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Midnight Special - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

A traditional American song, the first trace of Midnight Special in print is in 1905.  The lyric, which is told from a prisoner's viewpoint, must have appealed to Huddy Ledbetter (better known, of course, as Lead Belly) who popularised the song.  Lead Belly was himself a sometime convict and was, in fact, recorded singing the song whilst in jail during the 1930s.  The Midnight Special of the title is a train.  I would like to believe the rather romantic story that the passing train's light shone into prison cells near Houston, offering a hope of salvation.  The other theory is that the cons would prefer to be run over by the train rather than spend the rest of their time in prison.  Take your pick!  Midnight Special is a much-recorded song.  There is a skiffle version by Lonnie Donegan, and recordings by Credence Clearwater Revival, Harry Belafonte and Van Morrison, amongst others.  Even the Beatles had a go at it.  Its simple three chord structure makes it an ideal song for beginner guitarists to learn to play.

Chords

Capo at 2nd Fret

Verse
    
 G                               C                                                        G
“Yonder come Miss Rosie.” “How in the world do you know?”

                                           D7                                      G
“Well I know her by the apron, and the dress she wore.”


                             C                                                   G     
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand:

                                   D7                                          G
“I'm gonna ask the governor, toe turn lose my man.”




Chorus
    
                              C                                           G
Let the midnight special, shine the light on me;

                              D7                                                            G
Let the midnight special, shine the ever loving light on me.

Lyrics

“Yonder come Miss Rosie.” “How in the world do you know?”
“Well I know her by the apron, and the dress she wore.”
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand:
“I'm gonna ask the governor, toe turn lose my man.”

Let the midnight special, shine the light on me;
Let the midnight special, shine the ever loving light on me.

When you get up in the morning, when that big bell ring,
You go and march to the table, you see the same damn thing:
Knife and fork are on the table, there's nothing in my pan,
And if you say anything about it, you’re having trouble with the man.

Let the midnight special, shine the light on me;
Let the midnight special, shine the ever loving light on me.

Well I went to the nation and to the territory;
I thought about the girl I love, in that Mexico.

Let the midnight special, shine the light on me;
Let the midnight special, shine the ever loving light on me.

If you ever go to Houston, oh you better walk right,
And you better not squallow and you better not fight;
Sheriff Rocko will arrest you, Eddie Boone will take you down.
You can bet your bottom dollar, you’re penitentiary bound.

Let the midnight special, shine the light on me;
Let the midnight special, shine the ever loving light on me.

Well jumping little Judy, she was a mighty fine girl.
Judy brought jumping to this whole round world.
Well she brought it in the morning, just a while before day,
She brought me the news that my wife was dead.
That started me to grieving, then hollering and crying,
Then I had to give the worry about a been a long time.

Let the midnight special, shine the light on me;
Let the midnight special, shine the ever loving light on me.

Other American Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs