David Dodd (ddodd) Wed 3 Sep 03 15:23
Jack Straw w: Hunter m: Weir AGDL: http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl/jstraw.html LASF: http://www.whitegum.com/songfile/JACKSTRA.HTM
Alex Allan (alexallan) Thu 4 Sep 03 19:27
Jack Straw Lyrics: Robert Hunter Music: Bob Weir Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission. We can share the women, we can share the wine We can share what we got of yours, 'cause we done shared all of mine Keep on rolling, just a mile to go Keep on rolling, my old buddy, you're moving much too slow I just jumped the watchman right outside the fence Took his rings, four bucks in change, ain't that heaven sent Hurts my ears to listen, Shannon, burns my eyes to see Cut down a man in cold blood, Shannon, might as well be me We used to play for silver now we play for life And one's for sport, and one's for blood at the point of a knife And now the die has shaken, now the die must fall There ain't a winner in the game He don't go home with all, not with all Leaving Texas, fourth day of July Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky Catch the Detroit Lightning out of Santa Fe The Great Northern out of Cheyenne, from sea to shining sea Gotta go to Tulsa, first train we can ride Gotta settle one old score, one small point of pride There ain't a place a man can hide, Shannon, will keep him from the sun Ain't a bed can give us rest now, you keep us on the run Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down And dug for him a shallow grave, and laid his body down Half a mile from Tucson, by the morning light One man gone and another to go My old buddy you're moving much too slow We can share the women we can share the wine
David Gans (tnf) Wed 10 Mar 04 18:00
"I had just read 'Of Mice and Men' for about the tenth time. I was com- pletely smitten by that story. I took a step back in time into the Depres- sion, and that era, and this story emerged between me and Hunter about these two guys on the lam... ne'er-do-wells... victims of the Depression." - Bob Weir 3/2/04
Marked from the Day That I was Born (ssol) Thu 11 Mar 04 14:09
Heh... another dislocation in time... ambiquity between the musical themes, the implied temporal space... and the rails the song rideäF@f course.
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 12 Mar 04 08:47
But were they the victims or the crime?
lenny or squiggy (xian) Mon 3 May 04 09:18
Tangent: the ending of Of Mice and Men brought me to tears when I read it at age 11 or 12, a landmark experience for me in terms of the power of literature as art.
Alex Allan (alexallan) Thu 10 Jun 04 18:06
Hearing Weir talk about "Of Mice And Men" makes me wonder if he wrote some of the lyrics as well as the music. In the O'Franken interview, he certainly seems to imply that some of the ideas for the story came from him ("I just went there and made up my own sad little story"). In "Box Of Rain," some of the lyrics are in italics (eg "Hurts my ears to listen ..." and "We used to play for silver ..."). The same is true for "Sugar Magnolia" but with a footnote saying lyrics in italics were written by Bob Weir. That may not mean that much, since there are other purely Hunter songs with sections in italics. And the sheet music clearly says words by Hunter and music by Weir. Nonetheless, it set me thinking.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 11 Jun 04 07:46
It would be very interesting to hear the whole story about the interactions between Hunter and Weir in the course of the development of this song.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Fri 11 Jun 04 10:46
I always assumed the italics in ABOR are there to set off dialogue between the two protagonists.
