Song Lyric Sunday – “The Streets of Laredo”

When I saw that this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme was “street”, I was immediately taken back to grade 6. Our teacher was Mr. Wharton and it was his first (and only) year at our school. I think now he would be considered innovative; however, in the early 1970’s his style was not considered acceptable. That was a shame.

One of the things that made him a favourite teacher for me and most of my classmates was that he got us where we were. You were allowed to eat candy or gum in class…as long as you had enough for everyone. If he felt that he had lost our attention, he would pick up his guitar and start playing. We would sing a song or two and then go back to whatever subject we were working on. It almost always worked.

I remember many of the songs we sang; however, “The Streets of Laredo” (aka “The Cowboy’s Lament”) was one that really stuck in my head. Why? I don’t know. It is about a young cowboy who dies and is put to rest. The tune is as dark and sad as the words. It is just one of those old country/folk songs that lay dormant for years and then just come back into your head.

“The Streets of Laredo” is thought to be a traditional folk tune derived from a couple of British tunes and no actual author is known. However, Frank H Maynard, a well-known cowboy in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s claimed he wrote the version known as “The Streets of Laredo”. Journalists have documented this fact. The song was chosen as one of the top 100 Western songs of all time by the Western Music Writers. It has also been recorded by many artists, and the words have been adapted or changed to suit the version.

I picked the video because, while it is not the best quality, it has Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash in it (who both recorded solo versions). They both also happened to be two of my Dad’s favourite artists. I have left all the lyrics in from Wikipedia even though they are not all in the video just to show there is a lot of discrepancies.

As always, thanks to Helen of This Thing Called Life One Day At A Time for yet another great theme. Be sure to check her link for other submissions and why not try it yourself!

The Streets of Laredo

As I walked out in the streets of Laredo
As I walked out in Laredo one day,
I spied a poor cowboy, all wrapped in white linen
All wrapped in white linen and cold as the clay.

“I see by your outfit, that you are a cowboy.”
These words he did say as I slowly passed by.
“Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story,
For I’m shot in the chest, and today I must die.”

“‘Oh once in the saddle I used to go dashing,
‘Oh once in the saddle I used to go gay.
First down to Rosie’s, and then to the card-house,
Got shot through the body, and now here I lay.”

“Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
And play the dead march as you carry me along;
Take me to the green valley, there lay the sod o’er me,
For I’m a young cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong.”

“Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,
Get six pretty maidens to sing me a song
Put bunches of roses all over my coffin,
Roses to deaden the clods as they fall.”

“Then swing your rope slowly and rattle your spurs lowly,
And give a wild whoop as you carry me along;
And in the grave throw me and roll the sod o’er me.
For I’m a young cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong.”

“Go bring me a cup, a cup of cold water.
To cool my parched lips”, the cowboy then said.
Before I returned, his spirit had departed,
And gone to the round up – the cowboy was dead.

We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly,
And bitterly wept as we bore him along.
For we loved our comrade, so brave, young and handsome,
We all loved our comrade, although he’d done wrong.

All information and lyrics from Wikipedia


11 Replies to “Song Lyric Sunday – “The Streets of Laredo””

  1. Marty Robbins has the most beautiful voice! He was also one of my dad’s favorites. I’d completely forgotten about him. I love this duo. The difference in their voices is rather poignant. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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