"Cowboy Dan" as written by Isaac Brock, Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green....
Well, Cowboy Dan's a major player in the cowboy scene
He goes to the reservation drinks and gets mean
He's gonna start a war
He hops in his pickup puts the pedal to the floor
And says "I got mine but I want more"

Well, Cowboy Dan's a major player in the cowboy scene
He goes to the reservation drinks and gets mean
He drove the desert, fired his rifle in the sky
And says, "God if I have to die you will have to die"
Well, Cowboy Dan's a major player in the cowboy scene
He goes the the reservation drinks and gets mean
I didn't move to the city, the city moved to me

And I want out desperately
Can't do it, not even if sober
Can't get that engine turned over
Standing in the tall grass
Thinking nothing
You know we need oxygen to breath

Whenever you are walking you're just moving the ground
Whenever you are talking you're just moving your mouth
Where ever you look you're just looking down
Well, Cowboy Dan's a major player in the cowboy scene
He goes to the reservation drinks and gets mean

He's gonna start a war
He hops in his pickup puts the pedal to the floor
And says "I got mine but I want more"
Well, Cowboy Dan's a major player in the cowboy scene
He goes to the reservation drinks and gets mean
He drove the desert, fired his rifle in the sky
And says, "God if I have to die you will have to die"
Well, Cowboy Dan's a major player in the cowboy scene
He goes the the reservation drinks and gets mean
I didn't move to the city, the city moved to me

And I want out desperately
Can't do it, not even if sober
Can't get that engine turned over


Lyrics submitted by PLANES, edited by shaungrady, Ryuhza, PouletSansNom, george1165, Beerisdeliciou

"Cowboy Dan" as written by Isaac Brock Eric Judy

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Cowboy Dan song meanings
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141 Comments

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  • +11
    General CommentAnyone who thinks that Cowboy Dan represents "the American spirit" or "freedom" or anything like that has said the pledge of alleigance one too many times. There's certainly never been anything inherently pro-American or nationalist about Issac Brock's writing. Cowboy Dan is one of the most dispicable characters evoked in Modest Mouse's music. He represents everything that Brock hates about white people in the modern day west; overconsumption, arrogance, greed, and cruelty. The image of a "cowboy" gives Dan a truly all-American persona; a beer swilling, barfight-starting manly man. The song is an indictment of Americana, not a diatribe in its favor.
    utter imbecileon October 31, 2004   Link
  • +7
    General CommentWhitetide is right, Cowboy Dan is a pitiable character but he evokes no sympathy. He's a lifetime ***kup with no hope of changing. While things are beyond his control sometimes he still "Can't get that engine turned over." He wants to change but is too weak to do it so he just pushes the others around him down. The middle section just emphasizes his worthlessness more he never does anything with his life he's just "moving the ground." He never says anything important and thoughtful he's just "movin" his mouth. And he just "looks down" on everyone else. A good statement of the white man's place in history.
    Kendreekeon March 30, 2003   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis is an insult.....no one has posted on this song?

    Cowboy Dan is the BEST song by Modest Mouse.

    It's a song entirely about freedom, and not feeling inhibited by the rules of society.

    Cowboy Dan represents the West.....he is "drinks and gets mean/gonna start a war" shows that he has a beef with the rules of:

    1.) The limitation that city life imposes (I want more!)

    2.) God (If I've got to die, you've got to die)

    "I didn't move to the city/the city moved to me." is a really powerful statement.....saying basically that many westerners were happy with ranch life until industrialization.

    He drinks, speeds, firs his weapon, drives drunk, and rebels against God.....all showing his drive fore independence.

    "You know we need oxygen to breathe" and the following verses show that country people are able to breathe fresh air....move freely, talk slowly and clearly, and look at the entire landscape.

    It's an very very good song....listen to it sometime!
    sakeboxon June 07, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentCowboy Dan is a pitiable character...this only song evokes nothing but sympathy and pity. It communicates the point that man is forever bound by the rules of society (not necessarily city/country) and it's a like walking up a 'down' escalator. Life is futile and sometimes inexplicably cruel, we want things that are unattainable. We are pitiful and small and nothing we can do will change the fact than an "unsympathetic" God remains sovereign over our pitiful self-destructive souls. No matter what we do or don't achieve in life, we all still die..many of us unhappy. Cowboy Dan is the personification of our striking-out against, but failing to change, the life that oppresses us everyday.
    WhiteTideon June 29, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment sakebox and whitetide, you both have good points. To me Cowboy Dan represents the white man taking over indian reservations. Getting drunk and pissed and starting a war against the weaker indians sounds like those old john wayne cavalry movies. The line. "I got mine, but I want more" simply means to me more land... am I making any sense??
    securebravoon July 18, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti wld have to agree with the settler taking over indian land just because of the "I got mine but I want more" line

    Kick the shit out of ppl who call modest mouse emo
    narkoticson June 25, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment"God, if I have to die, then you will have to die"
    That's such a powerful statement. Like "my life is not yours to take away, so I'll take you out with me"
    I've always thought this song was one of Modest Mouse's darkest, but also one of their best. I think Cowboy Dan is supposed to be Native American. The drinking, the frustration, the cowboy imagery all reminds me of Native Americans, at least the ones in Arizona. Plus, the apathy towards the arrival of modern society points to the plight of the indians.
    bocmaximaon June 08, 2005   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningWow, I think everyone is pretty close to interpreting the lyrics correctly, just with a few pieces missing that make the song hard to put together.
    I always thought this song was about about some guy Isaac knew from Issaquah. It probably is, but Modest Mouse is brilliant in their ability to add layers of meaning to songs.

    We know Cowboy Dan gets drunk and shoots at stuff, but do we know why? Obviously because he's concerned with the city encroaching on his land and old way of life, right? I thought that, until I looked at one line closer:

    "Can't do it, not even if sober
    Can't get that engine turned over"

    His apparent conflict is that the city is coming to take over, and he's too drunk to do anything. However, take this line as a personal revelation of Cowboy Dan: That even when he's sober he can't fix this problem he sees in his life.

    He blames God, He blames the drugs, He blames the city, but his mind knows who's to blame: Cowboy Dan

    So this is truly an everyman's tale. At some point in our lives we are all guilty of blaming fate for our situations, then tacking on more problems to prove "fate" right.

    This song shows, through a very obvious example, that we must admit the only way to improve our current situation is to accept it and work to better it.

    Oh yeah, sorry if all this stuff has already been said. I really can't imagine too many people finding this to point that out anyway
    Gennericon April 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti just want to say cowboy dan live = jizzums in ma pants
    mcinstuffon June 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song is very straight forward and evocative, everyone coming up with metaphors and allegories are asshats, which means a lot of you, not to mention most people (various sites) who try and explain what a song is about.
    cotaon June 07, 2010   Link

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