• July 19, 2024

Do you remember Vicki Lawrence’s #1 song from 1973?

Yes, that Vicki Lawrence. As if being the second banana on The Carol Burnett Show wasn’t enough, Lawrence had hit songs, too. Because being on one of America’s biggest and most influential sketch shows didn’t fully scratch her creative itch, Vicki Lawrence went and became a multi-hyphenate, etching her name into multiple entertainment history books.

The song in question is “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” written in 1972 by Lawrence’s then-husband Bobby Russell. Vicki was, by then, a bona fide celebrity. The Carol Burnett Show pulled her out of teenaged obscurity and planted her onto the television sets of millions of viewers. The Burnett show proved that Lawrence was one of the most capable performers in show business, regularly and gamely doing anything for a laugh, including singing.

Country justice is the tune’s primary preoccupation. It’s a Southern Gothic murder ballad told from the perspective of a woman singing about her brother. Her brother, having just returned from a trip, learns of his wife’s adultery. He confronts the man with whom she had an affair, only to find the man dead. The brother is arrested and hanged for this crime he didn’t commit. He had plenty of motive, and he had the means and the opportunity to kill the other man. But he didn’t do it.

Spoiler Alert: It’s the song’s narrator who enacted revenge and killed the man who slept with her brother’s wife.

Phew! That was complicated. But that didn’t keep listeners from sending the song all the way to number one in 1973. Even though the song was written in ’72 and released in November of that year, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” didn’t top the Billboard chart until April 7th, 1973, when it spent two weeks at number one.

Do you like this version of the song? Or is your favorite the Reba McEntire recording? Do you prefer Vicki Lawrence in The Carol Burnett Show, or in Mama’s Family? Let us know in the comments section below!

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