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Retrieved from Wikipedia:
1952 Vincent Black Lightning on Wikipedia
"1952 Vincent Black Lightning"
Song by Richard Thompson from the album Rumor and Sigh
ReleasedMay 1991
StudioSunset Sound, Los Angeles and Konk Studios, London
Writer(s)Richard Thompson
Producer(s)Mitchell Froom

"1952 Vincent Black Lightning" is a song by guitarist Richard Thompson from his 1991 album Rumor and Sigh. It tells the story of a thief named James and the girl Red Molly whom he charms with a ride on his 1952 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle. In 2011 Time magazine listed the song in its "All TIME 100 Songs", a list of "the most extraordinary English-language popular recordings since the beginning of TIME magazine in 1923," praising it as "a glorious example of what one guy can accomplish with just a guitar, a voice, an imagination and a set of astonishingly nimble fingers."[1]

Despite not being issued as a single, the ballad became a fan favourite and is one of Thompson's most highly acclaimed solo compositions.[2] A live version of the song appears on Thompson's album Two Letter Words: Live 1994.

The band Red Molly, who has covered the song, takes its name from the lead female character in the song.[3]

The motorcycle

The song focuses on the main character's love for both his girlfriend and his 1952 Vincent, a rare British motorcycle of which perhaps 30 were made.[4] The character James compares it to other cycles of the age in his dying speech:

Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a '52 Vincent and a red headed girl.
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do
They don't have a soul like a Vincent '52.[5]

Interviewed in the 2003 BBC Four documentary Solitary Life, Thompson said: "When I was a kid, that was always the exotic bike, that was always the one, the one that you went "ooh, wow". I'd always been looking for English ideas that didn't sound corny, that had some romance to them, and around which you could pin a song. And this song started with a motorcycle, it started with the Vincent. It was a good lodestone around which the song could revolve".[6]


The song has been covered by several artists:

  • Bùrach, on The Weird Set (1995)
  • Greg Brown, on The Live One (1995)
  • Bob Dylan, during a concert at Clarkston, Michigan on 14 July 2013.[7]
  • Joel Fafard on Cluck Old Hen (2010)
  • Dick Gaughan, on Sail On (1996)
  • Robert Earl Keen on Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions (2015)
  • Jeff Lang, on Disturbed Folk (1995) and Disturbed Folk vol. 2 (1999)
  • Mary Lou Lord, on Live City Sounds (2001)
  • Del McCoury Band, on Del and the Boys (2001)
  • The Mammals, on Evolver (2002)
  • Jack & Amanda Palmer on You Got Me Singing (2016)
  • Reckless Kelly on Reckless Kelly Was Here (2006)
  • Red Molly on The Red Album (2014)

When Thompson heard Dylan's cover of the song, he said, “It was a surprise, totally. I thought it was a hoax. I thought it was a joke!”[8]


  1. ^ "All-TIME 100 Songs: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (retrieved on Feb. 26, 2014).
  2. ^ "1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson - Song Info - AllMusic". Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  3. ^ Extended Bio (accessed March 7, 2011) from
  4. ^ "1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson - Song Info - AllMusic". Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  5. ^ ""1952 Vincent Black Lightning," By Richard Thompson « American Songwriter". 12 August 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "Richard Thompson: Solitary Life - BBC Four". Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  7. ^ "July 14, 2013 Clarkston, MI - The Official Bob Dylan Site". Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  8. ^ "'I thought it was a hoax': Richard Thompson wasn't easily convinced about Bob Dylan cover". Something Else!. Retrieved 7 April 2017. 

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