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How to Play The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down on Guitar

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is a classic song by The Band, written by Robbie Robertson and released in 1969. The song tells the story of Virgil Caine, a Confederate soldier who witnesses the end of the American Civil War and the destruction of the South. The song has been covered by many artists, such as Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, and The Black Crowes.

In this article, we will show you how to play “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” on guitar, using chords, tabs, and video lessons. We will also explain some of the history and meaning behind the song.

The Chords

The song is in the key of C major and uses the following chords:

         E-A-D-G-B-e
C/G      3-x-2-0-1-0
C/E      0-x-2-0-1-0
Am/E     0-x-2-2-1-0
D/F#     2-x-0-2-3-2
F     (t)1-3-3-2-1-0
 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
[Intro]
|   C   |
 (Link 1)
 
 
[Verse 1]
Am       C/G                      F             C/E      Dm
  Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train
Am               C/G              F           C/E     Dm
 'Til Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again
Am/E               F           C/G          Dm
 In the winter of '65, We were hungry, just barely alive
Am/E               F                         C/G      Dm            D/F#
 By May the tenth, Richmond had fell, it's a time I remember, oh so well
 
 
[Chorus 1]
    C/G        Fmaj7           C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing
    C/G        Fmaj7           C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the people were singin' 
          C/G             Am            Gsus4           F               |    C   |  %  |
They went:  Naah, na, na, naah, na, na  Na, na, na, na, naah, na, na, na, na    [Link 2)
 
 
[Verse 2]
Am                     C/G             F           C/E       Dm
  Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me
Am         C/G              F              C/E       Dm
  "Virgil, quick, come see, there goes the Robert E. Lee!"
Am/E               F                    C/G               Dm
  Now I don't mind choppin' wood, and I don't care if the money's no good
   Am/E                     F
Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
                C/G        Dm             D/F#
But they should never have taken the very best
 
 
[Chorus 2]
    C/G          Fmaj7         C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing
    C/G        Fmaj7           C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the people were singin'
           C/G            Am
They went:  Naah, na, na, naah, na, na  
                                               2/4
Gsus4               F                |   C  C | F |  C  |  N.C.  |
Na, na, na, na, na, naah, na, na, na       (Link 3)
 
 
[Verse 3]
Am                 C/G      F      C/E      Dm
  Like my father before me, I will work the land
Am                 C/G      F          C/E   Dm
  Like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand
       Am/E           F                      C               Dm
He was just eighteen, proud and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his grave
Am/E                   F
  I swear by the mud below my feet
          C                  Dm                D/F#
You can't raise a Caine back up when he's in defeat
 
 
[Chorus 3]
    C/G        Fmaj7           C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing
    C/G        Fmaj7           C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the people were singin'  
           C/G            Am
They went:  Naah, na, na, naah, na, na  
Gsus4           F                 |  C    | G/B Bb | F/A Ddim/Ab | C/G D/F# |
Na, na, na, na, naah, na, na, na        (Link 4)
 
 
[Chorus 4] (fade out)
    C/G        Fmaj7           C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing,
    C/G        Fmaj7           C/G           Fmaj7
The night they drove Old Dixie down, and the people were singin'.  
          C/G             Am            Gsus4           F               |    C   |  %  |
They went:  Naah, na, na, naah, na, na  Na, na, na, na, naah, na, na, na    [Link 2)

You can play these chords with a capo on the first fret to match the original recording by The Band, or without a capo to match the cover by Joan Baez. You can also use different voicings or fingerings for some of the chords, depending on your preference and skill level.

The Strumming Pattern

The song has a simple strumming pattern that consists of four downstrokes per measure, with some variations and embellishments. You can use your thumb or a pick to strum the chords, and add some hammer-ons, pull-offs, or slides to make it more interesting. Here is an example of the basic strumming pattern for the verse

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