Streets of Laredo, The - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

The Streets of Laredo - or as it is sometimes known, The Cowboy's Lament - sits in the middle of a web of related songs.  An American song, with a possible Irish ancestry, it exists in multiple versions.  Let's start with the origins.  In the Streets of Laredo a young cowboy has reason to pause as he comes across a dying fellow-cowboy, who has 'done wrong' (drinking, gambling, chasing women - the normal cowboy stuff.).  The lyrics bear an uncanny resemblance to a traditional English song called, 'The Unfortunate Rake', in which a young man comes across a friend who is dying of mercury poisoning. Mercury was administered as a 'cure' for venereal disease, so, like the cowboy, the rake has done wrong and has met a sad comeuppance.  In both songs, the passerby is asked to organize the dying man's funeral, with a number of men and women to follow the coffin, the death march, pipes playing and so on.

The details of the funeral also recall Nic Jones's version of "The Lakes of Shillin".

It's a beautiful song, and one that it's difficult not to be moved by.  It has been recorded by Johnny Cash and Arlo Guthrie, amongst others.

 

Click below to play Streets of Laredo, The.

Chords


G                   C                G                    D7

As I walked out in the Streets of Laredo

Em                C              G             D7              
As I walked out in Laredo one day

   G                       C                  G                             D7
I spied a young cowboy, all wrapped in white linen


Em                                C               D7              G

Wrapped up in white linen and cold as the clay.




    G                   C                  G              D7
"I see by your outfit, that you are a cowboy."

           Em                  C            G                       D7              
These words he did say as I slowly walked by.

            G                  C                    G                    D7
"Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story,


              Em              C                         D7          G

For I'm shot in the breast, and I'm dying today."





   

 

Lyrics

As I walked out in the Streets of Laredo,
As I walked out in Laredo one day,
I spied a young cowboy, all wrapped in white linen,
Wrapped up in white linen and cold as the clay.



"I see by your outfit, that you are a cowboy."
These words he did say as I slowly walked by.
"Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story,
For I'm shot in the breast, and I'm dying today."



"Twas once in the saddle I used to go dashing,
Twas once in the saddle I used to go gay.
First lead to drinking, and then to card-playing
I'm shot in the breast and I'm dying today.

 

Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
And play the dead march as you carry me along;
Take me to the green valley, there lay the sod oer me,
For I'm a young cowboy and I know I've done wrong.



Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,
Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall.
Put bunches of roses all over my coffin,
Roses to deaden the sods as they fall.



Then swing your rope slowly and rattle your spurs lowly,
And give a wild whoop as you carry me along;
And in the grave throw me and roll the sod o'er me.
For I'm a young cowboy and I know I've done wrong.



Go bring me a cup, a cup of cold water.
To cool my parched lips," the cowboy then said.
Before I returned, his soul had departed,
And gone to the round up - the cowboy was dead.



We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly,
And bitterly wept as we bore him along.
For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young and handsome,
We all loved our comrade, although he'd done wrong.

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