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Frankie and Johnny [song lyrics]


Song lyrics to Frankie and Johnny (1912), Music by Bert Leighton and Frank Leighton

Frankie and Johnny is a traditional American popular song. It tells the story of a woman, Frankie, who finds her man Johnny making love to another woman and shoots him dead. Frankie is then arrested; in some versions of the song she is also executed. It’s based on an actual story.

Frankie and Johnny was sweethearts
At least that’s the way the story goes
Frankie bought everything for Johnny
From his sports car to his Ivy League clothes

Aw, he was a man alright
Oh, but he was doing her wrong
Just to show you what can happen

A friend came running to Frankie
She said you know I wouldn’t tell you no lie
I saw your man riding in his Jaguar
With a chick named Nellie Blye

Oh, if he was your man honey
Let me tell you he was doing you wrong
Let me tell the story

Frankie ran around the corner
And peeked in a swinging place
And there she saw Johnny with a woman
He had his arms around her waist

Aw, he was a man alright
But Frankie could see that he was
Doing her wrong
And oh let me tell you

Frankie reached down in her pocketbook
And up with a long forty-four
She shot once, twice, three times
And Johnny fell on the hard wood floor

Aw, he was a man alright
But she shot him because he was doing her wrong

But the last thing he told her was
Frankie, you know I love you
Why? Honey, why did you do that?
Frankie, I was telling her about you
Frankie, you know I love you
Frankie, you know that I love you
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Now Frankie, you know good and well that I love you
Frankie, I’ll always love you baby
Frankie, you know I can’t do without you
Frankie, you know I love you
And I know, and I know I was doing wrong
You wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong
Frankie, baby, you know I love you


Frankie and Johnny has been recorded literally hundreds of times. Some of these include:

Johnny Cash, Sammy Davis Jr. Bob Dylan Lena Horne, Burl Ives, Jerry Lee Lewis, Van Morrison, Les Paul, Pete Seeger, Dinah Shore, Fats Waller, Doc Watson, Stevie Wonder.


The story of Frankie and Johnny has been included in films, or the basis of many films. Some include:

  • Her Man (1930)
  • The Fighting Parson (1930, starring Harry Langdon)
  • The Klondike Kid (1932, Micky Mouse)
  • Red-Headed Woman (1932, Jean Harlow)
  • She Done Him Wrong (1933, Mae West)
  • Frankie and Johnnie (1936)
  • The Gal Who Took the West (1949, sung by Yvonne de Carlo)
  • Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956, sung by Sammy Davis Jr. while acted out by Cyd Charisse and John Brascia)
  • Frankie and Johnny (1966, starring Elvis Presley)
  • Death on the Nile (1978, Mia Farrow)
  • Frankie and Johnny (1991, starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer).
  • Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story (1996, Moria Kelly)


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