Well, you wake up in the mornin', you hear the work bell ring
And they march you to the table, you see the same old thing
Ain't no food upon the table, and no pork up in the pan
But you better not complain, boy, you get in trouble with the man

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin' light on me

Yonder come miss Rosie, how in the world did you know?
By the way she wears her apron, and the clothes she wore
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand
She come to see the governor, she want to free her man

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin' light on me

If you're ever in Houston, well, you better do the right
You better not gamble, there, you better not fight, at all
Or the sheriff will grab ya and the boys will bring you down
The next thing you know, boy, oh, you're prison bound

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin' light on me

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin' light on me

Lyrics submitted by peacewarrior21

"Midnight Special" as written by John Cameron Fogerty

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, THE BICYCLE MUSIC COMPANY

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Midnight Special song meanings
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  • +2
    My InterpretationThe first stanza in the song paints the bleak prison life in Texas, which continues today. the same thing everyday to eat, the same job that starts at dawn and ends at dusk, the same system that tells you when to eat, when to go to the bathroom - if you do anything to express your individuality you "get in trouble with the man".
    Yet there is still somebody outside who cares, who wants "FREEDOM" for her man. Hope exists and there is proof. The Midnight Special.
    The metaphorical significance of the Midnight Special in an existentialist view is great. There are not just physical prisons, there are prisons of the mind, of the soul. There is every kind of hell out there you can imagine and plenty you cannot. The train represents salvation, a HEAD ON endorsement that human life, as opposed to the life of an animal is worth it and that death is not the end.
    I believe in the LeadBelly version Rosie dies, but he still refuses to lose faith. I assume Rosie is his wife.
    montresoron July 31, 2018   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningThe original Midnight Special is "the underground RAILROAD" run by freedom loving people to get black folks out of the misery of slavery-- not that all Southerners treated slaves miserably, but the institution itself was miserable despite even the best efforts of anyone to improve it.

    Prisons are another form of slavery, sometimes people deserve to go to prison, but no one deserves to stay there. The death penalty is more merciful when a man earns it. So, yes, execution is another Midnight Special. Don't know about the old prison superstition...

    But what about the TV show Midnight Special? that was a bit like the Underground Railroad, it made good music of those days freely available to every home, and opened up a lot of eyes to much beyond the dim constricts of the late 60's & early 70's. The Midnight Special is about freeing people and its still rolling along today. Shine the light on me!
    eldonon April 03, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI found this on another site.. Great reasearch by Gargoyle...


    Subject: RE: Origins: Midnight Special
    From: GUEST,.gargoyle
    Date: 30 Aug 04 - 01:46 PM

    From: LONG STEEL RAIL - The Railroad in American Folksong
    Cohen, Norm, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1981, pp 478-484.

    The Midnight Special (Pistol Pete's Midnight Special)

    During the 1950's folksong revival, a favorite at hootenannies and concerts was this Texas prisoner's song. The Lomaxes wrote that the Midnight Special was the Golden Gate Limited, departing from Houston's Southern Pacific depot at midnight for San Antonio, El Paso, and points west. (1) Thirty miles out of Houston, the Midnight Special shone its light through the barred windows at the Texas state prison farm at Sugarland, reminding the inmates of the light and freedom on the other side of the prison walls. (2) In an engrossing examination titled "A Who's Who of "The Midnight Special,'" Texas folklorist Mack McCormick traced the individuals named in some versions of the song (especially Leadbelly's) to a 1923 incident. (3) Jack Smith, a bank robber sentenced to twenty-five years' hard labor, broke out of the Houston county jail while waiting for the transfer man, Uncle Bud Russell, who was due to arrive shortly to take him to the state penitentiary. Smith was captured a few hours later by Houston sheriff T.A. Binfor. Four other Houston law officers of that time were memorialized in one of Leadbelly's stanzas.

    Bason an' Brock will arrest you,
    Payton and Boone will take you down,
    Oh, the judge will sentence you,
    Penitentiary bound.(4)
    McCormick's researches do not prove that the "The Midnight Special" originated at the time of this 1923 jailbreak. It seems more probable that Leadbelly and others set the details of that event into the framework of an earlier, well-established traditional song. The strongest evidence for this assumption is that the song appeared widely throughout the South within a very few years after 1923, and invariably in versions that did not mention any of the individuals associated with the Houston events of 1923.

