"Machine Gun Kelly" as written by and Danny Kortchmar....
I'll tell you about Machine Gun Kelly
He rode along the outlaw trail.
Machine Gun Kelly was a simple man
But the woman was as hard as hell.
Watch out Machine Gun,
Don't let her run you round.
Don't let the woman put you six feet
In the ground, Machine Gun.

I'll tell you about Katherine Kelly,
Tired of being such small time, now.
Figured they'd kidnap a rich man's son,
Make it in the world of crime.
Watch out Machine Gun,
Don't let her run you round.
Don't let the woman put you six feet
In the ground, Machine Gun.

You'd better watch out Machine Gun Kelly,
Careful of what you do, now.
If you keep listening to your old lady,
Ain't no telling
What'll happen to you, now, Machine Gun.

The government boys they came
For Machine Gun, took the poor boy away.
Stuck him in a hole in Leavenworth prison
Where he lived until his dying day.

Watch out Machine Gun,
Don't let her put you down.
Don't let a woman make you
Out to be a clown, Machine Gun.
Watch out Machine Gun.


Lyrics submitted by MyWords

"Machine Gun Kelly" as written by Danny Kortchmar

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Machine Gun Kelly song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationWow I'm surprised no one commented on this yet, it's one of my favourite JT songs, nice and simple arrangement and dead easy to play too. Apart from the obvious historical inspiration of George Kelly Barnes, I always thought that this was a kind of playful message to guys in general by James Taylor. You can tell there a certain fondness for Machine Gun Kelly's memory here, of a kind of swashbuckling bank robber of the old days when you could just walk into a bank with a tommy gun and literally shout "gimme all your money!" then leave a dust trail behind your Model T Ford with the sheriff in hot pursuit.

    This paired with the fact that Kelly never actually killed anyone sets up an image of him as an average guy:

    "Machine Gun Kelly was a simple man"

    A simple man turned bank robber doing whatever he can to make his fortune in the world, something anyone can identify with, whether it happens to be actually be true or not. Taylor's portrayal of Katherine Kelly however, George's wife, is rather scathing:

    "The woman was as hard as hell"

    The description is really quite clear suggesting she is latched on to George and wants to direct him and control what he does and how he does it, basically keeping his balls in her purse. If you've seen Spinal Tap, think of David St Hubbins' girlfriend then you'll know what I'm referring to!

    Without the slightest hint of misogyny, Taylor's continuous warning to Machine Gun Kelly forms a kind of cautionary tale to many guys I think, the lyrics:

    "Watch out Machine Gun, dont let her run you round/put you down"

    It's a call to all male ears to be your own man and to go with your instincts, and don't

    "let a woman make you out to be a clown"

    On a deeper level however, I think that this can be interpreted as a universal message to both men and women to be independent in life and not to allow yourself to be manipulated by other people for their own gain, with the very clear statement that every action you take has consequences:

    "The government boys they came for Machine Gun and took the poor boy away
    They stuck him in a hole in Leavenworth prison where he lived until his dying day"

    It's not so much that it's Katherine's fault that he got caught, with this lifestyle he was probably going to get caught sooner or later anyway, but I think Taylor is saying 'if you're going to go down, do it on your own terms, not those of someone else'. In order to be capable of taking full responsibility for all consequences in your life, you HAVE to be your own person, not be pushed around, not be the fall guy for someone else's machinations. Sometimes the best advice is your own, highlighted by the lyric:

    "If you keep listening to your old lady, ain't no telling what'll happen to you"


    I think it's a great song, quite inspiring actually and a great tune to drive to, drink coffee to, smoke to, whatever floats your boat really. I'd be really interested to hear what other people made of this tun too. Any thoughts guys?
    AxeWielder83on June 12, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAxWielder83 i agree totally with your thoughts on the song. It is a great tune and i enjoy having the git tuned to DADGAD to play this song. This open D tuning is deep and true.
    yortallan@gmail.com
    Sixstringpickeron February 23, 2017   Link

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