Music Friday: Silver Earrings, Gold Bracelet Play Key Roles in the Hauntingly Beautiful ‘All I Left Behind’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we feature the hauntingly beautiful harmonies of Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris in their 1999 duet “All I Left Behind.”

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A song about a woman who unselfishly puts her life on hold to go on the road with her lover, “All I Left Behind” recounts the items she lost along the way, which include her silver earrings and a her dad’s gold bracelet. In the end, she loses her lover, as well.

They sing, “Silver earrings in Wichita / Beaded moccasins in Tonopah / But I had you so, I just let them go.”

In a later verse, the story of a cherished keepsake is told: “And the gold bracelet with my father’s name inscribed / On the back by the one who loved him all her life / The way I too could have loved you.”

Written by Harris with Kate and Anna McGarrigle, “All I Left Behind” appeared as the 12th track on Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions, a Ronstadt/Harris duet album that included songs written by a virtual Who’s Who of the music industry. Among those receiving writing credits on the album were Jackson Brown, Rosanne Cash, Sinéad O’Connor and Bruce Springsteen. Singing background vocals and playing the harmonica on the album was none other than Neil Young.

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“It took more than 25 years, two divergent careers and plenty of false starts, near-misses and might-have-beens, but Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris have finally made an album together,” wrote Bill DeYoung for Goldmine magazine back in 1999.

“I believe that there’s a poetic thread that holds [the songs] together,” Harris told Goldmine. “I think they all deal with very deep issues about life and love and longing and loss. For me, an album has to be a string of pearls, but they’re all slightly different. They’re not perfectly matched pearls.”

The album — featuring the velvety alto of Ronstadt and songbird soprano of Harris — earned critical acclaim, hitting #6 on the Billboard Country albums chart while earning several Grammy nominations.

Ronstadt, who will turn 70 next month, is a 2014 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has released more than 30 studio albums and charted 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles, including “You’re No Good,” which reached #1. She has earned 11 Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, a Tony nomination and a Golden Globe nomination.

The 69-year-old Emmylou Harris also boasts a long and stellar career, during which she accumulated 13 Grammy awards and 39 Grammy nominations. She has collaborated with the industry’s biggest names, including Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Cyndi Lauper and Ryan Adams. Her most recent collaboration with Rodney Crowell earned the duo a 2016 Americana Music Association Award nomination in the category of Duo/Group of the Year.

We hope you enjoy the audio track of Ronstadt and Harris performing “All I Left Behind.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“All I Left Behind”
Written by Emmylou Harris, Kate McGarrigle and Anna McGarrigle. Performed by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.

All I left behind should come as no surprise
To me since I fell through the black hole of your eyes
Only little things inconsequential I could say
Of all I left behind with you along the lost highway

Silver earrings in Wichita
Beaded moccasins in Tonopah
But I had you so, I just let them go

The flannel shirt I wore to keep me from the cold
When we drove from Boston all the way to Buffalo
The leather boots I bought, so many miles ago
I took them off to follow you into the Ohio

Never did my armor feel so thin
Silk was all I had between me and your skin
Like Waterloo, I lost that too

And the gold bracelet with my father’s name inscribed
On the back by the one who loved him all her life
The way I, too, could have loved you

The Spanish shawl, I put across the broken shade
Of the lamp that lit the room that last night near Coeur d’Alene
Only little things inconsequential I could say
Of all I left behind with you along the lost highway

Of all I left behind, all I left behind

Credits: Album cover image of Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions; Cropped promotional image for Trio.

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