"Get Behind the Mule" as written by and Tom Waits Kathleen Brennan....
Molly be damned smote Jimmy the Harp
With a horrid little pistol and a lariat
She's goin to the bottom
And she's goin down the drain
Said she wasn't big enough to carry it

She got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow
She got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow
She got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow
She got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow

Choppity chop goes the axe in the woods
You gotta meet me by the fall down tree
Shovel of dirt upon a coffin lid
And I know they'll come lookin for me boys
And I know they'll come a-lookin for me

Got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow
Got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow
Got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow
Got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow

Big Jack Earl was 8'1
He stood in the road and he cried
He couldn't make her love him
Couldn't make her stay
But tell the good Lord that he tried
Dusty trail from Atchison to Placerville
On the wreck of the Weaverville stage
Beaula fired on Beatty for a lemonade
I was stirring my brandy with a nail boys
Stirring my brandy with a nail
Well the rampaging sons of the widow James
Jack the cutter and the pock marked kid
Had to stand naked at the bottom
Of the cross
And tell the good lord what they did
Tell the good lord what they did
Punctuated birds on the power line
In a Studebaker with the Birdie Joe Joaks
I'm diggin all the way to China
With a silver spoon
While the hangman fumbles with the noose, boys
The hangman fumbles with the noose
Pin your ear to the wisdom post
Pin your eye to the line
Never let the weeds get higher
Than the garden
Always keep a sapphire in your mind
Always keep a diamond in your mind

Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira, edited by Mellow_Harsher

Get Behind the Mule song meanings
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  • +4
    My InterpretationThis story is a narration told by a gravedigger (Tom Waits) about a woman (Molly) who murdered her man (Jimmy the Harp) with a pistol and a rope.

    The corpse was too heavy for her to carry so she drug it behind the mule to the woods, where two boys (Jack the Cutter and the pocked marked kid) helped her make a makeshift coffin and bury him.

    They caught up with Molly in Kentucky but brought her back to California (Atchison to Placerville). They strung her up on a stage in Weaverville.

    Enter the 1930's black Studebaker Hearst (driven by Birdie Joe Joaks).
    Waits built Molly's coffin and dug her grave(with a silver spoon :p) while the hangman fumbled with a noose. Waits watched her hanging while he stirred his Brandy with a coffin Nail.

    The moral of the story ... Stay Wise, Keep Watch, Don't Let Trouble take over, Keep your eye on the prize, But Sooner or later ...

    You Got To Get Behind The Mule ...
    bluesbegger123on December 02, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe people mentioned in the song are real people:
    Molly be damned -en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    Big Jack Earle - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    Jack the Cutter and Pock-marked kid were criminals in the Old West
    Birdie Jo Hoaks was a con artist.
    I don't think the song is about just one story, it's several different stories, apparently all true (or at least involving real people).
    obihaveon February 19, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's about chuggin' through life, I think.
    gweepson July 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this is a good message for those emo kids. You got to stop wallowing in self-pity and get behind the mule and plow.
    Anderson_Councilon December 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe idea for the song came from his wife saying that she didn't marry a man, that she married a mule. He stated that you got to get behind the mule. At that point his wheels started turning and he and his wife wrote the song together.
    davbro2906on August 07, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me, this song always seemed like "Gun Street Girl" Part 2.
    jltc008on August 01, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhen I read lyrics like this I put away my notebook and pencil and pick up a new hobby. It's like watching Stevie ray Vaughn play guitar I just unplug my guitar And jump on my bike.
    frank10741on February 21, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationIt's a song about work, or more particularly the necessity of labour/pain in all persuits. Whether you're moving a body, digging a grave or atoning for past sins ("Tell the good Lord what they did"). And as a constant; an unavoidable certainty in life no matter who you are or where you end up.

    "Get behind the mule" is a poetic way of saying "gotta get to work". Not with a tone of condescension thankfully, it's presented here more as a world-wearied fact-of-life observation, perhaps grumbled by an old man in a Western saloon, stirring his brandy with a nail...

    Check out the VH1 Storytellers Live version of this track if you haven't already; it's a breathtaking performance.
    2MuchCaffeineon May 30, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe story parts boil down to guilt damns. The last two verses are life is short and be wise.
    RandoOtherGuyon April 06, 2019   Link

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