"Darkness on the Face of the Earth" (1962)
Originally released on Nelson's very first LP, 1962's …And Then I Wrote, this tale of a love who leaves is drama to the hilt: She splits, the sun explodes and darkness envelopes the land. It's almost biblical in its apocalyptic vision of a world without love. Nelson revisited the song three years later on his Country Willie: His Own Songs album with a slightly different feel. In 1998, he returned to "Darkness" yet again for the Daniel Lanois-produced Téatro, ramping up the haunting quality of the lyrics with a percussion-heavy, hypnotic arrangement. But it's his original 1962 version, and a performance from that era on The Porter Wagoner Show, that best conveys the earth-shattering hopelessness that can follow a breakup.