Saturday, December 14, 2013

SONGS THAT TELL A STORY #7: "Philadelphia Lawyer" by Willie Nelson, 1988

Albie's Note:  This tried-and-true story song was written by the great Woody Guthrie, some say as early as 1937.  It is said that he used it to win rural audiences over with a light-hearted take on the "eternal triangle" theme.  In Woody's version of the triangle, a city-slicker lawyer makes the mistake of putting serious moves on  a Nevada cowpoke's gullible gal-pal... with lethal results.  It's a great song, and Willie Nelson's version [found on the Guthrie/Leadbelly Folkways tribute album from back in 1988] is my all-time fave rendering.

Interesting sidenote:   the very term "Philadelphia lawyer" had a connotation that those first audiences understood.  Wikipedia states: 

"Philadelphia Lawyer is a term to describe a lawyer who knows the most detailed and minute points of law or is an exceptionally competent lawyer. Its first usage dates back to 1788.  Alternatively, 'the ultimate in crooked lawyers'." 

Kinda DOES make ya wanna oil up the firearms, don't it? 

Philadelphia Lawyer
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie
Way out in Reno, Nevada,
Where romance blooms and fades,
A great Philadelphia lawyer
Was in love with a Hollywood maid.

"Come, love, and we'll go ramblin'
Down where the lights are so bright.
I'll win you a divorce from your husband,
And we can get married tonight."
Wild Bill was a gun-totin' cowboy,
Ten notches were carved in his gun.
And all the boys around Reno
Left Wild Bill's maiden alone.

One night when Bill was returning
From ridin' the range in the cold,
He dreamed of his Hollywood sweetheart,
Her love was as lasting as gold. 

As he drew near her window,
Two shadows he saw on the shade;
'Twas the great Philadelphia lawyer
Makin' love to Bill's Hollywood maid.

The night was as still as the desert,
The moon hangin' high overhead.
Bill listened awhile through the window,
He could hear ev'ry word that he said: 

"Your hands are so pretty and lovely,
Your form's so rare and divine.
Come go with me to the city
And leave this wild cowboy behind."

Now tonight back in old Pennsylvania,
Among those beautiful pines,
There's one less Philadelphia lawyer
In old Philadelphia tonight!!

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