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Decades Later, Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard Team Back Up For 'Pancho And Lefty' Duet

Willie nelson Songs | Decades Later, Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard Team Back Up For 'Pancho And Lefty' Duet | Country Music Videos
Photo credit: Paul Natkin / Getty Images

The two country legends, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, teamed up to reinvent this timeless classic over 30 years ago. "Pancho and Lefty" was originally written and performed by Townes Van Zandt in 1972 and is widely considered his "most enduring and well-known song."   

The song tells the story of two partners in crime, one by the name of Pancho and the other by the name of Lefty. While the two begin the song as clear associates in mischief, the lyrics tell tale of how Lefty betrays Pancho resulting in his untimely death at the hands of the "federals."

"The poets tell how Pancho fell and Lefty's livin' in a cheap hotel," the pair sings. "Pancho needs your prayers it's true, save a few for Lefty too he only did what he had to do." 

The tune was adopted by Merle and Willie in 1983 and gave its name to their duet album (Pancho and Lefty). They quickly popularized the song and it soared the charts reaching No.1 on both the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles and Canadian RPM Country Tracks. 

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