"Jack Straw" as written by Robert Hall Weir and Robert C. Hunter....
We can share the women
We can share the wine
We can share what we got of yours
'Cause we done shared all of mine

Keep a-rolling
Just a mile to go
Keep on rolling, my old buddy
You're moving much too slow

I just jumped the watchman
Right outside the fence
Took his ring, four bucks in change
Now ain't that heaven-sent?

Hurts my ears to listen, Shannon
Burns my eyes to see
Cut down a man in cold blood, Shannon
Might as well be me

We used to play for silver
Now we play for life
One's for sport and one's for blood
At the point of a knife
Now the die is shaken
Now the die must fall
There ain't a winner in this game
Who don't go home with all
Not with all

Leaving Texas
Fourth day of July
Sun so hot, clouds so low
The eagles filled the sky

Catch the Detroit Lightning
Out of Santa Fe
Great Northern out of Cheyenne
From sea to shining sea

Gotta get to Tulsa
First train we can ride
Got to settle one old score
And one small point of pride

Ain't no place a man can hide, Shannon
Keep him from the sun
Ain't no bed will give us rest, man,
You keep us on the run

Jack Straw from Wichita
Cut his buddy down
Dug for him a shallow grave
And laid his body down

Half a mile from Tucson
By the morning light
One man gone and another to go
My old buddy you're moving much too slow

We can share the women
We can share the wine


Lyrics submitted by itsmyownmind

"Jackstraw" as written by Robert Hall Weir Robert C. Hunter

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Jack Straw song meanings
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5 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentThis is possibly my favourite Dead song. As said on this wonderful Grateful Dead annotations website: arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/… Jack straw is a game about you're options running out.

    Which is what this song is about. Shannon (who is the Jack Straw in the song title) is running out of options, he's on the run from the law and has nowhere to hide, he then has to kill his friend because he's moving too slow as he doesn't agree with what Shannon is doing.

    The meaning is that once you start being a criminal it's a downward spiral. You keep going one stage further, deeper and deeper into crime untill you're forced to do very bad things.

    So in the end there's no real sharing or friendship amongst bad people....
    x0nixon June 03, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentActually, listen again. Jerry is the one who kills the watchman, and Bob addresses him as "Shannon." Shannon is out of control... he thinks four bucks in change for a cold blooded murder is "heaven sent."Changes everything. Shannon is the one keeping them on the run. When he suggests going to Tulsa to settle "one last score," his "slow buddy," Jack, has had enough, and seizes a chance to get his ruined life back, much like George does in "Of Mice and Men,"by killing his friend and moving on.
    Great song, great imagery.
    KvonNJon September 10, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song actually was written after Bob Weir read "Of Mice and Men" several times over the course of one tour...its a depression set song.
    You All Are Stupidon February 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLet's see, there are 4 men or persons in this song (5 if you count the man that was robbed at the beginning of the song for his rings and $4.00 in change). There is the narrator, his buddy (who is moving much too slow), the man that was robbed (and possibly murdered by the narrator), Shannon and Jack Straw.

    If the man robbed was murdered by the narrator (who says it might have been just as easily him) that leaves 4 people left: The narrator, his "slow buddy", Shannon and Jack Straw.

    The narrator next mentions Shannon by saying that she/he keeps them on the run. Considering that they played a card game where the stakes weren't for money but for life instead, it could be surmised that Shannon was the winner of the hand. Or, Shannon could be the narrator's female love interest. Hard to tell. He keeps communicating with him/her.

    The next murder occurs when Jack Straw murders his buddy and buries him. Who is Jac Straw's buddy? An unnamed card player at the game? Next, it is said that one man is down and another to go. This would leave now only the Narrator, his "slow buddy", Jack Straw and Shannon (assuming the man robbed was murdered). This leaves 4 people left.

    Now, either Jack Straw's buddy that he murdered, was a member of the dangerous card game that was not mentioned before in the song, or Jack Straw IS the narrator who has now killed his buddy that is "moving too slow". Or, Shannon is Jack Straw and has killed the before unmentioned other card player in the game.

    If Shannon is Jack Straw who killed the unknown card player then it makes sense as to why the narrator continues with the admonition towards his slow moving buddy to pick up the pace; as they are next (one man down and another to go).

    So, in my analysis of this song's potential meaning, the song ends with the narrator and his "slow moving buddy" being pursued by Jack Straw/Shannon who was the winner of the murderous hand in their card game. Of course, I still can't reconcile why the narrator communicates with Shannon twice in the song, but his second reference to Shannon keeping them on the run is damning evidence that Shannon is Jack Straw and is trying to kill the narrator and his slow buddy.

    What do you think?
    claykon April 13, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFirst off, freakin' incredible song! The version I listen to is Europe '72, and nuts to you if you have a problem with that. Go get it.

    There are three entities singing this song to you. The first is the narrator (we can share... catch the detroit lightening... leaving Texas...), the second is Jack Straw, aka Shannon. Disclaimer: this is my badass opinion, nothing more. The third is the innocent whose eyes are hurt and ears are burned ominously at the beginning of the song, and who is murdered at the end. The narrator is Phil and Jerry singing in harmony. Jack Straw is sung by Jerry. The innocent is sung by Phil.

    The song is more or less self explanatory. Jack Straw, the murderer and consummate criminal has an alias as Shannon. He's a drifter with no past and no prospects making it day to day. The innocent is too naive or too much the victim to realize with whom he has taken up company. Inevitably, he gets burned by this.

    This is the only song I am aware of that has a narrator, dialogue, foreshadowing, and tragedy.

    F**k all that though. The song is laden with complex chord progressions and vocal harmonies. That is all trumped by the song's climax in the guitar solo before the "Jack Straw from Wichita cuts his buddy down" business. The guitar weeps and wails as he cuts his buddy down. It ascends as dirt is shoveled from the grave. And it sounds a low note as the body is laid down. It is sheer brilliance. Art in one of its highest, most distilled forms.
    bmwdotdeon January 05, 2014   Link

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