The Paul McCartney Project

Midnight Special (Prisoner's Song)

Written by Traditional

Album This song officially appears on the Once Upon a Long Ago #2 12" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1987
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Midnight Special” is a traditional folk song thought to have originated among prisoners in the American South. The title comes from the refrain, which refers to the passenger train Midnight Special and its “ever-loving light” (sometimes “ever-living light“):

Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me,
Let the Midnight Special shine her ever-loving light on me.

The song is historically performed in the country-blues style from the viewpoint of the prisoner and has been covered by many artists. […]

Paul McCartney has performed it numerous times (with The Beatles and solo). It was the closing song on his 1988 album Choba B CCCP and was performed on his 1991 appearance on MTV Unplugged, but was not included on the accompanying album. […]

From the “Choba B CCCP” liner notes:

Midnight Special is public domain and anyone personally rearranging the song has the legal right to claim a composer credit. The legendary blues artist, Leadbelly first claimed it sometime between 1918 and 1925 when serving time for murder in Harlem – an all-black Texas prison.

The prison, which no longer exists, was located near Sugarland just outside of Houston and the words in the song, “Let the Midnight Special shine its ever-lovin’ light on me,” refers to the prison myth that if the light of that train from Houston shone on an inmate he would be freed.

Paul’s easy-action version retain elements of its original blues roots by way of his nimble acoustic guitar pickin’.

Last updated on June 22, 2019

Lyrics

Well you wake up early in the morning
Hear the ding dong bell
You go a-walkin' to the table
See the same damn thing
Knife and fork out on the table
Piece of paper round my hand
Nothing I can do about it
I'll get in trouble with the man

Let the midnight special
Shine her light on me
Let the midnight special
Shine his ever-loving light on me

If you ever go to Houston
You better act right
You better not gamble
And you better not fight
Because the Sheriff will arrest you
And he'll carry you down
And if they go and find you guilty
Penitentiary bound.

Let the midnight special
Shine her light on me
Let the midnight special
Shine his ever-loving light on me.

Well you wake up early in the morning
Hear the ding dong bell
You go a-walkin' to the table
See the same damn thing
Knife and fork out on the table
Piece of paper in my hand
Nothing I can do about it
I'll get in trouble with the man.

Let the midnight special
Shine her light on me
Let the midnight special
Shine his ever-loving light on me.

Well if I ever go to Houston
You better act right
You better not gamble
And you better not fight
Because the Sheriff will arrest you
And they'll carry you down
And if they find you guilty
Well you'll be sugar-line bound.

Let the midnight special
Shine his light on me
Let the midnight special
Shine his ever-loving light on me.

Officially appears on


Once Upon a Long Ago #2

12" Single • Released in 1987

4:01 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Producer, Vocal
Mick Green:
Guitar
Chris Whitten:
Drums
Mick Gallagher:
Piano
Peter Henderson:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 20, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
Jul 22, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK


CHOBA Á CCCP

Official album • Released in 1991

3:59 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Producer, Vocal
Mick Green:
Guitar
Chris Whitten:
Drums
Mick Gallagher:
Piano
Peter Henderson:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 20, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
Jul 22, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK


Off the Ground - The Complete Works

Official album • Released in 1993

4:55 • LiveL1

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Percussion
Robbie McIntosh:
Acoustic guitar
Hamish Stuart:
Acoustic bass, Vocal harmonies
Paul Wickens:
Piano
Blair Cunningham:
Drums
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Eddie Klein:
Assistant engineer
Gary Stewart:
Assistant engineer
Peter Craigie:
Assistant engineer
Gary Bradshaw:
Monitor engineer

Concert From "MTV Unplugged" in Wembley, United Kingdom on Jan 25, 1991


Biker Like An Icon

EP • Released in 1993

4:42 • LiveL1

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Percussion
Robbie McIntosh:
Acoustic guitar
Hamish Stuart:
Acoustic bass, Vocal harmonies
Paul Wickens:
Piano
Blair Cunningham:
Drums
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Eddie Klein:
Assistant engineer
Gary Stewart:
Assistant engineer
Peter Craigie:
Assistant engineer
Gary Bradshaw:
Monitor engineer

Concert From "MTV Unplugged" in Wembley, United Kingdom on Jan 25, 1991


Biker Like An Icon (Promo)

EP • Released in 1993

5:11 • LiveL1

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Percussion
Robbie McIntosh:
Acoustic guitar
Hamish Stuart:
Acoustic bass, Vocal harmonies
Paul Wickens:
Piano
Blair Cunningham:
Drums
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Eddie Klein:
Assistant engineer
Gary Stewart:
Assistant engineer
Peter Craigie:
Assistant engineer
Gary Bradshaw:
Monitor engineer

Concert From "MTV Unplugged" in Wembley, United Kingdom on Jan 25, 1991

Videos

Soundcheck • Jun 14, 2016 in Berlin

Live performances

“Midnight Special (Prisoner's Song)” has been played in 8 concerts and 110 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where “Midnight Special (Prisoner's Song)” has been played


Paul McCartney in Casual Conversation from LIPA

Jul 25, 2018 • United Kingdom • Liverpool • Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts



iTunes Festival

Jul 05, 2007 • United Kingdom • London • Institute for Contemporary Arts


Houston • Toyota Center

Nov 19, 2005 • Part of The US Tour




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