"Pancho and Lefty
" is a folk song
written by Townes Van Zandt
. Van Zandt first recorded it for his 1972 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt
. Emmylou Harris
then covered the song for her 1977 album, Luxury Liner
and the song became a number one country
hit in 1983 when Merle Haggard
and Willie Nelson
adopted it as the title track of their duet album Pancho & Lefty
The song tells the story of a Mexican bandit named Pancho and a more enigmatic character, Lefty. The song tells of Pancho's death and implies that he was betrayed by his associate Lefty who was paid off by the Mexican federales.
Although many people initially assume that the song is about the famous Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, Van Zandt has denied this, and the lyrics are not easily reconciled with the historic details of Villa's life and death.
has done an analysis to demonstrate how the song's IV-I chord progression
enhances the song's lyrics
. The harmonic structure helps to convey the feelings of the song's characters. The song makes use of four chords. The I-IV-V-vi.
Covers of "Pancho and Lefty" have also been played live or recorded by the following artists:
Notes and sources