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

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 dying words,
Ah but that's the way it goes.

All the Federales say
They could have 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
We could have had him any day.
We only let him slip away
Out of kindness, I suppose.

The poets tell how Pancho fell,
And Lefty's living 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
We could have had him any day.
We only let him go so long
Out of kindness, I suppose.

A few gray Federales say
We could have had him any day
We only let him go so long
Out of kindness, I suppose.


Lyrics submitted by fallacies

"Pancho and Lefty" as written by Townes Van Zandt

Lyrics © BUG MUSIC O/B/O KATIE BELLE MUSIC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Pancho And Lefty song meanings
Add your thoughts

32 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +1
    General CommentThe meaning of this song has always haunted me, so one day I spent a few hours on the internet trying to hunt dow the meaning. Here's what I found. The song was written by the legendary Townes Van Zandt, who went to his grave without ever revealing anything about the song. Wow.
    IJBandon February 20, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI believe this song is about one friend betraying the other. The lyrics, in my view, clearly point to the fact the in someway lefty was paid off and that led to the demise of pancho
    CMABCAon September 16, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe proposed meanings of this song are totally different from the understanding I developed by listening to it — I don’t know if I’m crazy, but I always took it to mean that Lefty was an American who came down to hunt Pancho — He killed him where the Federales refused to. They said they could have but they didn’t. I took the line about dust that Pancho bit ending up in Lefty’s mouth to mean that Lefty was following him. He killed him, got paid and then went back up north. The day they buried Pancho was the day Lefty left. It’s unusual to ask for prayers for the killer — that’s why Van Zandt reminds us to save a few for Lefty too.
    williefanon November 28, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is about two brothers pancho being the outlaw and lefty bieng the Good son..And this song brings back memories of my youth..because the contry station my mom listend to played this song alittle too often..I dont know why I like it now though??
    gdoggon August 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI looked this song up on Wikipedia, and they say that it is implied that Lefty ratted Pancho out. I agree, just because of the lines about Lefty getting money from an unknown source, along with him doing "what he had to do" and needing prayers.

    If the Federales "coulda gotten him any day"...either they had some incentive, or that was just them being arrogant. I dunno, but it's a beautiful song.
    frogboyson August 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAll right, here goes. This is about the legendary Mexican outlaw Pancho Villa. His sidekick was Lefty. He was brash, but no one could catch him for years.

    Apparently, there were some suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Lefty was not with him (nobody heard his dyin words) at the time he died. In fact, Lefty had come upon some money and split for Ohio on the same day. The implication clearly being, he ratted out Pancho. Of course, he just "did what he had to do" - the federales must've caught Lefty and told him it was him or Pancho.

    Of course, no one involved ever laid out this connection publicly. They just said they could've gotten him any day, because they couldn't say that it was Lefty who tipped them off.
    ballzofsnoon December 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song isn't about pancho villa. van zandt denies that. the song is about what frogboys said -- one friend either killing the other, or giving up to authorities.

    if you read wikipedia's article, you'd know that this song doesn't easily match up with pancho villa's life.

    and the second to last stanza goes:

    'all the federales say they could have had him any day / they only let him go so long out of kindness i suppose'

    great song though.
    strange_fruiton December 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt seemed to me that Pancho and Lefty were the same person. Pancho was a bandit who decided his luck wouldn't hold up much longer, so he faked is death "Nobody heard his dyin words". Apparently he changed his name to Lefty "The dust tha Pancho bit down south, ended up in Lefty's mouth."
    After retiring from his life of crime, Lefty decided to move north with whatever money he had left from his "banditing".
    "The day they laid poor Pancho low, Lefty split for Ohio
    Where he got the bread to go, there ain't nobody knows"

    That's how I see it, although I do like the other interpretations.
    nivlem9on January 24, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt seemed to me that Pancho and Lefty were the same person. Pancho was a bandit who decided his luck wouldn't hold up much longer, so he faked is death "Nobody heard his dyin words". Apparently he changed his name to Lefty "The dust tha Pancho bit down south, ended up in Lefty's mouth."
    After retiring from his life of crime, Lefty decided to move north with whatever money he had left from his "banditing".
    "The day they laid poor Pancho low, Lefty split for Ohio
    Where he got the bread to go, there ain't nobody knows"

    That's how I see it, although I do like the other interpretations.
    nivlem9on January 24, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnivlem9 interpretation is quite more interesting, but the others seem to be true also..

    The song is really great!
    bear_hug20on July 09, 2008   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain