The Official Site of John Francis

Lyrics

The Better Angels
All songs written by John Francis.
Copyright 2010. ASCAP

The Way the Empire Fell

Tommy’s in the orchard, oranges by the crate
Tommy sends his family about a dollar by the day
Wall Street Jay, holdin’ on for dear life,
Dollar signs in his mind makin love to his wife
Jackie’s in the field, hand to the plough
Breadbasket bought by the government now
Everybody scramble everybody run
The man behind the curtain got you underneath his thumb
Tommy lives in Florida sinkin’ to the sea
Sends a check to Mexico while his fingers bleed
Internet Jay breakin’ out in cold sweats
Portfolio spent on Japanese Yen
Jackie’s at the kitchen table, pen in his hand
Investor’s they all salivate, he signs his name again
They used to grow corn on his granddaddy’s farm
Now they’re growin’ revenue industrial parks

Everyone, watched the way the empire fell
Everyone, held their tongues while the deed was done
Everyone, watched the way the empire fell
Everyone, held their tongues, held their tongues

You can’t eat money, can’t swallow gold
Can’t feed a family on petrol
There’s a pipeline runnin’ through Paradisio
Eve said to Adam, “how’s our garden gonna grow?”
The Serpent dropped in just before the fall
With a satellite dish and a cable install
Flippin through the channels, he said with a sneer
Watch who’s gonna win this election year!
Tommy didn’t shed a tear when they called INS
Caught him at the border, brought him back to the fence
He crossed himself twice with his Rosary beads
Shackles on his ankles in the land of the free
The banker called Jay on his mobile phone
To repossess his car and his summer home
It was all too late; he’d gone too far
He slit his wrists with his credit card

Everyone, watched the way the empire fell
Everyone, held their tongues while the deed was done
Everyone, watched the way the empire fell
Everyone, held their tongues, held their tongues

Speak now, or forever hold your piece
Speak now, or forever hold your piece
Speak now, or forever hold your piece
Speak now, or forever hold your piece

Johnny Cash on the Radio

Half a mile from Memphis when my engine froze
Mamma said there’d be days like this, the boys on Beale Street know
Baby wants that wedding ring, all I got is this wandering
And a white line runnin down the middle of a long black road
While a country music station’s playin’ Johnny Cash on the radio

America, your ghosts are showin’, in that dust bowl dust
Graveyard streets down in Tennessee, screamin’ ,”In God We Trust”.
Strip-malls here are the new cathedrals, dollar signs: the mark of the devil
Seen it in your eyes from coast down to ravaged coast
While a country music station’s playin’ Johnny Cash on the radio

I got a prayin’ Momma, I’m her only son
Broke her heart every time my Bible Belt come undone
Jesus loves a wayward sinner, went to his house last night for dinner
Knockin’ on the church door loud but ain’t nobody home
Thank God that country station still plays Johnny Cash on the radio

Woman don’t you cry for me, woman don’t you weep
I cried enough for a willow tree on the Trail of the Cherokee
Let my burden be my own, Silver City, call me home
And on my gravestone, darlin’, dontcha lay down a single rose
Just let that country station play that Johnny Cash on the radio
You gotta let that country station play some Johnny Cash on the radio
Uh, huh, huh…
Let that country station play that Johnny Cash on the radio

Who?

Who took the heart out of the heartland?
Who took the wild outta wild blue yonder?
Who took the middle outta Middle Class and,
Who took the Indians out of the summer?
Who took the clues away from the rebels?
Who took the peace out of the pipe?
Who too the candy away from the baby?
Who made a livin’ off of takin’ our lives?

Oh, who? Was it you or was it me?
I can’t say. Or was it everyone who’s lookin’ the other way?

Who took the muse away from musicians? 
Who took the apple out of American pie?
Who took the moss off the stone that’s a-rollin’? 
Who took the equal out of equal rights?
Who took the power out of “power to the people”?
Who took the sting outta Cashius Clay
Who took the difference between good and evil?
Who took the “united” from the U.S.A.?

Oh, who?

