“Pancho & Lefty” by Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard

This week for Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams has prompted us with Drifter/Loner/Transient/Vagabond Songs. Pancho & Lefty was written by Townes Van Zandt who passed away at the early age of 52 in 1997 from cardiac arrythimia caused by years of health problems stemming from substance abuse. His story is interesting & you can read more by clicking the link. Van Zandt first recorded Pancho & Lefty in 1972 on his album “The Late Great Townes Van Zandt”. Ironic, don’t you think?!?

Townes Van Zandt, country music songwriter
Townes Van Zandt

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard took Pancho & Lefty to #1 on the Country charts in 1983. In the year that CMT was all videos…all the time. Watch carefully & you will see Van Zandt appear in the video.

The song & video portrays Pancho, a Mexican bandit & drifter who is betrayed by his partner Lefty. Lefty was paid off by the Mexican federales to kill him. Van Zandt never ruled out that this song was based on Pancho Villa, a well known Mexican revolutionary general who led a raid against a small US-Mexico border town in 1916, but met resistance by the US Government, causing Villa to flee from capture.

Pancho & Lefty
Willie Nelson
Living on the road my friend was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron and your breath's 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
Poncho 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
Poncho 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 the way he used to
The dust that Poncho bit down south ended up in Lefty's mouth
Day they laid poor Poncho 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 poets tell how Poncho fell and Lefty's living in a cheap hotel
The desert's quiet and Cleveland's cold and so the story ends we're told
Poncho 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
They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose
A few great Federales say could've had him any day
They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: TOWNES VAN ZANDT
Pancho & Lefty lyrics © Katie Belle Music, Will Van Zandt Publishing, JTVZ MUSIC, KATIE BELL MUSIC, BUG MUSIC O/B/O KATIE BELLE MUSIC, WIXEN MUSIC PUBLISHING OBO WILL VAN ZANDT PUBLISHING, WIXEN MUSIC PUBLISHING OBO JTVZ MUSIC, BUG MUSIC O/B/O WILL VAN ZANDT PUBLISHING

13 Comments on ““Pancho & Lefty” by Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard

    • It was interesting to learn more about Van Zandt’s story. I think this is why I love this challenge so much. I research people I wouldn’t normally research. It ignites feelings long forgotten. Thanks Jim for the platform & allowing me to exercise my brain a bit!

      Like

  1. That is what I love best about Song Lyric Sunday, learning new things. I enjoy listening to all the music, but when I learn something about the songs then they have more meaning to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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