Song Lyrics

500 Miles

Traditional

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[the specific lyrics Joni sang are unknown]

If you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles,
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

Lord I'm one, Lord I'm two, Lord I'm three, Lord I'm four,
Lord I'm 500 miles from my home.
500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles
Lord I'm five hundred miles from my home.

Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my name
Lord I can't go a-home this a-way
This a-away, this a-way, this a-way, this a-way,
Lord I can't go a-home this a-way.

If you miss the train I'm on you will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

Footnotes to 500 Miles

Late in 1963, Joni wrote out a list of 28 songs in her repertoire- of which this was one. All were presumably considered for performing at the 1963 'early' session in Saskatoon (released on Archive Series 1) although this one was not recorded.

The song is generally credited as being written by Hedy West, and a 1961 copyright is held by Atzal Music, Inc. "500 Miles" is West's "most anthologized song." Some recordings have also credited Curly Williams, or John Phillips as co-writers although Phillips admits he had only rearranged it and "didn't deserve the credit". David Neale writes that "500 Miles" may be related to the older folk song "900 Miles", which may itself have origins in the southern American fiddle tunes "Reuben's Train" and "Train 45". Johnny Cash is known to have placed "500 Miles" on his list of 100 essential country songs in the early 1970's.

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