Behind Every “Satisfied Mind”

I posted once before about the namesake of this blog, which is a song titled “A Satisfied Mind.” The first time I heard the song was during my introduction to Jeff Buckley while I was going through a divorce. For a long time I didn’t look much past the song itself; I thought it was Jeff Buckley’s song. I love Jeff Buckley’s crooning and the lyrics really resonated with me, and that’s all I needed at the time.

Over the years as I’ve gone back and listened to the song again I saw other names pop up in search results and it dawned on me that this song has layered history. On a whim the other day I searched Spotify for “Satisfied Mind” and it gave me a TON of results. I combed through them all and found NINETY-EIGHT versions of the song, including covers by Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Joan Baez. I was floored. So I did a little more digging, and here’s what I’ve learned:

The song was first released in 1954 by Starday records and the names on the original album were Joe “Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes. Red Hayes was quoted in a printed interview on the origin of the lyrics, which apparently came from a conversation with his father-in-law: “I put a lot of thought into the song before I came up with the title. One day my father-in-law asked me who I thought the richest man in the world was, and I mentioned some names. He said, ‘You’re wrong, it is the man with a satisfied mind.'”

But the Red Hayes version fell off the radar because Porter Wagoner covered it in 1955 and made it a hit. And then over time there was speculation about whether Jack Rhodes was actually coauthor of the original or if he’d given $500 to Red Hayes and in return ended up getting his name on the record. There’s also a UFO story associated with the writing of the song. Read more on this music historian’s blog, where you can also listen to the original recording.

You can also check out my Spotify playlist below, loosely organized by importance/my preference (you’ll notice I threw all the twangy and country stuff at the end since those are my least favorite versions). You’ll see there’s no Red Hayes version available on Spotify, and even some of the artists on my playlist who cover the song don’t know who the original artist is (cough, Justin Vernon, cough). Enjoy.

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