Who took the rest from “rest for the weary”?
Who took the beating? Who took the fall?
Who took the buffalo off of the prairie?
Who took the justice out of “Justice for all”?
Who took the quest out of askin’ the questions?
Who took your vision while you’re watchin’ TV?
Who took ulteriors and put ‘em in the motives?
Who took the human from humanity?
Who took the human from humanity?

Oh, Who? Was it you or was it me? I can’t say.
Or was it everyone who’s lookin’ the other way?

Oh, Who?

People On the Edge of the World

People in the gutter, clatter and the clutter
Lonely people drinkin’ champagne
Graveyard shifters, hitch-hike lifters
Sleepin’ in the drivin’ rain
The beggars at the feast, prayin’ to the east
Starin’ down the sub-machine
And the people who refuse to feed the belly of the beast
Belongin’ anywhere but in between

People on the edge of the world
Feelin’so strange while we’re tryin’ to stay free
People on the edge of the world
People on the edge are the only people for me

The Mariachi band crossed the Rio Grande
Singin’ through their hunger pangs
And the coal miner’s town in the mouth of the mounts
People with the fire in their veins
In the shanties and the shacks dressed in all black
Snake-handlin’ tambourines
We’ll be swayin’ in the breeze like a bent bruised reed
Friday night dancin’ drag queen

People on the edge of the world
Feelin’ so strange while we’re tryin’ to stay free
People on the edge of the world
People on the edge are the only people for me

Ex-convicts, fugitives, immigrants and refugees
Meth-addicts turnin’ tricks, streets full of amputees
And the Amazon tribe that’s tryin’ to stay alive
We nailed ‘em to the progress cross
At the end of the day the edge is my way
And I ain’t afraid to fall off!

People on the edge of the world
Feelin’ so strange while we’re tryin’ to stay free
People on the edge of the world
People on the edge are the only people…
People on the edge of the world
Feelin’ so strange the way that God made me
People on the edge of the world
People on the edge are the only people
People on the edge are the lonely people
People on the edge are the only people for me…

The Beautiful One

I’ve been out poundin’ pavement, carvin’ my name out
Singin’ like a flame in the sun
Dancin’ with devils, runnin’ rebels
But you were always the beautiful one
The beautiful one
You talk me down from my ledges when I’m fevered and restless
Unquietly comin’ undone
And when I can’t barely face you, Do I dare to embrace you?
You were always the beautiful one
Always the beautiful one

From Nashville to New York City, you’ve always been with me
Closer than God’s holy white dove
But I’m sadder than New Orleans, or the sound of a steel string
Or the shadow of the man that I was
But then you flood through my levees, you break through and get me
You were always the beautiful one
The beautiful one
Always the beautiful one

Woman, there is a reason for this
Endless wanderin’ I been doin’ since the day I was born
Woman, listen, the water’s rushin’
Underneath the bridge the river flows
Back to the ocean, I got a notion,
Back to your arms I will run…
You were always the beautiful one
You were always the beautiful one

Prayer In a Time of Drought

Let it rain on our working class wastelands
And our concrete fields of souls
And on the hammers of progress
Bleedin’ out blood and black gold
Let it rain on the soldiers returnin’
Rain for the soldiers who won’t
Let it rain on their graves and their medals
Rain on the wars that they fought
Let it rain on the conscience of nations
Rain on their bold armaments
Let it rust through the pride of their flagposts
Drownin’ out their arrogance

Let it rain on the wounds of our history
On the children of masters and slaves
And on our children’s children
Let the rain wash this curse away
Let it rain on your stained-glass window pain
In the name of your innocence lost
And on the daughters of Noah
Water like the Holy Ghost
Let it rain on those dreams in your head as you sleep
Rain on the sorrows you hide
Let it rain on those letters and tokens you keep
From your endless days as a child

Let it rain on the silence between us
Rain on your memory of me
And on your fair skin I’ll remember so well
And the red of the rose in your cheek

Call Me (When You Are Ready)

Girl, at the moment you tear open and read over this letter,
Wherever I am, it’s too far from your side
Restless, I’m left with the sense of your presence still with me
I’ve never stopped tryin’. It’s gettin’ stronger with time
Love is not blind, but its learnin’ how to see…
So call me when you are ready
I’m holdin’ steady, I’ll wait in the wings
Call me, when you are ready
I’m holdin’ steady, call me when you’re ready
For the real thing…

Just say the word and I’ll echo, “Amen, Amen”.

