Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Though I Am Trying To Stay In The Saddle, I'm Getting Weary, Unable To Ride"

I've been wanting to write something about this song for months. As a kid, I heard Marty Robbins'"El Paso" being played in my home as much as anything by The Beatles or Frank Sinatra. My grandfather loved country and western music, cowboy movies and even that dreadful television show "The Big Valley," with Richard Long & Barbara Stanwyck.

It's impossible to not get lost in the narrative of this classic melodrama about a gunfighter, his love for Felina, a Mexican waitress, and how he dies fighting for her honor.

The melody is perfect and the late great Marty Robbins delivers this story as if it was his own.

Thanks to Charlie over at The Tenderfeet Times, for his review of Allen Toussaint's performance at Joe's Pub over the weekend. Toussaint performed "El Paso." I would have loved to have seen that, but my jealousy has at least inspired this post.

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa's cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.

Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
Wicked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
I was in love but in vain, I could tell.

One night a wild young cowboy came in,
Wild as the West Texas wind.
Dashing and daring,
A drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina,
The girl that I loved.

So in anger I

Challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
My challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat;
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.

Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the FOUL EVIL deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
I had but one chance and that was to run.

Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran,
Out where the horses were tied.
I caught a good one.
It looked like it could run.
Up on its back
And away I did ride,

Just as fast as I

Could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the bad-lands of New Mexico.

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything's gone in life; nothing is left.
It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.

I saddled up and away I did go,
Riding alone in the dark.
Maybe tomorrow
A bullet may find me.
Tonight nothing's worse than this
Pain in my heart.

And at last here I

Am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa's cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa's back door.

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying
To stay in the saddle,
I'm getting weary,
Unable to ride.

But my love for

Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen,
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.

From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.


Anonymous said...

Nothing beats the Grateful Dead version of El Paso. Heres an old version from 72.

Sal Nunziato said...

Except of course, Marty Robbins' version.

Anonymous said...

And once you've fully absorbed "El Paso," don't miss Marty Robbins' subsequent recordings "Faleena (From El Paso)"--the story from Faleena's point of view--and the cosmic "El Paso City."

Anonymous said...

Grateful Dead ? I really don't think so. Many people don't know that the guitar player on this track is the great ( and not known by anyone except realguitar dweebs)Grady Martin. Google this guy to see who he played for . You'll be amazed .

steve simels said...

The cover of that album was strongly influenced by a certain very cool TV show.

Scroll down and see...

charlie c. said...

Thanks Sal!
My wife maintains that a tear came to Toussaint's eye as he finished the tune -- he called it a 'wonderful song' as we spoke after the show. When Allen Toussaint covers a song -- well, ya gotta take notice!
Great 'story song told by a dead guy' among many in that tradition . . . Long Black Veil comes to mind.
A one in a million experience.
(Thanks for the Snooks mix!)

Paul said...

Toussaint also played El Paso at his Dublin show earlier this year, and it was a thrilling moment. I wish I'd had the wit to record it, but just being there was enough...