie Nelson & Ray Charles’ “Seven Spanish Angels”

  • July 31, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    Definitely one of my favourite song. Should have had the final verse in!

    Reply

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