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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Kaw-Liga (The Residents) -- a cover version

Kaw-Liga is a proto-rockabilly song written by Hank Williams and Fred Rose. Backed by the Drifting Cowboys, Hank Williams recorded the song in Nashville in September, 1952 and the single was released posthumously in January 1953 on the MGM Records label. It remained No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart for 14 weeks and reached No. 23 on the pop charts. The flipside, "Your Cheatin' Heart, remained No. 1 on the country chart for 6 weeks.


"Kaw-Liga" is a song about a wooden Indian, Kaw-Liga, who falls in love with an "Indian maid over in the antique store" but does not tell her so, being, as the lyrics say:

Too stubborn to ever show a sign,
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

The Indian maid waits for Kaw-Liga to signal his affection for her, but he either refuses or is physically/emotionally unable (interpretations vary) to talk, ever the stoical Native American of the popular stereotype. Because of his stubbornness, Kaw-Liga's love continues to be unrequited, with Hank Williams, the narrator/singer of the song lamenting,

Poor ol Kaw-liga, he never got a kiss,
Poor ol Kaw-liga, he don't know what he missed,
Is it any wonder that his face is red?
Kaw-liga, that poor ol' wooden head.

The song ends with the Indian maid being bought and taken away from the antique store by a buyer, leaving Kaw-Liga alone,

As lonely as can be,
And wishes he was still an ol' pine tree.

This song has been covered by artists such as Charley Pride, Roy Orbison, Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn, Boxcar Willie, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr.

Hank owned a cabin in Kowaliga Bay on Lake Martin, Alabama. The home is now privately owned by Hank's daughter Jett Williams and is not open to the general public.

The avant garde band The Residents made numerous covers of this song, replacing its original backing music with the bassline of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kaw-Liga" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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