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  • Writer's pictureCharles Cherney

33: Waiting Around to Die - Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997) is a brilliant singer-songwriter. His music has a melancholy sound; his lyrics are poetical.

This video recording of Townes singing the first song he ever wrote - "Waiting Around to Die" - is beyond what words can say. Filmed, it seems, in a kitchen, the audience is a young woman (Townes' girlfriend?) and an older man who seems to have stepped right out of the song Townes is singing. Watch and listen:

The restlessness and movement of the narrator in the song is something surely nearly everyone can identify with. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How do I get there? Townes sings this song with his eyes closed. The camera focusses in on the movement of his fingers playing the guitar - and on the emotional response of the older man listening to the song. It all adds up to something achingly sad and inexpressibly beautiful.

Here are the lyrics to "Waiting Around to Die"

Sometimes I don't know where This dirty road is taking me Sometimes I can't even see the reason why I guess I keep a-gamblin' Lots of booze and lots of ramblin' It's easier than just waitin' around to die

One time, friends, I had a ma I even had a pa He beat her with a belt once 'cause she cried She told him to take care of me Headed down to Tennessee It's easier than just waitin' around to die

I came of age and I found a girl In a Tuscaloosa bar She cleaned me out and hit in on the sly I tried to kill the pain, bought some wine And hopped a train Seemed easier than just waitin' around to die

A friend said he knew Where some easy money was We robbed a man, and brother did we fly The posse caught up with me And drug me back to Muskogee It's two long years I've been waitin' around to die

Now I'm out of prison I got me a friend at last He don't drink or steal or cheat or lie His name's Codine He's the nicest thing I've seen Together we're gonna wait around and die Together we're gonna wait around and die


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