A Song for Johnny . . . A true story

I wrote this song in memory and in honor of Johnny. I never knew his last name. He was Hispanic, and he was hired by the Pittman family to take care of my grandfather in his last months, when we knew he was dying. A hospice worker of a sort, I guess, who lived with them. Their house was just outside Rochester, Texas, in a part of the country known as the Texas Badlands. The water there tasted like sulfur. I liked Johnny and got to know him well. I still remember vividly his telling me how his mother made tortillas. My cousin Sammy didn’t like him and was very vocal about it. In West Texas a prejudice exists among some that is directed against Hispanics. It is a prejudice that is equal to the prejudice you sometimes see directed against blacks in the South. One night my mother called me and told me about Johnny’s suicide. Grandmother had told her what she knew, and she had passed that information on to me. He killed himself with a shotgun outside at my grandparents’ storm cellar. He had left a suicide note. The event traumatized my grandmother, but of course my grandfather barely understood. My grandfather was so inward and withdrawn at that point, that I don’t know that he even missed Johnny, but I did. The grief we all felt was too deep to be forgotten, so I wrote this song.

A Song I Still Hear

Verse 1
Johnny was born in Texas,
But his folks came from Mexico,
They settled close to Haskell,
And swore they’d never go.
They drank the Badland water,
And worked a Badland farm,
They’d gather at their table,
And sing this arm in arm.

We’ll always have each other,
We’ll never say goodbye
We’ll always be a family,
And I’ll never make you cry.

Verse 2:
Johnny worked the oilfields
And was the toughest boy in town.
He spent time in the Army,
Then tried to settle down,
One night he met Maria,
She became his everything,
She promised that they’d marry,
And that every night they’d sing.


Verse 3:
But things seldom work out
The way we want them too.
Maria moved to Dallas,
And Maria was untrue,
She said she loved another,
And could not be his wife.
Johnny’s demons found him,
And that night he took his life.


Verse 4:
On moonlight nights in Texas
Between coyote songs
I think of how we miss him,
His death just seems so wrong,
I think about the friend he was,
And the friend I could have been,
When I visit with his family,
We sing this song for him.