AZanimal (zepezauer) Fri 11 Jun 04 11:47
So did I. But then I always assumed the same thing about the parts sung by Jerry, and the two don't correspond.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Sun 13 Jun 04 08:58
from TIM (tnf) Tue 28 Sep 04 07:44
Tim writes: Jack Straw the British Foreign Sec has no talent for anything apart from being a snivelling little piece of shit. If he has to do a cameo, could he be The Watchman? Then we can see him get knocked on the head by Shannon. I'm not a violent man, but I make exceptions for some people... I see the characters as younger, like the boys in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy books (All The Pretty Horses etc), or the young Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. in John Ford movies, or in a different location, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy. Tim
from BAMFINNEY (tnf) Sun 23 Jul 06 09:20
From "bamfinney": Greetings, I was musing on the various levels of meaning in Jack Straw and thought I might share some insights I've had about it. Hopefully it's worth the time! This song seems to pitch two travelers at odds. The character "Jack Straw" is not named in the song and the only other character that is named is referred to as "Shannon." The title, Jack Straw, reminds me of a scarecrow: an empty imitation representing the real substance, or a "straw dog (man)": something set up as a target, which is fictional but based on some reality: as in a theory a disbeliever misrepresents and then attacks those misrepresentations as if they are the true underpinnings of the theory (which they are not: it is a "straw dog" not the real dog which is attacked). This is a very common practice for those who are not well versed in the subject they are attacking, or those who find no issues with the real theory but nonetheless are on the defensive for one reason of another. The "bad" character in Jack Straw is perhaps a "straw dog"; he's the kind of person the Dead are to some degree set against, extra baggage to be drug around ("Bertha don't you come round here anymore": almost too much trouble to be worth it). Perhaps "Shannon" in the first few lines is Jack Straw: the guy who jumps the "watchman" and steals his stuff, killing him in the process; the guy who has to go to Tulsa and commit an act of vengeance because of wounded pride (not too virtuous). Perhaps there is "no honor among thieves," but Shannon has crossed a line ("you keep us on the run") and the other character has serious issues with Shannon's behavior: "Burns my ears to listen, burns my eyes to see; cut down a man in cold blood, Shannon, might as well been me!" The one having a moral dilemma with Shannon's actions is the one we are to emulate. The opening lines of the song might point to this: "Cause we done shared all of mine." This sarcasm is biting. Shannon takes ("shares") the other man's woman and wine. He is a moocher. Shannon is someone to put up with, a man of straw, without substance or virtue, but the other character does put up with him, surprisingly. Maybe you can't always choose your friends or companions? Maybe Fate puts us with folks we don't always understand or agree with but who we walk with anyway, as in Uncle John's Band: "no time to hate". In the end, Jack Straw (who I think is Shannon) cuts "his buddy down." This is one less man Jack has to put up with (he's already killed one: the watchman "in cold blood," and certainly intends to deal with another: the one in Tulsa who hurt his pride). His dead buddy is one less person to hinder his un-virtuous lifestyle, one less person to preach to him ("might as well been me," and it in fact was him who also died, buried in a shallow, hurried, disrespectful grave!). In the end, the bad guy wins, but does he? "One man gone (Shannon's buddy) and another to go (Shannon himself); my old buddy you're moving much too slow." Shannon is perpetually on the run. No matter how many "buddies" he has, he'll always be on the run and he'll always subject his buddies to his particular predicament. Reminds me of certain characters in Friend of the Devil and Sugaree: being "on the run" is a large theme worth serious exploration in the Dead's music, but the one on the run is not necessarily to be envied. Another take could be that Jack Straw is the one Shannon kills in the end, not Shannon himself. Perhaps the best morality, in the end, turns out to be straw. The moral position has been seen by some to be the weaker position. Even Jesus said, "Do not resist one who is evil?turn the other cheek," (Matthew 5:39) and "the meek will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5, see also Psalm 73, "Why do the wicked prosper"). Despite his position against Shannon's "sins," which would be the "right" position, he is cut down anyway. Religious history is full of "saints" who are cut down for their faith. One would think "God" would protect "his" own, but "the good [often] die young." But, perhaps it is better to die young and be good than to narrowly survive, get away with murder, and be on the run? Either way, this song presents to us a paradox of right and wrong, of tricky friendships that are worth keeping despite their trickiness, as well as the logical progression of things starting out bad and ending up worse (Shannon's buddy should have known what the outcome would be if things started out on the wrong foot to begin with). Who's shoes we stand in depends upon the choices we make, but in the end, "like the good book says, you're gonna reap just what ye sow" (Thanks, Pigpen). The lyricist gives us a playful, yet serious, look at Life in all its twists and turns. You can't avoid the paradoxes and you can't always chose sides so easily or even at all. All you can do sometimes is "keep on rolling," your foot always in that next "mile to go."
