The Devil's Right Hand

Album: Copperhead Road (1988)

Songfacts®:

  • Songwriter Steve Earle is well known as a vocal opponent of capital punishment; running to 3 minutes 1 second, this classic miniature has a message for those who are likely to end up facing it; an attack on what Louis Farrakhan called "the glorification of the gun," it makes the point that though a gun can get you into a lot of trouble, it can't get you out of it.
  • In the song, the unfortunate storyteller fails to heed his mother's warnings about carrying a pistol, and his youthful fascination ends with him shooting a man dead after being cheated at cards. When the authorities come for him, he protests they have the wrong man because "nothing touched the trigger but the Devil's right hand", which in the 21st Century would amount to an insanity defense, but would have probably not have swayed a jury in late 19th Century America wherein this cameo is set. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
  • Waylon Jennings released this song before Earle did - he included it on his 1986 album Will the Wolf Survive. Jennings and Earle were good friends and kindred spirits; during one of Earle's stints in prison, Jennings wore a bandana in his honor (Earle wears a bandana on his right wrist). In 1995, Jennings recorded the song again with his group the Highwaymen, which also included Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

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