SLS: Ruby

Train tracks woman red car owls

You’ve painted up your lips
Rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby, are you contemplating
Going out somewhere?
The shadow on the wall
Tells me the sun is going down
Oh, Ruby
Don’t take your love to town

Jim Adams continues his Song Lyric Sunday series by asking for songs about scars, illness, or injury. The song I chose doesn’t specifically mention any of those words, but I think you’ll agree it fits the theme. It’s about a paralyzed man who got hurt in a war and is watching as his wife gets all dolled up for a night on the town while leaving him home by himself. He is angry, believing she’s looking for a lover, and he says he still needs some company, even if he isn’t the man he used to be. We feel sorry for him, but we don’t know the whole story, only his point of view. Maybe he was a jerk to his wife before he went to war, who knows? I present “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” written by Mel Tillis and first recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1966.

It’s hard to love a man
Whose legs are bent and paralyzed
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age
Ruby, I realize
But it won’t be long
I’ve heard them say until I’m not around
Oh, Ruby
Don’t take your love to town

Various artists have covered the song, including Kenny Rogers and the First Edition in 1969. His version became an international hit, reaching No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 6 in the US on Billboard Hot 100. Rogers re-recorded Ruby when he went solo and the song appears on his 1977 greatest hits album, Ten Years of Gold. People often believe that the song references the Vietnam War, but Tillis said he had a WWII veteran in mind when he wrote it. Ruby has been a hit in other languages as well. It illustrates the universal theme most people can relate to: you’re frozen helplessly as the person you love ignores you and walks away to be with someone else.

©️2022 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted.

17 responses to “SLS: Ruby

  1. This is one of those songs that is difficult to shake…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great song choice Paula. Love the image you’ve included with the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always thought the song was a little dark for a pop hit. The burlesque solo drum beat at the end was jarring, as well.
    Re the war mentioned, wasn’t the lyric “. . . crazy Asian war?”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This song is filled with pain and it made a great choice for today, Paula. It seems like he knows that he will be dying soon and instead of wanting his wife to have some happiness, he talks about shooting her with his gun. I am sure she is only staying with him because of his VA benefits.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a tragic song. I wonder how many vets can truly relate to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This has inspired a couple of response songs. My favorite is Geraldine (Dodie) Stevens’ “Billy, I’ve Got To Go To Town.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My favorite version is by Roger Miller. It’s a haunting song.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gary Holton & Casino Steel did a version, too (their style is known as “rig rock”, popular with North Sea oil workers). In that version, they refer to the crazy Irish war so one can assume the singer was injured in Belfast. I like this version as much as Rogers’.


  9. Oh a good one Paula! β˜ΊοΈπŸ’•

    Liked by 1 person

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