“I ain’t sayin’ I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing. Then I stole his song.”

October 4, 2004

Over the last few months, I’ve been writing less and less on this blog. While several bloggers I read and respect were kind enough to read my blog and occassionally grace it with their comments and while there were a few times that well-known blogs linked to me and thus temporarily bumped my daily readership into the high hundreds or low thousands, there didn’t seem to be much point.

And thus, over the last 6 weeks or so, I wrote nothing.

Fortunately, I then had one of those bolts of inspiration that come from the direction you least expect. Namely, I heard Johnny Cash’s rendition of the following song Kris Kristofferson wrote as a tribute to him.

It’s set me straight.


Beat the Devil (1970)
by Kris Kristofferson

It was winter time in Nashville, down on music row.
And I was lookin’ for a place to get myself out of the cold.
To warm the frozen feelin’ that was eatin’ at my soul.
And keep the chilly wind off me and my guitar.

Well, my thirsty wanted whiskey, and my hungry needed beans,
But it’d been of month of paydays since I’d heard that eagle scream.
So with a stomach full of empty and a pocket full of dreams,
I left my pride and stepped inside a bar.

Actually, I guess you’d could call it a tavern.
Cigarette smoke to the ceiling.
Sawdust on the floor. Friendly shadows.

I saw that there was just one old man sittin’ at the bar.
And in the mirror I could see him checkin’ me and my guitar.
And he turned and said: “Come up here boy, and show us what you are.”
I said: “I’m dry.”
He bought me a beer.

Then he nodded at my guitar and said: “It’s a tough life, ain’t it?”
I just looked at him, and he said: “You ain’t makin’ any money, are you?”
I said: “You’ve been readin’ my mail.”
He just smiled and said: “Let me see that guitar. I’ve got something you oughta hear.”
Then he laid it on my ear:

“If you waste your time a-talkin’ to the people who don’t listen,
To the things that you are sayin’, who do you think’s gonna hear?
And if you should die explainin’ how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin’, who do you think’s gonna care?

There were other lonely singers in a world turned deaf and blind,
Who were crucified for what they tried to show.
And their voices have been scattered by the swirling winds of time.
For the truth remains that no one wants to know.”

Well, the old man was a stranger, but I’d heard his song before,
Back when failure had me locked out on the wrong side of the door.
When no one stood behind me but my shadow on the floor,
And lonesome was more than a state of mind.

You see, the devil haunts a hungry man,
And if you don’t wanna join him, well, you got to beat him.

I ain’t sayin’ I beat the devil,
but I drank his beer for nothing.
Then I stole his song:

“And you still can hear me singin’ to the people who don’t listen,
To the things that I am sayin’, prayin’ someone’s gonna hear.
And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin’, hopin’ someone’s gonna care.

I was born a lonely singer, and I’m bound to die the same,
But I’ve got to feed the hunger in my soul.
And if I never have a nickel, I won’t ever die ashamed.
‘Cause I don’t believe that no one wants to know.”

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2 Responses to ““I ain’t sayin’ I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing. Then I stole his song.””

  1. Majikthise Says:

    Friday Johnny Cash Blogging

    William Kaminsky of Too Many Worlds was feeling listless and demoralized. Luckily, he got some strong medicine, reproduced here. Fortunately, I then had one of those bolts of inspiration that come from the direction you least expect. Namely, I heard

  2. Mescan Sue Says:

    Well Rocky, Michael and those Pittsburg Steelers are good at drinking the devil’s beer and steeling his song.


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