Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cowboy Songs and Theology

In 1959, Marty Robbins released Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, an instant classic. The cut, El Paso, was a big hit, but for my taste Big Iron was the better song. So with that in mind, what are the greatest Western songs of all time. Here's my top ten (in no particular order):

1. Big Iron - Marty Robbins
2. Cattle Call - Eddie Arnold
3. Back in the Saddle Again - Gene Autry
4. Tumbling Tumble Weed - Sons of the Pioneers
5. Ghost Riders in the Sky - tie Johnny Cash and Riders in the Sky
6. Charlie and the Boys - Sons of the San Joaquin
7. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys - Willie Nelson
8. Cowboy Logic - Michael Martin Murphy
9. San Antonio Rose - Bob Wills
10. I Want a Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart - Patsy Montana
Bonus: Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys - Waylon and Willie

Since cowboy songs are the purest form of theological reflection, let me hear your list. Be prepared to defend your cowboy theology!


Bill G said...

This is a great list. Limiting yourself to 10 (or 11) is simply impossible. With the understanding that anything sung by Sons of the San Joaquin, Sons of the Pioneers, Riders in the Sky, Slim Whitman (when he's doing cowboy yodelling), Marty Robbins, Tex Ritter, Don Edwards, and of course Gene and Roy are list worthy - here's another bunch:

Cool Water - Sons of the Pioneers

"All day I’ve faced a barren waste Without the taste of water, cool water. Old Dan and I with throats burnt dry And souls that cry for water, Cool, clear water.

"Keep a-movin’, Dan, don’t you listen to him, Dan, He’s a devil not a man And he spreads the burning sand with water, Cool water. Dan, can you see that big green tree Where the water’s running free And it’s waiting there for me And you?"

There's a lot of salvation in this one.

Hold that Critter Down - Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers

"It’s roundup time and the weather’s fine And the strays must all be branded. The irons fry and the dogies cry But the old man has commanded. So all day long I sing this song, 'Hold that critter down!'"

Not my type of theology, but a great cowboy message.

Streets of Laredo - Buck Owens (and 100 others)

A cowboy gets shot and is dying and knows it, but wants to tell the second cowpoke his story to prevent another man making his mistakes.

Sounds like Luke 16:19ff - rich man and Lazarus!

Whoopi Ti Yi Yo (Git Along Little Dogies) - another 100 performers

This may be the closest we get to Cowpoke Pentecost - trying to figure out what whoopi ti yi yo means. But I do know that when Jack Hannah (Sons of the San Yoaquin) sings it - I believe it. Whatever it is.

Two more Sons of the San Joaquin songs written in the past 20 years or so:

Cowboy Rough - He'll wrap you in his lariat of love. and Great American Cowboy - An angel of mercy mounted on a horse's back.

Even the disciples would understand the message in these tunes.

Again - great list you made John. I hope my few additions are appropriate.

Now a question for you. It seems like many of these types of songs have stories about right and wrong, good and bad, the cowboy way and the other way. Are cowboys Calvinists?

revJohn said...

Bill G, you have provided not only great additions to the list but also raised an important question. Your "Are cowboys Calvinists?" deserves a more complete response. Please see the next revJohn post.

Bob Turpin said...

Your "Marty Robbins' Gunfigter Ballads" brought back a rich memory. My first real job was the summer of '64 - when I worked with hundreds under me . . . well, I was mowing grass at East Slope Cemetery in Riverside. But one day, just for fun, my boss decided to have me handfill a grave - in heat and humidity each hovering near 100. As I scooped the clay ever more slowly with my blistered hands, my boss decided to use the saving grace of music to energize me - so he took the chimed "Old Rugged Cross" off the cemetery loudspeaker and put on what must have been his only non-hymn LP - Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads. He played that album over and over all afternoon as I filled the grave. Amazingly, I still enjoy it but not sure I've found salvation in it.