About The Song

Background

Released in 1979 on Waylon Jennings’ album What Goes Around Comes Around, “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” became an instant classic in the outlaw country movement. Outlaw country, a subgenre that emerged in the 1970s, challenged the polished and often pop-oriented sound of mainstream Nashville with a rougher, more authentic take on country music.

Jennings himself was a central figure in this movement. Known for his rebellious spirit and struggles with addiction, he embodied the outlaw lifestyle. “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” perfectly captured this essence, offering a glimpse into a world of hard living, fast women, and brushes with the law.

Musical Style

The song is a prime example of outlaw country’s signature sound. Driven by a chugging rhythm section with a prominent bass line, it features the twangy electric guitar synonymous with the genre. Jennings’ vocals are raw and forceful, conveying the desperation and urgency of the lyrics. The melody is simple yet effective, perfectly complementing the storytelling aspect of the song.

While firmly rooted in country tradition, “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” also incorporates elements of rock and roll. The driving beat and distorted guitar solo lend an edge that reflects the rebellious spirit of the outlaw movement.

Lyrics

The song paints a vivid picture of a man on the run. The opening verse sets the scene, with the narrator recalling a tough upbringing in Houston and a father who met an “early death.” The listener gets a sense of the narrator’s rough background and the cycle of violence he seems destined to repeat.

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The second verse introduces “Angel,” a “roadhouse queen” who seems to be both a source of comfort and trouble for the narrator. Their relationship is clearly passionate but volatile, mirroring the narrator’s own chaotic life.

The chorus is where the song’s desperation truly comes through. The repeated line “I ain’t livin’ long like this” is a stark admission of the narrator’s self-destructive tendencies and a premonition of his own demise.

The following verses delve deeper into the narrator’s troubles. He describes a run-in with the law, ending up “handcuffed” and “on a steel rail rack.” The jailhouse becomes a symbol of the narrator’s imprisonment, both physically and metaphorically. He longs for escape but seems resigned to his fate.

The final verse offers a glimmer of hope. The narrator pleads with Angel, “don’t let them take it to the man downtown,” suggesting a desire to break free from the cycle of crime and punishment. However, the ending remains ambiguous, leaving the listener to wonder if he will succeed.

Cultural Impact

“I Ain’t Living Long Like This” became an anthem for the outlaw country movement. It resonated with audiences who identified with the song’s themes of rebellion, alienation, and the struggle for survival. The song’s raw energy and honesty offered a refreshing contrast to the polished sound of mainstream country music.

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Jennings’ outlaw persona further cemented the song’s impact. His own battles with addiction and brushes with the law gave the lyrics a sense of authenticity that resonated with fans. “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” became a signature song for Jennings, solidifying his place as a legend of outlaw country.

The song’s influence extended beyond the country music scene. Its rebellious spirit and themes of living on the edge resonated with fans of rock and roll and punk rock. “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” became a crossover hit, helping to introduce outlaw country to a wider audience.

Conclusion

“I Ain’t Living Long Like This” is more than just a country song. It’s a powerful statement about life on the fringes, the allure of self-destruction, and the yearning for redemption. Through its raw energy and relatable lyrics, the song continues to resonate with listeners today, solidifying its place as a classic of outlaw country music.

Video

Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤
I look for trouble and I found it sonStraight down the barrel of a law man’s gunI tried to run but I don’t think I canYou make one move and you’re a dead man friend
Ain’t living long like thisCan’t live at all like this, can I baby?
He slipped the handcuffs on behind my backAnd left me reeling on a steel reel rackThey got ’em all in the jailhouse baby
Ain’t living long like thisCan’t live at all like this, can I baby?
Grew up in Houston off the wayside drivesSon of a car-hop and some all night divesDad drove a stock car to an early deathAll I remember was a drunk man’s breath
Ain’t living long like thisCan’t live at all like this, can I baby?
You know the story how the wheel goes ’round?Don’t let them take you to the man downtownCan’t sleep at all in a jailhouse baby
Ain’t living long like thisCan’t live at all like this, can I baby?
I live with angel she’s a roadhouse queenMakes Texas Ruby look like Sandra DeeI want to love her but I don’t know howI’m at the bottom in the jailhouse now
Ain’t living long like thisCan’t live at all like this, can I baby?
You know the story about the jailhouse rock?Don’t want to do it but just don’t get caughtThey got ’em all in the jailhouse baby
Ain’t living long like thisCan’t live at all like this, can I baby?

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