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Pancho And Lefty
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard Lyrics


Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
And now you wear your skin like iron
And your breath as hard as kerosene

You weren't your mama'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 dying words
Ah but that's the way it goes

All the Federales say
They could have 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
We could have had him any day
We only let him slip away
Out of kindness, I suppose

The poets tell how Pancho fell
And Lefty's living 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
We could have had him any day
We only let him go so long
Out of kindness, I suppose

A few gray Federales say
We could have had him any day
We only let him go so long
Out of kindness, I suppose

Lyrics © O/B/O APRA/AMCOS

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Youth

Lyrics:

Living on the road my friend,
Was gonna keep you free and clean
And now you wear your skin like iron,
And your breath as hard as kerosene
You weren't your mama'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 dying words,
Ah but that's the way it goes
All the Federales say
They could have 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
We could have had him any day
We only let him slip away
Out of kindness, I suppose
The poets tell how Pancho fell,
And Lefty's living 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
We could have had him any day
We only let him go so long
Out of kindness, I suppose
A few gray Federales say
We could have had him any day
We only let him go so long
Out of kindness, I suppose



AuntieMHere

OK, here’s one take on it:

Townes Van Zandt wrote the song and appears in this video, so I’m thinking he had some say in the final video product...

Friends (brothers?) Pancho and Lefty had made a pact about living and dying. The video begins with Pancho (portrayed by Willie Nelson) as being ill or injured, almost falling off his horse. The horse appears eager and ready to go, and maybe puzzled by Pancho’s inability. Pancho has blood on his fingers as he looks at the portrait of him and his mother. He appears to be dying after he “met his match." He looks back with sorrow… maybe at the person who shot him.

Lefty (portrayed by Merle Haggard) clearly turns Pancho over to the federales… dead or alive. Nobody heard his dying words. As the locals bury Pancho, they look at Lefty with disdain as he rides away; they had respected Pancho and regretted his death after Lefty’s apparent betrayal. But Lefty “only did what he had to do” in fulfilling a promise to Pancho… maybe that neither would let the other live on in too much pain. And now Lefty is living in pain, and now he’s growing old.

But we’ll never know for sure what TVZ meant, and I think maybe he wanted it that way. Maybe like all poetry, a song should not mean, but be.

P.S. TVZ originally did some of the words differently, e.g. "We only let him go so wrong (vs. "so long")" in the last chorus. Also, he refers to "the borders" rather than "the desert" down in Mexico. At the end, they're drinking Lone Star beer so it's the Texas/Mexico border. TVZ hailed from Texas. Another subtle irony: The cheap hotel where Lefty is living at the end is the "Alamo."



All comments from YouTube:

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This kind of music has saved me during this pandemic. Whoever reads this.....I hope you are safe and well. This too shall pass.

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Neil Young was right, I need a Cinnamon Girl too.

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Thank-you so much ❤

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@Kelvin Jordan good stuff Kelvin. Happy for you.

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Think I'm in love 😂😂

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The legends are dying off and their sure as hell not being replaced.

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