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Step into the dusty boots of the Western trailblazers with our roundup of the best country songs about cowboys.
From classic rodeo anthems to contemporary cowboy ballads, these iconic tracks capture the spirit of the Old West, depicting tales of rugged heroes, endless prairies, and twilight campfires.
Whether you’re a lifelong country fan or a newcomer to the genre, this collection of cowboy songs will take you on an epic journey through the world of cowboy culture, celebrating the enduring legacy of the cowboy in American music.
1. “Rhinestone Cowboy” – Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” is a tale of persistence and determination in the face of adversity. The song is about a veteran performer’s dream of success despite the challenges he faces.
Campbell’s smooth vocal delivery of the narrative combined with the catchy melody captures the resilience of those who, like cowboys, pursue their dreams relentlessly despite life’s hardships.
2. “El Paso” – Marty Robbins
Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” is a gunfighter ballad that tells a gripping tale of love and tragedy in the Texas town of El Paso. The song’s rich storytelling, paired with Robbins’ captivating vocals and guitar melody, immerses listeners into a vivid picture of the Old West.
Released in 1959, “El Paso” remains significant for its narrative depth, and the emotional intensity Robbins injects into the performance, making it an essential part of cowboy music history.
3. “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” – Sons of the Pioneers
Featuring enchanting harmonies, “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” by Sons of the Pioneers is a cowboy standard that captures the essence of the western landscape. Released in 1934, it showcases the solitary, roaming life of a cowboy. Its lyrics paint vivid imagery of the open country, tumbleweeds, and prairie skies
The song’s melodic beauty, combined with its deeply expressive lyrics, evoke a sense of nostalgia for the open West.
4. “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” – Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings
This iconic song by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings is a staple in the world of cowboy music. “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” offers sage advice about the hard and lonely life of cowboys.
With its emotive lyrics, the song explores the challenging lifestyle of cowboys, wrapped in Nelson’s and Jennings’ distinctive vocals. The song’s enduring popularity lies in its honest portrayal of cowboy life, blending melodic charm with poignant storytelling.
5. “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” – Big & Rich
Big & Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” is a modern take on cowboy songs, merging country music with rock elements. The lyrics are a playful and cheeky ode to cowboy culture, with the song representing a fusion of traditional cowboy themes with a modern twist.
Big & Rich’s energetic delivery and the catchy, upbeat rhythm make it an engaging listen, bridging the gap between old-school cowboy music and contemporary country-pop.
6. “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn
“Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” by the country duo Brooks & Dunn, tells a heartfelt story about the resilience and toughness of cowgirls. The song’s story-based lyrics follow a girl’s life from her tough upbringing to adulthood, and her learned ability to handle life’s challenges.
The powerful message combined with the duo’s dynamic harmonies make this song an empathetic observation of cowgirl strength.
7. “The Cowboy in Me” – Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw’s “The Cowboy in Me” explores the internal struggles of a man battling with his cowboy instincts. It delves into the restless spirit of a cowboy, torn between his love for freedom and the demands of love and family.
McGraw’s emotive delivery combined with the introspective lyrics strike a chord with listeners, providing a thoughtful insight into the inner conflicts faced by cowboys.
8. “I Ride An Old Paint” – Woody Guthrie
“I Ride An Old Paint” is a traditional cowboy folk song that American singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie popularized. It’s a tale spun around a cowboy’s life in the American West, expressing the joy of riding his “old paint” horse through the plains. Guthrie’s delivery resonates with an authentic cowboy grit, reflecting the raw experiences and nomadic lifestyle inherent in cowboy culture.
This song is a testament to Guthrie’s ability to encapsulate the vastness and free spirit of the American frontier in his music.
9. “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” – Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks’ debut single is an evocative portrayal of a weary rodeo cowboy’s life, mirroring universal feelings of exhaustion and longing. The cowboy, moving from one rodeo to the next, becomes a symbol of individuals grappling with life’s demanding trials.
Brooks’ stirring vocals and the poignant lyrics create a narrative that deeply resonates with listeners. Its profound lines, “And the white line’s getting longer and the saddle’s getting cold / I’m much too young to feel this damn old,” have made this song a staple in country and cowboy music.
