Born in Red Hook, Brooklyn, in the year of who knows when
Opened up his eyes to the tune of an accordion
Always on the outside of whatever side there was
When they asked him why it had to be that way, well, he answered, just because

Larry was the oldest, Joey was next to last
They called Joe Crazy, the baby they called Kid Blast
Some say they lived off gambling and runnin' numbers too
It always seemed they got caught between the mob and the men in blue

Joey, Joey
King of the streets, child of clay
Joey, Joey
What made them want to come and blow you away

There was talk they killed their rivals, but the truth was far from that
No one ever knew for sure where they were really at
When they tried to strangle Larry, Joey almost got hit the roof
He went out that night to seek revenge, thinkin' he was bulletproof

Then, the war broke out at the break of dawn, it emptied out the streets
Joey and his brothers suffered terrible defeats
Till they ventured out behind the lines and took five prisoners
They stashed them away in a basement, called them amateurs

The hostages were tremblin' when they heard a man exclaim
Let's blow this place to kingdom come, let Con Edison take the blame
But Joey stepped up, he raised his hand, said, we're not those kind of men
It's peace and quiet that we need to go back to work again

Joey, Joey
King of the streets, child of clay
Joey, Joey
What made them want to come and blow you away

The police department hounded him, they called him Mr. Smith
They got him on conspiracy, they were never sure who with
What time is it? said the judge to Joey when they met
Five to ten, said Joey, the judge says, that's exactly what you get

He did ten years in Attica, reading Nietzsche and Wilhelm Reich
They threw him in the hole one time for tryin' to stop a strike
His closest friends were black men 'cause they seemed to understand
What it's like to be in society with a shackle on your hand

They let him out in '71 he'd lost a little weight
But he dressed like Jimmy Cagney and I swear he did look great
He tried to find the way back into the life he left behind
To the boss he said, I have returned and now I want what's mine

Joey, Joey
King of the streets, child of clay
Joey, Joey
What made them want to come and blow you away

It was true that in his later years he would not carry a gun
I'm around too many children, he'd say, they should never know of one
Yet he walked right into the clubhouse of his lifelong deadly foe
Emptied out the register, said, tell 'em it was Crazy Joe

One day they blew him down in a clam bar in New York
He could see it comin' through the door as he lifted up his fork
He pushed the table over to protect his family
Then he staggered out into the streets of Little Italy

Joey, Joey
King of the streets, child of clay
Joey, Joey
What made them want to come and blow you away

Sister Jacqueline and Carmela and mother Mary all did weep
I heard his best friend Frankie say, he ain't dead, he's just asleep
Then I saw the old man's limousine head back towards the grave
I guess he had to say one last goodbye to the son that he could not save

The sun turned cold over President Street and the town of Brooklyn mourned
They said a mass in the old church near the house where he was born
And someday if God's in heaven overlookin' His preserve
I know the men that shot him down will get what they deserve

Joey, Joey
King of the streets, child of clay
Joey, Joey
What made them want to come and blow you away

Lyrics submitted by Philadelphia Eagles

"Joey" as written by Levy Jacques Dylan Bob


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Joey song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentWhat saddens me about Dylan sometimes, is how he refused to be treated as the "voice of his generation", yet he didn't mind glorifying others as just that.
    And sometimes his romanticized versions of real life people turned them into folk heroes, and sometimes he took already established folk heroes (that were real people in the past) and made his own versions of telling their tale.
    I'm talking about real people in this case, his contemporaries. With some he did the right thing, and they deserved to be "immortalized" the way they did by Dylan, but sometimes he couldn't pick worse people or distort the truth worse than he did.
    You could compare it to Nazi propaganda even, only in opposite extreme. "Joey" is definitely a good example. What stuck me as the biggest distortion of reality/poetry figure, is the part with the hostages. Joey actually initiated kidnapping and was the first to suggest to kill one of them, so the enemies know he means business. Many more errors about the song, that's just the one that kinda hurt me to find the most.
    Dylan is still great artist (probably one of my favorites), just saying how even prime art can serve the worst purposes or lead to worst consequences, even if it was made naively. Sorry for spelling btw, and overall English, not my native language, and didn't really had the patience to spellcheck this time.
    gu313on September 04, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is a sprawling (even by Dylan standards) tune that pretty much glorifies Joey Gallo, one time Mafia boss who was shot down in Little Italy, NYC
    Kind of controvesial subject matter, as alot of folks thought Gallo was a psychopathic murderer type of fellow, check out Lester Bangs article "Bob Dylan's Dalliance With Mafia Chic" for a pretty strong rebuttle to this song.
    Either way fantastic storytelling.
    tomautoon August 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentVery excellent song
    Farnsworthon December 08, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is a collaboration between Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy, is who wrote the lyrics. Levy was friends with Gallo, and introduced Bob. They were both saddened by the death, and decided to write the song.
    Itswithaneon January 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgood point about the Levy collaboration, they wrote together for most all of the Desire album I think.
    tomautoon January 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDoes anyone knows who sings the background vocals?
    Farnsworthon March 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEmmylou Harris does alot of background vox on this record, I would assume it's her on this track
    tomautoon March 30, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've heard rumours that the final episode of "The Sopranos" was based on this song. Does anyone know if that's true?
    Marmsyon October 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentStallionintheRift12: I don't even think she appears on the album. It's Emmylou Harris who does the backing vocals
    larveskiton March 06, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm pretty sure it's Emmylou Harris.
    It definitely sounds like her.
    brighteyes602on May 09, 2008   Link

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