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Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho And Lefty”

Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho And Lefty”

“Pancho And Lefty” Wasn’t Historical

Townes Van Zandt is one of the the best songwriters who ever walked the planet.  His personality and words were a combination that were a sincere look at the world around him.

In an interview with Paul Zollo, he talked about being in a hotel room with nothing to do the day before a gig, so he decided to spend the day writing a song. He wrote a song and played it at the gig that night, when a friend came up to him after an said he didn’t think it was finished.

The next day, Townes sat in his hotel room and wrote the last verse of the song. “The only thing I remember thinking about while I was sitting there writing it was consciously thinking that this is not about Pancho Villa.” 

In an interview, he recalled, “I realize that I wrote it, but it’s hard to take credit for the writing, because it came from out of the blue. It came through me and it’s a real nice song, and I think, uh, I’ve finally found out what it’s about. I’ve always wondered what it’s about. I kinda always knew it wasn’t about Pancho Villa, and then somebody told me that Pancho Villa had a buddy whose name in Spanish meant ‘Lefty.’ But in the song, my song, Pancho gets hung. ‘They only let him hang around out of kindness I suppose’ and the real Pancho Villa was, uh, assassinated.”

Inspiration and background for “Pancho and Lefty” from the DVD Heartworn Highways.

 

 

“Pancho and Lefty” Lyrics

 

VERSE
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.
VERSE
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.

REFRAIN
All the Federales say, they could’ve had him any day.
They only let him slip away, out of kindness I suppose.

VERSE
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.

REFRAIN

All the Federales say, they could’ve had him any day
They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose

VERSE
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.

REFRAIN
All the Federales say, they could’ve had him any day.
They only let him go so long, out of kindness I suppose.

REFRAIN
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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