A top-ten hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, it catapulted Brooks’ career and left a lasting impact on country music.
10. “Back in the Saddle Again” – Gene Autry
A hallmark of cowboy music, Gene Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again” celebrates the cowboy’s love for his carefree, nomadic lifestyle. The lyrics depict the joy of being back on the range, riding his horse, and living in the great outdoors.
Autry’s singing style, characterized by his clear, warm tone, together with the song’s melodic rhythm, infuse this track with a palpable sense of happiness and contentment.
11. “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” – Toby Keith
In “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” Toby Keith sings about the longing to live a cowboy’s free-spirited life, filled with adventure, wild horses, and sunsets. The song, released in 1993, became a significant hit and is still among Keith’s most loved tracks.
The catchy melody, combined with Keith’s strong, expressive vocals, capture the allure of the cowboy lifestyle and the longing to escape the trappings of modern life.
12. “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy” – Chris LeDoux and Garth Brooks
This duet by Chris LeDoux and Garth Brooks is a fun-filled song that teases out the unpredictable nature of being in love with a cowboy. The upbeat tempo, accompanied by the artists’ playful banter, offers a light-hearted perspective on cowboy life.
The song’s lively vibe and humorous lyrics make it a refreshing addition to the cowboy music genre.
13. “Cowboy Take Me Away” – Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” is a romantic ballad that captures the yearning for the simplicity and freedom of cowboy life. The song is a tribute to the wide-open spaces and the serene beauty of the countryside.
The group’s harmonious vocals, coupled with evocative lyrics and a compelling melody, create a soothing and dreamlike mood that resonates with many listeners.
14. “Amarillo by Morning” – George Strait
“Amarillo by Morning” is a classic George Strait song that tells the story of a dedicated rodeo cowboy and the hardships he faces. The track stands out for its evocative lyrics, which depict the cowboy’s resilience in the face of adversity and his commitment to the rodeo life.
Strait’s heartfelt vocal delivery and the song’s poignant melody make it a cowboy classic that still holds a deep connection with fans of country and cowboy music.
15. “Cowboy Man” – Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett’s “Cowboy Man” is a blend of traditional and modern country. The song has a distinctive western swing feel and tells the story of a cowboy in pursuit of love.
Lovett’s smooth, distinctive vocals, combined with the song’s charmingly playful lyrics, create an appealing track that’s become a standout in Lovett’s extensive discography.
16. “I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” – Patsy Montana
“I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana is a classic song that delves into the romantic notions of cowboy life from a woman’s perspective. The song, marked by Montana’s yodeling, exudes a sense of excitement and romance about life in the West.
Montana’s vibrant delivery, paired with the song’s upbeat rhythm, has ensured its place as a timeless classic in cowboy music.
17. “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” – Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson’s “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” is a tribute to the cowboy life and the values it represents. The song’s lyrics discuss the virtues of cowboys, such as honesty, bravery, and living freely, which Nelson regards as heroic. His soulful rendition of the song, complemented by its thoughtful lyrics, makes this track a touching tribute to cowboys.
18. “Coyotes”—Don Edwards
“Coyotes” by Don Edwards is an evocative tune capturing the essence of the Old West. Edwards, a renowned cowboy singer and poet, uses the song’s narrative to convey the melancholic struggle of wildlife against industrialization.
This poignant anthem, featuring in the documentary “Grizzly Man,” highlights the changing American landscape from a coyote’s perspective. It’s a heartfelt homage to the untamed beauty of the wild, emblematic of cowboy music’s spirit.
19. “The Cowboy Rides Away” – George Strait
George Strait’s “The Cowboy Rides Away” is a poignant song that uses the cowboy’s departure as a metaphor for the end of a love affair. Strait’s emotional delivery of the lyrics, combined with the song’s mournful melody, effectively convey the sense of loss and longing present in the song’s narrative.
This track stands as a testament to Strait’s ability to infuse cowboy music with deep emotional resonance.
20. “Cowboy Casanova” – Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood’s “Cowboy Casanova” is a modern country-pop song about a deceptive cowboy charmer. Underwood’s powerful vocals, paired with the song’s catchy melody and empowering lyrics, create a compelling track that warns of the charming cowboy who is not as he seems.
