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Jesse James - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

An American folk song, Jesse James tells the story of the legendary outlaw of the same name.  As with many a folk song, there are different versions of 'Jesse James'.  This one casts its hero in quite a mean light ("Jesse robbed from the poor and he gave to the rich.  He never did a friendly thing...").  Other versions of the song paint Jesse as a more honourable figure in the Robin Hood mode: "Now Jesse was a man, a friend to the poor; he'd never rob a mother or a child."  So take your pick of bad or relatively good Jesse and adjust the words accordingly.  'Mister Howard', by the way, was the pseudonym used by Jess James whilst he was in hiding at the time of his assassination.  He was shot by Robert Ford.  The song, which has a very simple chord structure, but which wants to be played at an enthusiastic pace, has been recorded by the likes of Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie and others.

Chords

Capo at 4th Fret


                      G                              C                    G

When Jesse James was a lad he killed many a man,

                                          D            D7
He robbed the Glendale train,

               G                                      C                  G
And the people they did say for many miles away

           G                  D7                       G
It was robbed by Frank and Jesse James.




         C                                    G          

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,

                                              D7
Three children - they were brave;

               
G                                     C                   G
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard

        G              D7              G
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.




            G                                   C                   G

It was on a Saturday night if I remember right

                                                        D            D7
When they robbed that Glendale train.

           G                                                  C                        G
It was one of the Younger boys who gathered in the spoils,

             G                      D7           G
And he carried Jesse's monies away.




         C                                    G          

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,

                                              D7
Three children - they were brave;

               
G                                     C                   G
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard

        G              D7              G
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.




             G                                           C                          G
He was standing on a chair just a-dusting pictures there.

                                        D             D7
He thought he heard a noise.

                G                                                         C                               G
When he turned his head around, why that bullet smacked him down,

            G              D7                 G
And it laid poor Jesse on the floor.




         C                                    G          

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,

                                              D7
Three children - they were brave;

               
G                                     C                   G
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard

        G              D7              G
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.




          G                                                 C                   G
Jesse robbed from the poor and he gave to the rich.
 
                                        D            D7
He never did a friendly thing,

                        G                                       C                             G
And when his best friend died he was right there by her side,

             G                    D7                        G
And he lifted off her golden wedding ring.




         C                                    G          

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,

                                              D7
Three children - they were brave;

               
G                                     C                   G
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard

        G              D7              G
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

Lyrics

When Jesse James was a lad he killed many a man,
He robbed the Glendale train,
And the people they did say for many miles away
It was robbed by Frank and Jesse James.

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,
Three children - they were brave;
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

It was on a Saturday night if I remember right
When they robbed that Glendale train.
It was one of the Younger boys who gathered in the spoils,
And he carried Jesse's monies away.

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,
Three children - they were brave;
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

He was standing on a chair just a-dusting pictures there.
He thought he heard a noise.
When he turned his head around, why that bullet smacked him down,
And it laid poor Jesse on the floor.

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,
Three children - they were brave;
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

Jesse robbed from the poor and he gave to the rich.
He never did a friendly thing,
And when his best friend died he was right there by her side,
And he lifted off her golden wedding ring.

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life,
Three children - they were brave;
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

Other American Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs