Studio version

There's a pale horse comin'
And I'm gonna ride it
I'll rise in the morning
My fate decided it
I'm a dead man walkin'
I'm a dead man walkin'

In Saint James Parish
I was born and Christened
Now I've got my story
Mister, ain't no need for you to listen
It's just a dead man talkin'

Once I had a job, I had a girl
Between our dreams and actions lies this world

Hey in the deep forest
Their blood and tears rushed over me
All I could feel was the drugs and the shotgun
And my fear up inside me
Like a dead man talkin'

'Neath the summer sky my eyes went black
Sister I won't ask for forgiveness, my sins are all I have

Now the clouds above my prison
Move slowly 'cross the sky
There's a new day comin'
And my dreams are full tonight

Oscar-nominated Bruce Springsteen composition, opener of the soundtrack for Tim Robbins' 1995 motion picture Dead Man Walking. It is the first of the two songs that play during the end credits.

Writer-producer-director Tim Robbins and actress Susan Sarandon set a letter to musicians they admired asking for contributions to the project. After viewing a screening in New York, Springsteen agreed, as did Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Suzanne Vega, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, and Johnny Cash. "All these people have in someway inspired me to write, to make up stories," Robbins, the son of folk singer Gil Robbins, told the Los Angeles Times. "Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska is a big inspiration. [...] So all these people writing for this film, it's like completing a circle."

Springsteen wrote DEAD MAN WALKIN' in Spring 1995. He recorded it sometime in Apr-May 1995 at Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio) in Beverly Hills, CA. He handles guitar and vocals, and is backed-up by Danny Federici on keyboards, Jim Hanson on bass, and Gary Mallaber drums. The song is stunning as the film it was written for, and Springsteen sings in narrative style in the voice of a death-row inmate similar to Sean Penn's film character. When the New Musical Express suggested Springsteen resembled Penn's character, he jokingly responded: "I do? I didn't realize that. Help! I'm going home... I don't have as much hair as he does, for a start."

The song was first released on 30 Dec 1995 on the film's soundtrack album, and was later included on the bonus disc of The Essential Bruce Springsteen collection in 2003.

DEAD MAN WALKIN' was released on several singles in early 1996.

Tim Robbins himself directed the music video for DEAD MAN WALKIN' in 1996. It was later released on the on The Complete Video Anthology / 1978-2000 DVD.

In the middle of his The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour in Europe, Bruce returned to the US to perform DEAD MAN WALKIN' on 25 Mar 1996 at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA, during the 68th Annual Academy Awards ceremony. The song was nominated for the Best Song category, and that was Springsteen's second ever Academy Awards nomination. check out the live 25 Mar 1996 version for more details.

DEAD MAN WALKIN' was played live for the first time on 21 Nov 1995 at the State Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ, during a warm-up gig for The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour tour. It was played a total of 15 times on-tour. Check out the live 27 Nov 1995 version and live 05 Dec 1995 version.

DEAD MAN WALKIN' was played 5 times during the 2000 US leg of The Reunion Tour, on:

  • 03 Apr 2000 at Rose Garden Arena, Portland, OR, dedicated to Life For Life Campaign in Oregon
  • 21 Apr 2000 at Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC, dedicated to the People Of Faith Against The Death Penalty organization
  • 22 Apr 2000 at Raleigh Entertainment Center, Raleigh, NC, dedicated to the People Of Faith Against The Death Penalty organization
  • 03 Jun 2000 at Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
  • 23 Jun 2000 at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY, dedicated to the New York Against The Death Penalty organization (see the live 23 Jun 2000 version)

The 03 Apr 2000 rendition was dedicated to Life For Life, an organization which is attempting to appeal the death penalty in Oregon. Bruce noted and named the supporters of the Life For Life Campaign, including Governor John Kitzhaber and others. "Sign the petition for appeal," he urged.

The above lyrics refer to the studio version. Check out also the other available versions of this song (all have very similar lyrics):

Track credits:
Produced by Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Plotkin
Bruce Springsteen - vocals and guitar
Dan Federici - keyboards
Jim Hanson - bass
Gary Mallaber - drums and percussion
Recorded and mixed by Toby Scott
Recorded at Thrill Hill Recording, Los Angeles, CA
Published by Bruce Springsteen

Available Versions

List of available versions of DEAD MAN WALKIN' on this website:

DEAD MAN WALKIN' [Studio version]
DEAD MAN WALKIN' [Live 27 Nov 1995 version]
DEAD MAN WALKIN' [Live 05 Dec 1995 version]
DEAD MAN WALKIN' [Live 25 Mar 1996 version]
DEAD MAN WALKIN' [Live 23 Jun 2000 version]

Page last updated: 02 Sep 2007