    That some elements of "The Midnight Special" are far older than the song as a whole is attested by verses Howard W. Odum printed in 1911:

    Get up in mornin' when ding dong rings,
    Look at table - see same damn things.<5>
    The earliest reference to the song I have found was in a letter to Robert W. Gordon, then conducting the column "Old Songs That Men Have Sung" in Adventure magazine. Dated August 3, 1923, the letter requested additional verses of the song, and gave one verse ("If you go to the city, you better go right . . .") and chorus. Carl Sandburg published two variants in his 1927 anthology American Songbag, both without attribution. A frequent source of Sandburg's material was Robert W. Gordon's immense manuscript collection of folksongs, gathered during the several years' correspondence with readers in his column. Another of Gordon's correspondents, Terril McKay, sent Gordon a song he called simple "Jail Song" that he had heard several years earlier, in the fall of 1923, in the Harris County Jail in Houston. Except for a few adjustments in the use of dialect, and the change of Judge Robinson's name to Judge Nelson, this song is identical with one of the two that Sandburg printed )p.217). Gordon himself printed a fragment of the song in one of a series of columns on folksongs that he published in the New York times in 1927. In McKay's version, Sheriff Binford became T. Bentley.

    The first commercial recording of "The Midnight Special" was made in 1926, by Dave Cutrell, with McGinty's Oklahoma Cowboy Band for the OKeh label, ..

    The person most responsible for spreading the popularity of "The Midnight Special" was doubtless Huddie Leadbetter. "Leadbelly"..recorded the song several times in his career. The earliest was in July 1934 when John Lomax recorded him for the Library of Congress in the Louisiana State Prison Farm at Angola..

    The "Midnight Special" tune is, in part, a variant of the 1900 ragtime pop tune "Creole Belles."

    (1) John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, Folk Song: U.S.A. (New York; Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947), p. 292.

    (2) An alternative explanation for what the Midnight Special meant to prison inmates was offered by Carl F. Andre of Vicksburg, Miss., in a July 27, 1955, letter to Duncan Emrish, then head of the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Song: "As I got the story, a number of years back, convicts who had been outstanding during the week were rewarded on Sunday by a visit from Memphis prostitutes who boarded a train in Memphis at Midnight Saturday; hence the title of the song."

    (3) Mack McCormick, "A Who's Who of "The Midnight Special,'"Caravan No. 19 (Jan., 1960).

    (5) "Grade Song" in Howard W. Odum "Folk-Song and Folk-Poetry as Found in the Secular Songs of the Southern Negroes." JAF24 (Oct-Dec 1911, 382.

    Wirenutingon May 17, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is probably my favorite creedence song. I'm surprised there aren't any comments. Pretty obvious meaning. Fine song
    purplehaze8xon March 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIts actually a cover of an old song by Leadbelly. I love it, great song. Great band. Still dunno what it means, any1 help me out?
    mike_81on April 07, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a cover of an old Leadbelly song about a man in prison who every night at midnight watches a train go by and if he could only escape and make it onto that train he'd be going home. I have a copy of the original Leadbelly version and it's played WAY faster. it's only a couple minutes long. Great folk music!
    prax22aon September 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about a man in prison who every night at midnight sees a train pass by and if he could only escape and make it to that train he'd be home. I have a copy of Leadbelly's version. Dunno which one I like better
    prax22aon September 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgraet song good old folk good old creedence and good old leadbelly
    Blackjack Daveyon October 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTeriffic song. I always thought that he was not far from execution(because they always happen at midnight). And Rosie is still trying to stop it.
    No mention of a train, where did you hear that??

    springsteen: the greatest
    The Magic Raton October 11, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI just discovered this song recently and had a hard time determining what some of the lyrics were. I thought the song might be about escaping poverty in the South (USA). I came online to find the lyrics.....but before I even looked them up I was certain that this song was about escaping by train! After reading the lyrics it seems the "prisoner" theory is accurate. In a more general sence I think it is a song about hope - the belief that their is a posibilty of escape from unhappy or unbearable times makes it possible for people to endure tough situations. I really like this song!
    CarmenJon March 22, 2006   Link

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