PANCHO AND LEFTY

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs

PANCHO AND LEFTY

 

“Pancho and Lefty” is a song written by country music artist Townes Van Zandt. Often considered his “most enduring and well-known song,” Van Zandt first recorded it for his 1972 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt.

The song tells the story of a Mexican bandit named Pancho and a more enigmatic character, Lefty. The song tells of Pancho’s death and implies that he was betrayed by his associate Lefty who was paid off by the Mexican federales.

Although the lyrics are not exactly reconcilable with the historic details of the life and death of the famous Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, Van Zandt does not rule out the idea. 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, 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 assassinated.”

In the same interview, Van Zandt recalled, “We got stopped by these two policeman and…they said ‘What do you do for a living?’, and I said, ‘Well, I’m a songwriter’, and they both kind of looked around like ‘pitiful, pitiful’, and so on to that I added, ‘I wrote that song Pancho and Lefty. You ever heard that song Pancho and Lefty? I wrote that’, and they looked back around and they looked at each other and started grinning, and it turns out that their squad car, you know their partnership, it was two guys, it was an Anglo and a Hispanic, and it turns out, they’re called Pancho and Lefty..so I think maybe that’s what it’s about, those two guys… I hope I never see them again”

 

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