Author Topic: Great YouTube clips  (Read 31994 times)

Offline x-man

  • Brokeback Got Me Good
  • *****
  • Posts: 302
PANCHO AND LEFTY--WHAT'S THE REAL MEANING?
« Reply #50 on: April 07, 2015, 09:49:53 am »
This is the Townes Van Zandt rendering of Pancho and Lefty.  Van Zandt wrote the song, and explains a little about this before he begins to sing.  You all know the song very well.  I am posting Van Zandt's version here because you may not have heard it, and, after all, he is the composer.  I am NOT posting it because I buy into the BBMRadio political correctness pose in banning Willie Nelson.  The Nelson-Haggard version is clearly better, but we all know it very well.  BTW the whole question of banning music because you don't like the politics etc., of the performer or composer is very problematic—think banning Wagner because of his Nazi associations.  (Actually I will not listen to Wagner because of this very reason, but although I am proudly LGBT I DO listen to Willie Nelson because his rendering of a song—at least in this case—is the best, and I am not so naive as to believe that other versions are being sung by gay-friendly singers.  Dylan?  With his fundamentalist religious views?  Give me a break.)  Back to Pancho and Lefty.

I also check out the SongMeanings website.  Everybody and his brother has posted there about P&L.  They all say the same thing—they think the hopelessly obvious, and think that they were the first one to notice this, that Lefty turned Pancho in to the Federales for money, went back to Cleveland where he now leads a desperate meaningless life because he was such a rat to turn in his friend for money.  Hello?  That is obviously the meaning of that part of the song.  I suggest that is not the real question about the song.  NOR do I wonder if Pancho and Lefty were more than friends.  That is gay wishful thinking.  Of course Pancho is good and noble, handsome and sexy and probably fantastic in bed, but that isn't the issue.  So what is the issue? you ask.

If you are aware of the techniques of literary analysis, you notice immediately that the song is in two parts.  The actual Pancho/Lefty story is the second part.  The real issue is the relationship of the 2 parts of the song.  It is there that the meaning will be found, and that question is still open.  So, wade in, people.

The first part is this:

Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
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

The Pancho/Lefty narrative is the dream.  The song seems to be about a third person, who the singer refers to as “my friend.”   I offer 2 possibilities for the relationship between the 2 parts of the song.    1)   The “friend” began life with optimism and his own Hollywood -style Western movie certainties about life being morally clear and easy to confront, only to realize how, at least for him, it ends up in compromise, uncertainty and emptiness.  The P/L story is then an illustration of this—the “friend” started life out as Pancho and ended up as Lefty.  This is the interpretation I think most of you will adopt.

I am wondering about another possibility.  First of all, let's ignore Vn Zandt's “simple awh-shucks Texas cowboy” pose and grant that his lyrics are more sophisticated than he is letting on.

When I first heard the song I was immediately reminded of Conrad Aitken's short story Silent Snow Secret Snow.  In that story a boy, confined to bed, probably schizophrenic, each day listens for the footsteps outside of the postman approaching his house.  At first he hears them from far away, gradually he only hears them as the postman is closer, and each day closer, until at the end he cannot hear them at all, and he loses all connection with reality.  With the song we have an analogous situation with the son gradually changing from a person open to the world to one losing touch with reality and slipping into a dream—the dream of what life should be like, where good guys wear white hats and bad guys wear black ones





Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.  Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth. ---- Oscar Wilde

Online Front-Ranger

  • BetterMost Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 24,932
  • I'm marching for her!
Re: Great YouTube clips
« Reply #51 on: April 07, 2015, 09:58:02 pm »
x-man that is a really deep interpretation of the song. I will have to listen to it often to understand.

It's really interesting how many of the songs I like turn out to be ancient Scottish songs. Recently I obtained the book Wayfaring Strangers written by Fiona Ritchie with an introduction by Dolly Parton. It talks about how songs made their way from the Highlands of Scotland to Ulster, Ireland and ultimately to Appalachia. It's a wonderful book, and has a CD as well, but it doesn't devote enough space to RObert Burns, IMO.
May 2019 be better for us all.