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 25 Jul 06 07:30
Interesting, but a key premise is wrong. 'The character "Jack Straw" is not named in the song and the only other character that is named is referred to as "Shannon."' Jack Straw from Wichita Cut his buddy down Dug for him a shallow grave And layed his body down I don't find much room for doubt about who was killed by whom. I was just looking at the GD Comix take on this lyric this morning, funnily enough.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 25 Jul 06 09:34
"Cut his buddy down" is ambiguous: did Jack kill him, or did he cut his buddy down after someone else strung him up?
from BRYAN MILLER (tnf) Tue 25 Jul 06 11:12
Bryan Miller writes: In my interpretation, Jack is Shannon, the violent one, the one most likely to cut someone down. If Jack is Shannon's buddy, not Shannon himself, Jack takes on Shannon's violence after having reproved him for it in the first verse (jumping the watchman).
from BRYAN MILLER (tnf) Tue 25 Jul 06 11:25
Bryan Miller again - I think he is responding to my post <14>: If this is true, it would dramatically and rightly change my take on the song. It would actually end better for the "good guy," if a good guy he is. Shannon would have "paid" for his "sin" by death on a tree, would no longer be "on the run" and Jack would be free. but who is the "another to go" in the final verse of the song? I wonder...
Paul B. Israel (pauli) Tue 25 Jul 06 12:14
I've always thought of that as Jack Straw talking to himself and his dead buddy Shannon about himself realizing his own days are numbered.
from BRYAN MILLER (tnf) Tue 25 Jul 06 12:37
From Bryan Miller: I think I'm answering a lot of my own questions now since Russel's reply (thanks u by the way!). I was thinking that since Bobby talks about two "ne'er do wells," it must be that both Shannon and Jack are somewhat in the same shoes. With Shannon having been buried, the narrator of the story repeats the chorus, "one man gone and another to go..." Jack must be that other man to go. Perhaps jack, the other "ne'er do well" is on the run no and moving too slow. Perhaps he'll be hung next if they catch up with him. I think i see this song a little more clearly now. thanks. What a great way to come to understandings!
Lightning in a Box (unkljohn) Tue 25 Jul 06 14:25
I always took it to mean that Jack Straw had to get to Tulsa to settle an old score. He got there, cut his buddy down, buried him and then had one down and one to go. I'll have to rethink him cutting someone down who was hanging. Not sure if it works for me.
from BRYAN MILLER (tnf) Tue 25 Jul 06 15:39
Bryan Miller writes: In response to Lightning: That would seem to be a straight forward reading of the last two verses, but every other time "buddy" is mentioned is seems to be between Jack and/or Shannon. I don't know if "buddy" would then be used to refer to someone he had a score to settle with. But who knows. I figure there's gotta be some irony in the song some where (?).
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Wed 26 Jul 06 07:05
Jack Straw: "We can share ..." Shannon: "I just jumped the watchman ..." Jack Straw: "Hurts my ears to listen, Shannon ..." Both: "We used to play for silver ..." Jack Straw: "Leaving Texas 4th day of July ..." Narrator: "Jack Straw from Witchita .." Jack Straw: "Half a mile from Tuscon ..."
from BRYAN MILLER (tnf) Wed 26 Jul 06 08:31
Bryan Miller writes: the very long entry i made a few days a go needs serious revising (i feel) in light of all the responses. I certainly wont post that! It would be too long... but weir's comments about the great depression, two guys "on the lam," "two ne'er do wells," leads me to believe that both Jack and Shannon show desperation in their actions and words, and desparation leads a man to do what he perhaps would not do in other circumstances. This song is a slice of real nitty gritty pie.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Wed 26 Jul 06 11:21
Nothing is too long if we can use it to approach enlightenment. I see Jack and Shannon as a bit worse than ne'er do wells. Murderous sociopaths is probably closer to my perception of them.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 27 Jul 06 21:32
i don't buy Jack=Shannon. It doesn't work for me.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 27 Jul 06 21:33
also, i wonder if any clue can be taken by considering the lines that were given to Jerry to sing?
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