The song is literally "gallows humor", as it is sung by a man awaiting his own execution by hanging. Each verse consists of two lines, of which the first line is anything from humorous to poignant, and the second line is a minute-by-minute countdown.
- Well they're buildin' the gallows outside my cell.
- I got 25 minutes to go.
- And the whole town's waitin' just to hear me yell.
- I got 24 minutes to go.
The song is similar in concept to Silverstein's children's song "Boa Constrictor": It presents the point of view of someone who is experiencing a calamity in "real time," composing and singing as the events unfold, with a fatal conclusion. ("Boa Constrictor", like "25 Minutes to Go", appeared on Silverstein's 1962 album Inside Folk Songs.
- Brothers Four, on their 1963 album Cross Country Concert
- Johnny Cash on his 1965 album Sings the Ballads of the True West and on his famous 1968 live album, At Folsom Prison.
- Danish Singer Povl Dissing with the band Beefeaters - 25 Minutter endnu (1967 single)
- Flemish singer Will Tura from Belgium as "20 minuten geduld" in 1968.
- Swedish folk singer Ewert Ljusberg on Goknul (1972).
- American avant-garde singer Diamanda Galás] on Malediction & Prayer (1998, Asphodel Records).
- British cult band Tiger Lillies on 2 Penny Opera (2001).
- American country/rock band Pine Valley Cosmonauts on The Executioner's Last Songs (2002).
- German metal band Dezperadoz] on their third album An Eye for an Eye.
- German Singer Gunter Gabriel] on his Album The Tennessee-Recordings (2003).
- American rock band Pearl Jam on their 2004 album Live at Benaroya Hall.