Fwd: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jim Conti <jimbobspins@...>
Date: Feb 14, 2006 4:42 PM
Subject: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly
To: Harlan Pruden <hpruden@...>
Check this out. I am having trouble posting to
From: Ned Sublette <ned@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 12:31:46 -0500
To: Ned Sublette <ned@...>
Subject: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly
FEBRUARY 14, 2006
1 P.M. EST
FOR PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION
WILLIE NELSON RECORDS NED SUBLETTE'S "COWBOYS ARE
YES, HE REALLY DID.
NOW AVAILABLE AS A DOWNLOAD. AND SOON, A RINGTONE.
SPREAD THE MEME.
I was sworn to secrecy until now, but today, on
Valentine's Day, it can be told.
In 1981, sitting at a piano in Portales, New Mexico, I
wrote a song called "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly,"
whose first two verses and chorus go:
There's many a strange impulse out on the plains of
There's many a young boy who feels things he don't
Well, the small town don't like it when somebody falls
No, the small town don't like it when a cowboy has
feelings for men.
Now I believe to my soul that inside every man there's
And inside every lady there's a deep manly voice loud
Well the cowboy may brag about things that he does
with his women
But the ones that brag loudest are the ones who are
most likely queer.
Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other
What did you think all them saddles and boots was
There's many a cowboy who don't understand the way
that he feels for his brother
Inside every cowboy there's a lady who'd love to slip
It was the era of the urban cowboy plague, when the
country charts were full of cowboys this and cowboys
that songs. Inspired, I wrote this song, imagining
Willie Nelson singing it.
"Cowboys" seemed to strike a nerve, and for a time was
the thing I was best known for. It took on a life of
its own, as songs will do. After the first time I
sang it, I got requests for "the one about the
cowboys" at the next gig I did, and on and on. I
probably don't need to point out that at the time, the
term AIDS was unknown. A live recording of the
first-ever performance of it by my band appeared on a
John Giorno anthology. I made a damn fine recording
of it in the 80s, with an A-team of specialist
players, that has never come out. It was covered by
the queercore group Pansy Division, who changed it
from a waltz to 4/4. I tried to place it in Brokeback
Mountain, but the word I got was that it was too funny
for a tear-jerkin' movie.
My friend Tony Garnier, who played bass on my studio
version, passed a copy of the track to Willie Nelson
in maybe 1988. After living with the song all these
years, Willie has recorded it.
It has just been released as a download-only single on
iTunes, and as of this morning, it's available at
It was premiered this morning, a few months shy of 25
years since I wrote it, for Valentine's Day, when
Willie appeared as a guest on the Howard Stern show.
I didn't hear it, since I don't yet get Sirius. The
song has the F-word in it (it's not gratuitous, it's
structural), and by going over to Sirius, Howard Stern
can play it unedited. Satellite radio is the new FM.
It's pretty amazing to hear Willie sing this song.
Not just because it has the word "queer" in it. Not
even because it's the first time I've heard Willie
Nelson sing the word "fuck." But because of his
interpretive power. Since I originally imagined
Willie singing it, I feel kind of like I already heard
it, way back when. But Willie as an interpreter is
always surprising, and I learned a hundred things
about my own song hearing him give it back to me.
But here's the best part.
There's going to be a "Cowboys Are Frequently
Secretly" ringtone. I don't have the link yet, but if
you want it, e-mail me and I'll try to keep on top of
it. After all, ringtones are the new singles.
I'm told there is also a video, though I haven't seen
Please feel free to let all your friends and
acquaintances know. And thank you, Willie.
Late-breaking update: An article in the Dallas Morning
News today quoted a prepared statement by Willie as
saying, "The song's been in the closet for 20 years":
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