The song’s modern spin on traditional cowboy themes showcases how cowboy music continues to evolve while remaining true to its roots.
21. “Cowboy Logic” – Michael Martin Murphey
“Cowboy Logic” is a humorous take on the unique wisdom and common sense often associated with cowboys. Michael Martin Murphey’s smooth vocals and the song’s clever lyrics have made this track a favorite for its light-hearted celebration of the cowboy’s perspective.
22. “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” – George Strait
George Strait’s “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” tells a touching story of a rodeo cowboy who chooses his passion for rodeo over his romantic relationship. Strait’s evocative storytelling, combined with the song’s melancholic melody, effectively conveys the sacrifices often made in the pursuit of the cowboy lifestyle.
23. “The Cowboy’s Hat” – Chris LeDoux
Chris LeDoux’s “The Cowboy’s Hat” is a powerful song that illustrates the significance of a cowboy’s hat as a symbol of identity and respect. LeDoux’s heartfelt vocals, paired with the song’s stirring narrative, have made this track a classic in cowboy music.
24. “Ain’t Always The Cowboy” – Jon Pardi
Jon Pardi delivers a unique twist on traditional country tropes with “Ain’t Always The Cowboy.” The song flips the script of the wandering cowboy, with a woman being the one to leave for freedom and the open road. Pardi’s authentic country sound and sincere vocals, combined with the fresh perspective on cowboy themes, make this song a standout.
25. “Cowboys and Angels” – Dustin Lynch
Dustin Lynch’s “Cowboys and Angels” is a love song that draws upon the imagery of Western mythology. The song’s moving lyrics and Lynch’s emotive delivery paint a picture of a love as timeless and enduring as the archetype of the cowboy itself. The blend of romance and cowboy imagery adds a layer of depth to the traditional country love song.
26. “The Last Cowboy Song” – The Highwaymen
“The Last Cowboy Song,” performed by country supergroup The Highwaymen, comprising Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, is a haunting elegy to the end of the cowboy era.
The song’s poignant lyrics, combined with the iconic voices of four of country music’s biggest legends, create a powerful tribute to the fading cowboy lifestyle. The rich narrative of the song evokes a sense of nostalgia and reverence for the cowboy’s place in American history.
27. “Space Cowboy” – Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves’ “Space Cowboy” uses the cowboy motif to tell a story of letting go of a love that isn’t working. Despite the title, the song isn’t about sci-fi adventures but plays with the words “space” and “cowboy” to deliver its poignant message.
The clever wordplay, combined with Musgraves’ crystal-clear vocals and emotional honesty, make “Space Cowboy” a powerful addition to the cowboy song canon.
Musgraves’ song is a reminder of the versatility of the cowboy theme and its capacity to encapsulate diverse experiences and emotions.
28. “Good Ride Cowboy” – Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks’s “Good Ride Cowboy” is a heartening tribute to the late country music singer and rodeo champion, Chris LeDoux. This song carries the cowboy spirit, not just through its lyrics that emphasize the resilience and determination of cowboys, but through its homage to a real-life cowboy.
“Good Ride Cowboy” brings an intimate perspective to the genre, illustrating the camaraderie and respect among cowboys and cowboy song singers.
29. “We Are The Cowboys” – Willie Nelson
“We Are The Cowboys,” by country legend Willie Nelson, speaks directly to the cowboy’s spirit. Nelson, a seasoned songwriter, and performer draws on the traditional themes of the genre, offering a modern take on cowboy philosophy and camaraderie.
The song’s heartfelt lyrics echo the quintessential cowboy characteristics – courage, independence, and resilience, that continue to inspire listeners.
30. “God Must Be A Cowboy” – Dan Seals
Dan Seals’ “God Must Be A Cowboy” portrays the solitude and tranquillity of a cowboy’s life in connection with nature and paints a picture of a serene, idyllic cowboy existence, far from the hustle and bustle of city life.
This song’s gentle melody and contemplative lyrics showcase the cowboy as a thoughtful, peaceful figure, underlining the rich diversity of cowboy experiences and the tranquillity that can be found in the cowboy lifestyle.