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Lyrically Speaking: Lucinda William's 'Drunken Angel'


Lucinda Williams

Some songs just grab you the moment you hear them. That’s how I came to “Drunken Angel,” one of Lucinda Williams’ best songs. The tune, off her famously popular 1998 album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” is a tribute to Texas folk-blues singer Blaze Foley.  I had never heard of Foley before this song. Apparently he was some sort of Texas legend, and friend of another tragic folk hero, Townes Van Zandt. While Van Zandt’s life and death is well-documented, Foley pretty much lived in obscurity and was shot dead in 1989 trying to help a friend defend himself.


  The greatness of this song is in the detail of Lucinda’s lyrics. She captured the devotion of his fans and the self-destructiveness of his personality. Each stanza builds him up and knocks him down:  “Followers would cling to you/ Hang around just to meet you/ Some threw roses at your feet/ And watch you pass out on the street/ Drunken Angel.”

   Her lyric “Some kind of savior singing the blues/ A derelict in your duct tape shoes,” perfectly captures this antihero, who according to Wikipedia “had a love affair with duct tape. Initially he placed duct tape on the tips of his cowboy boots to mock the “Urban Cowboy” crazed folks with their silver tipped cowboy boots. This love of duct tape grew until he’d made a suit out of duct tape that he used to walk around in. At his funeral, his casket was coated with duct tape by his friends.” (Click HERE to read the whole entry on Blaze Foley).

   Of course, Lucinda’s sort-of slurred/sneered Texas accent and the added 12-string guitar sound completes the song.

  I never tire hearing it. I just don’t know how you beat this line: “Blood spilled out from the hole in your heart/ Over the strings of your guitar/ The worn down places in the wood/ That once made you feel so good.”


Drunken Angel by Lucinda Williams Sun came up it was another day And the sun went down you were blown away Why’d you let go of your guitar Why’d you ever let it go that far

Drunken Angel


Could’ve held on to that long smooth neck Let your hand remember every fret Fingers touching each shiny string But you let go of everything

Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel You’re on the other side Drunken Angel You’re on the other side


Followers would cling to you Hang around just to meet you Some threw roses at your feet And watch you pass out on the street Drunken Angel


Feed you and pay off all your debts Kiss your brow taste your sweat Write about your soul your guts Criticize you and wish you luck

Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel You’re on the other side Drunken Angel You’re on the other side


Some kind of savior singing the blues A derelict in your duct tape shoes Your orphan clothes and your long dark hair Looking like you didn’t care Drunken Angel


Blood spilled out from the hole in your heart Over the strings of your guitar The worn down places in the wood That once made you feel so good

Druken Angel

Drunken Angel You’re on the other side Drunken Angel You’re on the other side


Sun came up it was another day And the sun went down you were blown away Why’d you let go of your guitar Why’d you ever let it go that far Drunken Angel




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