"The Way It Goes" as written by and Gillian Welch David Rawlings....
Becky Johnson bought the farm
Put a needle in her arm
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

And her brother laid her down
In the cold Kentucky ground
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

That's the way that it goes
Everybody's buying little baby clothes
That's the way that it ends
Though there was a time when she and I were friends

Well, Miranda ran away
Took her cat and left LA
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

She was busted, broke and flat
Had to sell that pussy cat
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

That's the way that it goes
Everybody's buying little baby clothes
That's the way that it ends
Though there was a time when he and I were friends

See the brightest ones of all
Early in October fall
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

While the dark ones go to bed
With good whiskey in their head
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

Now Billy Joe's back in the tank
You tell Russo, I'll tell Frank
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

Did he throw her down a well?
Did she leave him for that swell?
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

That's the way that it goes
Everybody's buying little baby clothes
That's the way that it ends
Though there was a time when all of us were friends

When you lay me down to rest
Leave a pistol in my vest
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

Do you miss my gentle touch?
Did I hurt you very much?
That's the way that it goes
That's the way

That's the way that it goes
Everybody's buying little baby clothes
That's the way that it ends
Though there was a time when you and I were friends


Lyrics submitted by sarahp

"The Way It Goes" as written by Gillian Howard Welch David Todd Rawlings

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, DO WRITE MUSIC LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Way It Goes song meanings
Add your thoughts

8 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +4
    Song MeaningThis song is about how everyone starts of as a baby, innocent and vulnerable. Almost everyone has parents and relatives who want nothing but the best. “Everybody's buying little baby clothes.” But one way or another–“ That's the way that it goes”–these kiddos grow up to be dead druggie–“Becky Johnson bought the farm; Put a needle in her arm”–A prostitute–“ She was busted, broke and flat; Had to sell that pussy cat [double entendre]”–a killer and a cheating wife–“ Did he throw her down a well?
    Did she leave him for that swell [another man]?” Ironically, the people who seemed the happiest with the brightest future as a youngster are the ones who have a great downfall–“See the brightest ones of all; Early in October [in middle life] fall.” The ones who are evil and mean do well in this wicked world able to by expensive drink and sleep well–“While the dark ones go to bed;With good whiskey in their head.” But “That's the way that it ends.” This is not theoretical. All these stories are about people the author knew–“Though there was a time when you and I were friends.” I’m not sure what the author is saying about him or herself:

    When you lay me down to rest
    Leave a pistol in my vest
    Do you miss my gentle touch?
    Did I hurt you very much?

    I (s)he is saying me too: I had all the potential, and I ended up cold and unloving because I was so defensive.

    This is such a beautiful and insightful song. I get sad sometimes thinking about how the world beats you down, and all our hopes and dreams do not come to fruition. For many people the American Dream is the American Nightmare.
    j_dubon July 10, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe first time I heard it, I liked something about the hard travelin' feel of the line,
    "When you lay me down to rest
    Leave a pistol in my vest."

    But, it resonates even more since I heard Dave Rawlings say that to him it's a way of saying that I don't know what happens after death, so I want to be prepared for anything.
    sammyellon December 28, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationGreat and insightful song.
    the writer speaks of people she knew at one time or another.
    They all start off being born with great potential and high hopes of the parents (everyone's buying baby clothes), and then somehow ended up not so well-off.
    one buy good property and they commits suicide, another got into crime, got busted, some ended up drunk, others ditched for someone else etc etc etc.
    That part about being buried with a 'pistol in my vest', I believe speaks of the reminder of the cruel world that had put the author into the ground.
    the innocence is missed along the way of getting accustomed to this world, together with the loss of a gentle touch.
    great song, sadly true for many cases. Just my opinion.
    dylansuppiahon June 23, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti dub, that's a right on comment that put this songs meaning on the fast track for me. I use songs like this for group therapy sessions and your take on it made my decision to incorporate it into my groups. Thanks
    TRASKIESon November 30, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti dub, that's a right on comment that put this songs meaning on the fast track for me. I use songs like this for group therapy sessions and your take on it made my decision to incorporate it into my groups. Thanks
    TRASKIESon November 30, 2012   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationGreat and insightful song.
    the writer speaks of people she knew at one time or another.
    They all start off being born with great potential and high hopes of the parents (everyone's buying baby clothes), and then somehow ended up not so well-off.
    one buy good property and they commits suicide, another got into crime, got busted, some ended up drunk, others ditched for someone else etc etc etc.
    That part about being buried with a 'pistol in my vest', I believe speaks of the reminder of the cruel world that had put the author into the ground.
    the innocence is missed along the way of getting accustomed to this world, together with the loss of a gentle touch.
    great song, sadly true for many cases. Just my opinion.
    dylansuppiahon June 23, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationGreat and insightful song.
    the writer speaks of people she knew at one time or another.
    They all start off being born with great potential and high hopes of the parents (everyone's buying baby clothes), and then somehow ended up not so well-off.
    one buy good property and they commits suicide, another got into crime, got busted, some ended up drunk, others ditched for someone else etc etc etc.
    That part about being buried with a 'pistol in my vest', I believe speaks of the reminder of the cruel world that had put the author into the ground.
    the innocence is missed along the way of getting accustomed to this world, together with the loss of a gentle touch.
    great song, sadly true for many cases. Just my opinion.
    dylansuppiahon June 23, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the "everybody's buying little baby clothes", line has nothing to do with potential. Instead, it refers to the limited potential or even predestination of children born into that culture. Que sera sera.
    bigcheese01on October 03, 2016   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