The Dark End of the Street
"The Dark End of the Street" is a 1967 soul song written by Muscle Shoals songwriters Dan Penn and Chips Moman and first performed by James Carr. The song became Carr's most popular, reaching number 10 on Billboard Magazine's Black Singles Chart, and crossing over to number 77 on the Pop chart.
Written by Penn, a professional songwriter and producer, and Moman, a session guitarist at Phil Spector's Gold Star Studio, the song is the lament from an adulterer to his illicit lover, told from the adulterer's point of view. They continue their sin, "hiding in shadows where [they] don't belong" because their "love keeps coming on strong." At the climax of the song, the narrator fears "they're gonna find us some day."
In the summer of 1966, while a DJ convention was being held in Memphis, Tennessee, the song was written in about thirty minutes. Penn and Moman were cheating while playing cards with Florida DJ Don Schroeder. They wrote the song while on a break. “We were always wanting to come up with the best cheatin’ song. Ever,” Penn said. The duo went to the hotel room of Quinton Claunch, another Muscle Shoals alumnus, and founder of Hi Records, to write. Claunch told them, "boys, you can use my room on one condition, which is that you give me that song for James Carr. They said I had a deal, and they kept their word.”
The song has been covered by many artists, including Oscar Toney, Jr., Percy Sledge, Joe Tex, Bruce Springsteen, Deacon Blue, Dolly Parton with Porter Wagoner, Elvis Costello, Ry Cooder, Ryan Adams with Courtney Love, Aretha Franklin from This Girl's in Love with You (1970), Prince Buster, Lee Hazlewood and Ann-Margret, Clarence Carter, The Allman Brothers, Roy Hamilton, Richard Thompson and Linda Thompson, Moving Hearts, Eva Cassidy, Diamanda Galás, Flying Burrito Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, The Afghan Whigs, Alex Chilton with Teenage Fanclub, Widespread Panic, Rock City Angels, Eels, Cat Power, Adam Duritz, The New Standards, Gram Parsons, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog and Peter Green
The song was performed by the titular band in the 1991 film The Commitments.
The song was a top 25 country music hit for the duet team of Archie Campbell and Lorene Mann in early 1968, and covered later that year by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton on their album, Just the Two of Us.
Southern novelist Ace Atkins titled his 2002 book "The Dark End of the Street" after the song.
Today, the song is closely regarded as a classic recording of the "Muscle Shoals Sound".
The song was used in one of the last scenes in the Danish 2006 film "We Shall Overcome" ("Drømmen" in Danish).
The song was used in the 2011 Broadway musical Baby It's You! which detailed the career of Florence Greenberg.
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