Billy the Kid

Music: Trad. arr. Sheena Phillips. Words: Trad.
TBarB, piano
performance time approx 2m 30s
Range T: f – d' / Bar: d – c' / B: A – b♭
Price code: C
Complexity: **

See a perusal copy of the music.
Hear a synthesized rendering
This piece is part of the set Three cowboy songs
The next piece is Tall men riding
If you don't want to buy the whole set, then you can buy Billy the Kid individually using the link on this page.
This song was collected by Alan Lomax (1915 - 2002) and was made famous by the singing of Woody Guthrie and others. The ballad is based on the real life of gunfighter and outlaw Henry McCarty, also known as William Bonney (1859 - 1881). Tenors have the tune throughout, while the other parts alternate between two different harmonisations, accompanied throughout by a restless piano part.


I’ll sing you a true song of Billy the Kid,
I’ll sing of the desperate deeds that he did
Way out in New Mexico long, long ago
When a man’s only chance was his own forty-four.

When Billy the Kid was a very young lad,
In old Silver City he went to the bad;
Way out in the West with a gun in his hand
At the age of twelve years he had first killed a man.

Fair Mexican maidens play guitars and sing
A song about Billy, their boy bandit king,
How ere his young manhood had reached its sad end
Had a notch in his pistol for twenty-one men.

‘Twas on the same night when poor Billy died
He said to his friends: “I am not satisfied;
There are twenty-one men I have put bullets through
And Sheriff Pat Garrett must make twenty-two.”

Now this is how Billy the Kid met his fate:
The bright moon was shining, the hour was late,
Shot down by Pat Garrett, who once was his friend,
The young outlaw’s life had now come to its end.

There’s many a man with a face fine and fair
Who starts out in life with a chance to go far,
But just like poor Billy he wanders astray
And loses his life in the very same way.

Traditional American

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