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Willie Nelson

Pancho And Lefty lyrics

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Willie Nelson – Pancho And Lefty lyrics

Livin on the road my friend, is gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath as hard as kerosene

You weren't your momma's only boy, but her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye
And sank into your dreams
Pancho was a bandit boy, his horse was fast as polished steel
He wore his gun outside his pants
For all the honest world to feel
Pancho met his match you know on the deserts down in Mexico
Nobody heard his dyin words, ah but that's the way it goes
All the Federales say, they could've had him any day
They only let him slip away, out of kindness I suppose
Lefty he can't sing the blues all night long like he used to
The dust that Pancho bit down south ended up in Lefty's mouth
The day they laid poor Pancho low, Lefty split for Ohio
Where he got the bread to go, there ain't nobody knows
All the Federales say, they could've had him any day
They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose
The boys tell how old Pancho fell, and Lefty's livin in cheap hotels
The desert's quiet, Cleveland's cold
And so the story ends we're told
Pancho needs your prayers it's true, but save a few for Lefty too
He only did what he had to do, and now he's growing old
All the Federales say, they could've had him any day
They only let him go so long, out of kindness I suppose
A few gray Federales say, they could've had him any day
They only let him go so long, out of kindness I suppose

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  • d
    This is an interesting song. Taken literally it is about 2 different people. Knowing about the songwriter, Townes Van Zandt (not Willie Nelson) I think it is actually about the 2 sides of his own personality. He did have a brother, but he was the favorite son of his mom, Dorothy (or Dotsy to her friends). Townes was a bad alcoholic/substance abuser who had dual personalities and recognized his own illness(s) and often wrote of them in his songs. Listen to Marie. Listen to Hangin around to Die. Listen to Nothin. Then listen to Pancho and Lefty again. Pancho was the "good" fun but troubled Townes. Lefty was the "bad" sneaky unreliable cowardly Townes who ran away from responsibiity, including multiple wives and children. His epitaph should have been taken from his song To live is to Fly-- shake the dust off of your wings and the sleep out of your eyes. He was always ready to fly away, and did to the very end. RIP TVW.
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  • u
    You got these lyrics wrong! In the first stanza, it's the federales let him hang around, not let him slip away! Pancho was hung--townes van zandt had even said so in interviews--they let him hang around, get it? In the last stanza--they only let him go so wrong, not long! Check your facts before posting errors, ok? Or just listen to the damn video--you'll hear townes say the correct words!
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  • u
    This is a great piece of song writing that tells a complete story of two men; poncho and lefty. Also, nice use of internal rhyme for added punch in relating the story. One gets the feeling that poncho was tolerated by the federales for quite a while, but when presented with an opportunity to catch him, they took it. It is implied that lefty, while down on his luck, provided information to the federales that would enable them to capture poncho. Poncho was killed during the capture and lefty likely used the reward money to flee mexico and return to the states. These lines: "lefty can't sing the blues all night long like he used to.
    The dust that poncho bit down south ended up in lefty's mouth".
    Are probably the most evocative of the song. They tell us that lefty's guilt over turning his friend in has taken a heavy toll over the years.
    And the author asks for a little mercy for lefty too; living out the remainder of his life in a cold climate, acutely feeling the burden of his betrayal.
    Willie nelson is a very talented song writer.
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  • u
    Pancho and lefty are minor league hoods of the type that still hang around the mexico/texas border, even today. Lefty, who has a repatation as a blues singer, sells pancho out to the mexican rural police(federalies, a group renouned for itks curroption) who attempted to kill pancho, but pancho escaped. Leefty took the reward money(bribe) and drifed to ohio. Now heks older and dying and living with a guilty concinse.
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  • u
    You don't have to believe me, but my friend Larry Nelson wrote the lyrics to "Pancho and Lefty" and handed them to Townes van Zandt at the Sink restaurant in 1968. Over a period of several hours and lots of beer Townes came up with the melody and the song was complete the next day. I just learned this this very morning at breakfast with Larry.

    Townes, by the way, wanted to drop the line, "Out of kindness, I suppose", but Larry convinced him not to. There is a lot going on in the song, which happens to have originated from the TV show, "The Cisco Kid"! Also, the bit about the Federales saying, "They could have had him any day", came from an FBI statement on TV after they caught some notorious criminal that year.

    I have known Larry many years and he his a quiet, soft spoken guy, and extremely modest. Larry is not prone to bragging or exaggeration. I believe him.
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