Posts Tagged ‘lyrics’

I was passed the meme torch recently, by Lofter over at Life At the Foot of the Stairs. The instructions were simple: 1) think of “the most depressing song of all time, which we still love to hear”; 2) post a video and the lyrics (if applicable); and 3) tag three others to do the same. There are a plethora of songs to choose from, and I spent days trying to decide on what I thought would be a good one for this meme. And while my choice is likely not the most depressing song of all time, it’s sad and awesome and perfectly good for a black-themed meme.

And while in the theme of black, I decided to go old school. (All the great tragedies have already been written, I think.) The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, came to mind and I eventually settled on “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town.”

A young cowboy named Billy Joe grew restless on the farm
A boy filled with wanderlust who really meant no harm
He changed his clothes and shined his boots
And combed his dark hair down
And his mother cried as he walked out
Don’t take your guns to town son
Leave your guns at home Bill
Don’t take your guns to town

He laughed and kissed his mom
And said your Billy Joe’s a man
I can shoot as quick and straight as anybody can
But I wouldn’t shoot without a cause
I’d gun nobody down
But she cried again as he rode away
He sang a song as on he rode
His guns hung at his hips
He rode into a cattle town
A smile upon his lips
He stopped and walked into a bar
And laid his money down
But his mother’s words echoed again
He drank his first strong liquor then to calm his shaking hand
And tried to tell himself he had become a man
A dusty cowpoke at his side began to laugh him down
And he heard again his mothers words
Filled with rage then
Billy Joe reached for his gun to draw
But the stranger drew his gun and fired
Before he even saw
As Billy Joe fell to the floor
The crowd all gathered ’round
And wondered at his final words-
Don’t take your guns to town son
Leave your guns at home Bill
Don’t take your guns to town.

One of the things I like best is that it’s a very straightforward song about the brashness of youth and the consequences of poor decisions. But there is so much more to it than that. Billie Joe’s a farmboy, but a young man wanting to stretch his legs and knock off some of that farm dust. I can just see him deciding to go to town, a bit full of himself, a hair cocky, and no one to try and stop him but his mother who cries for him to leave the guns at home. But he’s sure of himself and ignores her request. At the bar, an older and more experienced man sees him for what he is – a greenhorn, a kid still wet behind the ears, a hayseed farmboy playing grown-up gunslinger – and pokes fun at him, probably voicing quite publicly Billie Joe’s own quiet fears and doubts. Which doesn’t sit well with Billie Joe, of course, and which prompts him to make the last in a string of bad decisions. For an insult, a boy dies. A boy filled with wanderlust who really meant no harm.

His death is needless, senseless, and leaves me feeling helpless. A perfectly depressing song that I still love for its true-to-life story, its simple melody, and Johnny Cash’s bass voice cleaving the air into song.

Leave it to The Man in Black.

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