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Indian Head Penny

by | Jan 7, 2018 | Inanimate Objects

Today’s sentiments on a song is about Indian Head Penny.

Indian Head Penny is a fascinating song written by the late great Guy Clark and his often time co-writer and friend Verlon Thompson.  I purchased Guy Clark’s, Cold Dog Soup CD, back in 1999 and this was the 8th track.  I loved it from my very first listen.  It soon became one of my all-time favorite songs.  If you’ve been reading my posts, by now you know I am obsessed with imagery in song.  To say this song delivers on imagery doesn’t even begin to tell the story.  I’m a pretty lucky penny, Lord, it happens every time, Just when I start feeling lost and left behind, Some kid will pick me up and wonder where I’ve been, Put me in his pocket, and here I go again.
I saw a video on YouTube and Verlon Thompson was talking about pitching the idea of the life of a coin (Indian Head Penny) to Guy Clark.  Verlon had already tried to get some other songwriters on board, to no avail.  Likewise, he pitched the idea to Guy.  He listened and thought it was a good idea and as a result, we now have this incredible tale of the last Indian Head Penny.  The song offers such a unique look into the life of what people nowadays consider useless and worthless, the humble penny.

In the beginning, we learn the life of this Indian Head Penny, told from the penny’s point of view, began in 1909.

It was literally the last of its kind.  The first place the penny lands is on a counter, making change for a kid’s Jawbreaker.    And so,  the adventure begins.  A pocket knife and a hobo are in the penny’s future.  Also. the penny gets to plays a part in a robbery with the notorious Pretty Boy Floyd and at some point ends up going to war, to serve as a good luck charm.  Nevertheless, before the song is through, the penny begins to feel almost forgotten and lost, until a new kid finds him and he’s back on the adventure.
I know it’s just a song about an old outdated Indian Head Penny, but for me, it’s more.  Granted my adventures may not be as grand and diverse, but still, I can still say I have had plenty of great moments in my life.  With this in mind, I find I can relate to this old penny.  The life described in the song allows me to get lost in the nostalgia of being that kid with a bright shiny penny.  In fact, it prompts me to recall all the adventures I’ve had, so far.  It also gets me looking forward to all the times I’ve yet to have.   Like now, you’ve found me and my blog, and I can’t wait to see where we go next.

Cold Dog Soup – Guy Clark, Track 8

Indian Head Penny
Guy Clark & Verlon Thompson(EMI April Music Inc/GSC Music/Ides of March Music, ASCAP)
Guy Clark:  Lead vocal& Acoustic Guitar

Verlon Thompson:  Harmony vocal & Mandolin 

Darrell Scott:  Harmony vocal and Mandocello overdubs 

Verlon Thompson:  Harmonica and Penny roll 

Darrell Scott:  Accordion

Lyrics

I rolled off the San Francisco mint in 1909 

The last one they ever made, you should’ve seen me shine 

When I landed on the counter they gave me to a kid 

Making change for a jaw breaker was the first thing that I did

I got traded for a pocket knife, two marbles, and some string 

Wound up on a railroad track waiting for a train 

Snatched up by a hobo and turned right into wine 

Pitched up against the wall at least a thousand times

‘Round and ’round a penny goes, ’round and back again 

Listen and I’ll tell you the places that I’ve been

I got stolen from a banker by Pretty Boy Floyd and then 

He gave me to a farmer who was trying to save his land 

I was good luck to a soldier back in W.W.II 

He lost me in a poker game the day the war was through

I got stuck behind the back seat of a ’51 Chevrolet 

Spare change in the sixties, getting worth less every day 

Now it’s piggy banks and gum machines and occasional wishing wells 

Or laying on a barroom floor, Indian heads or tails

‘Round and ’round a penny goes, ’round and back again 

Listen and I’ll tell you the places that I’ve been

I’m a pretty lucky penny, Lord it happens every time 

Just when I start feeling lost and left behind 

Some kid will pick me up and wonder where I’ve been 

Put me in his pocket, and here I go again

‘Round and ’round a penny goes, ’round and back again

Listen and I’ll tell you the places that I’ve been

Indian Head Penny from Cold Dog Soup

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