Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly
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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 FREQUENTLY SECRETLY."
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 West Texas
There's many a young boy who feels things he don't
Well, the small town don't like it when somebody falls between
No, the small town don't like it when a cowboy has feelings for
Now I believe to my soul that inside every man there's the
And inside every lady there's a deep manly voice loud and clear
Well the cowboy may brag about things that he does with his
But the ones that brag loudest are the ones who are most likely
Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other
What did you think all them saddles and boots was about?
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 out.
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 iTunes.
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 it.
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":