So call me when you are ready
I’m holdin’ steady, I’ll wait in the wings
Call me when you are ready
I’m holdin steady, call me when you’re ready
For the real thing

War Register Blues

They been layin’ highway, layin’ track
They been layin’ highway, layin’ track
Hammerin’ the nail like the wood they nailed down on Jesus’ back
They been layin’ highway, layin’ track

I saw Custer in Santa Fe
I saw Custer in Santa Fe
Playin’ cards with Pocahontas, but up his sleeve he had the Ace of Spades
I saw Custer in Santa Fe

This ole world is underneath the gun
This whole world is underneath the gun
And the Middle-East been done the same damn way that the West was won
This whole world is underneath the gun

My brother lost his arm in Baghdad
My brother lost his arm in Baghdad
And when Seanny boy came home, he lost even more than that
My brother lost his arm in Baghdad

I can’t pay my taxes anymore
I won’t pay my taxes anymore
Gotta tell him down in Texas, ain’t gonna pay for your dirty war
I can’t pay my taxes anymore

Lock me in your cage, I’ll still sing
You can lock me in your cage, I’ll still sing
Like Tolstoy and Thoreau, and Dr. Martin Luther King
Lock me in your cage, I’ll still sing

This ole world is underneath the gun
This whole world is underneath the gun
And the Middle-East been done the same damn way that the West was won
This whole world is underneath the gun
This ole world is underneath the gun
This whole world is underneath the gun
Love Came To Me Dressed In Red

My love came to me dressed in red, red as rubies of her lips
And battlefields where armies bled, dyin’ for their flags
Cryin’ for their gods, gods who bleed like men
My love came to me painted blue. That twilight blue of summer’s past
Blue as the words I needed you to say before you left
Blue as tides return, blue as music burns

It was only for a moment then we’re gone
Like horses over hills and setting suns
My love comes back to me dressed up in songs

My love came to me bound in black
Blacker than the moon’s eclipse, blacker still than ravens’ wings
Shadowing my dreams and the nightmare’s of my youth
She was darker than the truth
My love fell on me in tongues of prayer
A hymn of praise fell from her lips. I kissed her thorny crucifix
Saint Theresa wept with bliss. The smell of roses filled the room
When our love was in bloom

It was only for a moment then we’re gone
Like horses over hills and setting suns
My love comes back to me dressed up in songs

My love marched to me in a gown of white
Her face of snow shone her veil
Oh, her unbridled appetite, two fires in the night
We were never satisfied
Here comes the burning bride

It was only for a moment then we’re gone
Like horses over hills and setting suns
My love comes back to me dressed up in songs
My love comes back to me dressed up in songs
My love comes back to me dressed up in songs

Mississippi

Oh, Mississippi, what have you done? Have you stole me away
With the prayers in your songs?
Have you longed for somebody, as I have longed for you
Like a night desires the dawn?
Have you trembled inside under the midnight blue?
I could love you like so few have been loved

Oh, Mississippi, what have you done? Have you stole me away
With the prayers in your songs?
Who’s gonna walk there beside you where your rivers may run?
Mississippi, with the prayers in your songs

I wasn’t lookin’ for nothin’ in anyone’s eyes
Been all over the world, babe, swear I’d seen everything twice
Then somethin’ happened under that Delta tree line
There walks a woman, sweet and as strong as the tallest of Southern pines

Oh, Mississippi, what have you done? Have you stole me away
With the prayers in your songs?
Who’s gonna walk there beside you where your rivers may run?
Mississippi, with the prayers in your songs

