“End of the Line”

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“End of the Line”, the second Traveling Wilburys single, was released at the end of January 1989, about a month after the death of Roy Orbison. It’s a quite poignant song because of that fact. The lyrics are written for middle-aged men in a retrospective mode, and it’s easy-going sensibilities point to the value of accepting life (and death) as it comes:

Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray

Well it’s all right, you still got something to say

Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live

Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive

Both of the Wilburys singles from their first album were very obviously singles. The songs open and close the album, and they are the only ones on which most of the band has a featured vocal part. “End of the Line”, actually, does not feature a Dylan vocal; Harrison, Lynne, and Orbison take turns singing the chorus while Petty sings all of the verses. Dylan can be heard harmonizing on the one line (“End of the Line”) throughout. Many of the other songs on the album are fairly straight solo songs by the songwriter with the rest of the act serving as guest stars, but this and “Handle Me With Care” are the clear showcases for the group as a group.

The video is pretty basic – the four men play guitar around an empty chair that holds Orbison’t guitar on a set made to look like a moving train. Simple and straightforward. A tasteful tribute to the late, great Roy Orbison.

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