The Meaning Behind the Criminal “Take the Money and Run” by Steve Miller Band

Outlaws have long been romanticized (see Bonnie and Clyde). I mean, who wouldn’t break into a bank and take off with all that moola, if we could get away with it? The Steve Miller Band’s “Take The Money and Run” from their 1976 album, Fly Like An Eagle, is 2 minutes and 50 seconds of hot pursuit and sweet freedom. The song peaked at No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 but has become a classic. So why does it hold up? What is the meaning behind this straightforward story of criminals on the run? Why are we rooting for them?

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The Meaning Behind the Song  

The song literally tells a story. That is the opening line:

This here’s a story about Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue
Two young lovers with nothin’ better to do
Than sit around the house, get high, and watch the tube
And here’s what happened when they decided to cut loose
They headed down to, ooh, old El Paso
That’s where they ran into a great big hassle
Billy Joe shot a man while robbing his castle
Bobbie Sue took the money and run

But what happens next is where the song’s emotion comes in. Is it bad what Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue did? Do we want them caught? Do they need to pay for their crimes? Hell no.

Miller can’t be any more clear than his big “hoo-hoo-hoo,” which is just another way of saying, “yeah,” “woot,” “go go go.” And with the next line, that’s exactly what he says: Go on, take the money and run. That line repeats over and over, cheering on the couple from the sidelines.

So what happens next? Well, of course, the detective shows up. It’s Texas naturally and Billy Mack is on the case.  

He ain’t gonna let those two escape justice
He makes his livin’ off of the people’s taxes

Billy Joe actually shot the man and Bobbie Sue took off with the cash. Does she leave Billy Joe and take off to paradise on her own or does she reunite with him? Surprisingly, Billy Joe caught up to her the very next day. We don’t know if he’s pissed off or that was the plan all along, but they seem to be good now.

They got the money, hey, you know they got away
They headed down south and they’re still running today

Writer of the Song

Steve Miller is no outlaw. The writer or co-writer of other classics, such as “Fly Like an Eagle” and “The Joker,” has said he wrote the song as a nod to the long road trips his family would take him on as a child. Today, the remaining member of his eponymously named band, at 79-years-old he is still touring and playing “Take The Money and Run.”

Facts About the Song 

Miller gave permission to rap legends Run-D.M.C. to use the chorus in their 2001 song of the same name, featuring House of Pain’s Everlast on vocals. Miller had apparently turned down many previous requests to sample his music but agreed to let this snippet be used after hearing the track.  

On The 30th anniversary edition of the Fly Like An Eagle album, The Steve Miller Band included a unique bonus track, “Take The Joker And Run,” an original demo of “Take The Money and Run” sung over “The Joker.” 

There have been some cool covers. A country version of the song, complete with fiddles, was cut by a Canadian singer Julian Austin in 2000 for his Back in Your Life album, and the American noise-rock band Killdozer ripped it a new one in 1989.

Conclusion

So the young lovers are still on the run. Is this a happy ending? Was Billy Mack just one of those detectives you love to hate? Did the man who was shot recover? Was it just a superficial wound in order to take his money? Is he rich and the robbery didn’t make a dent? We don’t know, but Miller is clearly routing for Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue and he leaves it open-ended. Hopefully, they’re on a beach somewhere, partying it up, eating fine food, and hiding out in an isolated cabin with nowhere to spend their ill-gotten gains. 

Of note, Woody Allen made a movie of the same name, but, alas, it’s got nothing to do with Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue.

Go on, take the money and run
Go on, take the money and run
Hoo-hoo-hoo
Go on, take the money and run
Ooh lord, go on, take the money and run
Hoo-hoo-hoo

Yeah, yeah, go on, take the money and run, yeah (yeah)
Hoo-hoo-hoo
Go on, take the money and run
Ooh lord, go on, take the money and run, yeah (yeah)
Hoo-hoo-hoo 
Go on, take the money and run
Ooh lord

Photo by Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

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