Everything Is Falling Away

And I read it on billboard sign, read it in a magazine
Read it on the hallowed halls of the museum
Read it like a tragedy, didn’t need a crystal ball
Read it in the anger scrawled on the bathroom stall
And I read it on the subway walls, read it like an ancient myth
Read it in the bitterness of our last kiss
Read it in my grandpa’s eyes, read it Leaves of Grass
Read it every time I pass a looking glass
Read it in your touch, read it in your silent sleep
Read it like I picked the lock on your diary

Everything is falling away. I think it started fallin’ on that day.
The day I knew that I loved you, but knew you wouldn’t stay
Everything is falling away

I read it on birthday card, read it in horoscope
Read it in the cold neon casino glow
Read it in the wanted-ads, read it in fine print
Read it on the back of my pack of cigarettes
And I read it like an oracle, read it on a sandwich board
Read it like it was the word from the mouth of the Lord
And I read it in the New York Times, read it like a last request
Read it real fast like a letter from the Pony Express
And I read it like surrender, like a prayer with no “amen”
Read it in your body’s perfect bend

Everything is falling away. I think it started fallin’ on that day.
The day I knew that I loved you, but knew you wouldn’t stay.
Everything is falling away

I read it your picture I took out of the frame
Read it like the blood that spilled on the Passion Play
And I read it in my tealeaves, read it by the light of the moon
Read it on every face in this room
And I read it in your heartbeat, a-poundin’ in your breast
Read it like a warrant came for my arrest
And I read it like a verdict, the story of me and you
Read it everywhere, still can’t believe its true

Brother’s Keeper

Now my friends they call me ‘Gator’, in the war I earned that name
I was seventeen in Saigon on my belly in the monsoon rain
There were people over there shootin’ at me,
Never did nothin’ to them neither,
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

Then Nixon bombed Cambodia, and soon after we came home
And I married Melinda, when we were nineteen we eloped
With her chestnut hair and her country smile
I knew that I could never leave her
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

We had a daughter called Jesse, I worked union at the mill
I brought home good wages, we bought a house on the G.I. bill
It was hard to make the ends meet
But I loved her more each time I seen her
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

Then on New Year’s Eve it happened, I still curse that wretched night
Drivin’ down a back road a drunk driver took their lives
For ten long years I dreamed of them
And to this day I grieve her
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

Methamphetamine and liquor couldn’t take away this pain
So I resolved to find their killer and put a bullet in his brain
I killed men in Vietnam
Just close your eyes and squeeze the trigger
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

I knew just where he was livin’ when he paroled from state
Melinda, this one is for you, I’ll make him suffer your same fate
I took aim at his face, and I watched that poor man quiver
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

Now I’ve never been a Christian man on account of all I seen
But I swear by my daughter’s grave a great white light came down between
I laid my pistol to the ground and since then I’m a believer
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

So, Mister, could you spare a blanket? I’m a-go sleep in the park
Could I trouble you for five dollars for a meal at the mini-mart?
But first let me tell ya bout Melinda
Tonight more than ever I need her
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?
Oh brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?
My brother, won’t you be your brother’s keeper?

Love, Oh, Love (‘til My Train)

Love, oh love, true love of mine
Love, oh love, I’m a-leavin’ tomorrow

Why, oh why do I have to go through the fallin’ snow?
I’m bound to roam this blue world alone, it’s always been my way
And the world is wide, wipe the tears from your eyes, little darlin’
Don’t you let your harden, please forgive and pardon my wanderings

Love, oh love, true love of mine
Love, oh love, I’m a-leavin’ tomorrow
Love, oh love, true love be kind
And stay with me til my train draws nigh

Queens and presidents and paupers, I’ve met many people
It’s like the hay and the needle, I can’t find an equal
To your sweet kiss and love pure
Western wind’s wild and free, it whispers to me “come follow”
To Mexico, Colorado, Brazil and Morocco
I don’t know where the wind may blow
Why don’t you stay with me on the platform tomorrow?

Love, oh love, true love of mine
Love, oh love, I’m a-leavin’ tomorrow
Love, oh love, true love be kind
And stay with me til my train
Til my train…
Til my train…
draws nigh

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