In 1982, Ray Charles was in the process of re-vamping his career, and signed a recording contract with Columbia Records in Nashville. This led to a series of four country albums released over the next four years. Only one of them, “Friendship,” was a major success. A collection of duets with ten different performers, the album reached #1 on March 23, 1985, the same date that Ray earned his only #1 country single, “Seven Spanish Angels.”
The original concept for this song, a Mexican-flavored tragedy, belonged to Eddie Setser, who frequently wrote with Troy Seals. The tunesmiths used Marty Robbins’ 1959 masterpiece “El Paso” as a guide, although they knew they couldn’t come up with anything as spectacular as that. However, they did manage to work in the flavor of the Southwest and cowboys in their tale. Troy crafted the song with Willie Nelson in mind.