"Highway Patrolman" as written by George Acosta and Nadine Renee....
My name is Joe Roberts, I work for the state
I'm a sergeant out of Perrineville, barracks number 8
I always done an honest job, as honest as I could
I got a brother named Franky, and Franky ain't no good

Now ever since we was young kids, it's been the same come down
I get a call on the shortwave, Franky's in trouble downtown
Well if it was any other man, I'd put him straight away
But when it's your brother sometimes you look the other way

Yeah me and Franky laughin' and drinkin', nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin', like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family, well he just ain't no good

Well Franky went in the army back in 1965
I got a farm deferment, settled down, took Maria for my wife
But them wheat prices kept on droppin' till it was like we were gettin' robbed
Franky came home in '68 and me I took this job

Yeah we're laughin' and drinkin', nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin', teach him how to walk that line
Man turns his back on his family, he ain't no friend of mine

Well the night was like any other, well I got a call 'bout quarter to nine
There was trouble in a roadhouse out on the Michigan line
There was a kid lyin' on the floor lookin' bad, bleedin' hard from his head
There was a girl cryin' at a table and it was Frank, they said

Well I went out and I jumped in my car and I hit the lights
Well I musta done a hundred and ten through Michigan County that night
It was out at the crossroads, down 'round Willow bank
Seen a Buick with Ohio plates, behind the wheel was Frank

Well I chased him through them county roads
Till a sign said "Canadian border five miles from here"
I pulled over the side of the highway and watched his taillights disappear

Me and Franky laughin' and drinkin', nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family, he just ain't no good


Lyrics submitted by oofus

"Highway Patrolman" as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Downtown Music Publishing

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Highway Patrolman song meanings
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10 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentThis song is almost unbearably sad and melancholy -- it's only a small story, but there's this great well of sadness and sorrow that lies beneath it that goes beyond anything on the surface of the song. Like the whole Nebraska album really. I love it ;-)
    Although it's obviously set in modern times, it has a timeless feel, especially the chorus, as if it's some centuries-old folk song Springsteen has adapted.
    Cherub Rockon August 18, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentreally sad, great storytelling. I can't really listen to this in public, because the strangest thing happens: water comes out of my eyes, especially on the "taillights disappear" part. Shit, it's happening again...

    Johnny Cash does a great (better IMO) version as well.
    Chinupon March 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat Song. Bruce is the man.
    DubC4Lifeon April 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have always been delighted by Bruce's purposeful use of place names and locations, ALWAYS making it seem familiar, yet the places he seems to pinpoint don't really exist! (Almost like no one being able to figure out where "Springfield" in the Simpsons really is.) The only "Perrineville" in the US is in New Jersey. Frank has Ohio plates. He is chased through "Michigan County" (there is no "Michigan County" in any state), to the Canadian border, the closest access from Ohio being Michigan! My other favorite (as a Utah resident) is in "Promised Land", where he leaves "Rattlesnake Speedway in the Utah desert" and travels across the "Waynesboro County line". The only Waynesboro County in the US is in Virginia!
    msgelteron May 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the truth and reality in this song. Sometimes you must do what you must do. I love this song.
    surferswingenon March 19, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentF***ing great song... It must be the name Franky (as for Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop") that makes this song so haunting...
    I think you're 3000% right, Cherub Rock, nothing to add to it.
    I'm fond of your geographic references, msgelter...
    The Dog That Ate...on April 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love how at the end of the first couple choruses the line about a man turning his back on his family sound like him justifying his support for his screwup brother, but then at the end it has a double meaning...him refusing to take his brother's freedom, and his brother favoring his criminal life to his family. Sad as hell.
    z4ckm0rrison July 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe film "The Indian Runner" (directed by Sean Penn) was based off of this song
    River Wolfon March 11, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Taking turns dancing with Maria, as the band played Night of the Johnstown Flood". For me personally, this song is evocative enough in itself to form the basis of an entire dramatic production. With the guitar in the background...my God, such a powerful scene.
    differentstrokes5on April 05, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA very beautiful song. Probably one of my all time favorite Springsteen tracks. So evocative of a post Vietnam future for America.
    andy78on August 29, 2015   Link

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