American Nights


Written by John Stewart


‘American Nights’ is on “Deep in the Neon”, Homecoming, 1991, and “Bullets in the Hour Glass”, Shanachie, 1992. 

I think this song has been almost overlooked by many – fine song in my eyes (and ears).  Not only a mood piece with a brooding, dangerous atmosphere, but also a poetic, yet journalistic description of life in the inner cities of many large towns in the 90s.  This is the live version.



Playing hint:

Use (Em7) and (Cadd9) for variety frequently, as John does in the live version.



Capo 2nd fret


(Em)  (C)  (Em)

Lights of the (C)city

Like jewels in the (Em)night,

Their music is the (C)siren and the (Em)scream.

Faces in the (C)city

Won’t look you in the (Em)eye,

The faces of the (C)wounded, faces of the (Em)mean.

(C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)


Shadows on the (C)highway,

Ravens in the (Em)yard.

Who is that (C)coming this (Em)way?

Dealers in the (C)school yard

In a West Virginia (Em)town,

How did things (C)ever, ever get this (D)way?


American (C)nights and Ameri(D)can (Em)days.

Oh, A(C)meri(D)can (C)nights and Ameri(D)can (Em)days.

(C) (Bm)  (C)  (Em)


A young mans (C)life

Is hanging by a (Em)gun.

Everyone should (C)have one, so they (Em)say.

He’d be better (C)off

In the front lines of the (Em)war,

Safer than he (C)is in the (Em)city here today.

(C) (Bm)  (C)  (Em)


If Times Square was a (C)circus,

Than the animals are (Em)free,

Standing in the (C)neon with the (Em)clowns.

The slamming of the (C)taxis,

And the hookers looking (Em)cool,

No one’s really (C)safe when the (D)circus is in town.(hold)


American (C)nights, Ameri(D)can (Em)days.

Oh, A(C)meri(D)can (C)nights, Ameri(D)can (Em)days.

American (C)nights, Ameri(D)can (Em)days.

Oh, A(C)meri(D)can (C)nights…

(Em)  (C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)


And (C)somewhere the river (Em)flows,

And (C)somewhere, that’s all we (Em)know,

(C)Someday it will be(Em)gin,

Some(C)day, hearts (G)will (D)win.(hold)


The American (C)nights, Ameri(D)can (Em)days.

A(C)meri(D)can (C)nights, Ameri(D)can (Em)days.

Oh, A(C)meri(D)can (C)nights,(hold) American (Em)days.

American (C)nights(hold) and American (Em)days.

(C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)  (C)  (Em)


© John Stewart, All Rights Reserved, Charlie Woodward & Art Faller


August 2005