"Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" as written by and Paula Cole....
Oh you get me ready in your 56 Chevy
Why don't we go sit down in the shade
Take shelter on my front porch
The dandy lion sun scorching,
Like a glass of cold lemonade
I will do laundry if you pay all the bills

Where is my John Wayne
Where is my prairie song
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone

Why don't you stay the evening
Kick back and watch the TV
And I'll fix a little something to eat
Oh I know your back hurts from working on the tractor
How do you take your coffee my sweet
I will raise the children if you pay all the bills


I am wearing my new dress tonight
But you don't, but you don't even notice me
Say goodbyes
Say goodbyes
Say goodbyes

We finally sell the Chevy
When we had another baby
And you took the job in Tennessee
You made friends at the farm
And you joined them at the bar
Almost every single day of the week


I will wash the dishes while you go have a beer
Where is my Marlboro man
Where is his shiny gun
Where is my lonely ranger
Where have all the cowboys gone
Yippee yo, yippee yeah

Lyrics submitted by Nelly, edited by Songster67, Fairytale4Sale

"Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" as written by Paula Cole

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Where Have All The Cowboys Gone? song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentJust to organize the ideas above: This woman met a man who at first seemed to be able to fulfill her dreams and be a "cowboy" in some heroic vision she once held. He actually turned out to be a blue-color nobody who neglects her. And so she wonders where that cowboy of her dreams is.
    rikdadon September 07, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti think she might be referring to a marriage that wasn't all she envisioned it to be (i will raise the children if you pay the bills... i guess that's all her husband's good for?) . she's wondering where all the chivilaric - and quite fictitious - cowboys have gone, as she wants to be swept off her feet by one.
    piinkxglowstickon August 02, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentshe just wishes it was back to the way it was, when men respected women and chivalry was not dead... a simpler time

    Where is my John Wayne?
    ^every girl wants a John Wayne ;)
    GracieGurlon July 29, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI agree with what a lot of reviewers have said, but I also see this song as a protest or warning about the marriage fantasies girls are raised with. We are given these images that marriage is going to be a lifelong Harlequin Romance, fulfilling every need or wish we have. But girls who believe this will end up like the woman in the song, progressively more lonely and alienated from their mate and desperately sad at heart while their fantasy crumbles around them.

    I really wish, though, that Paula Cole had done a bookend song that explores the opposite ending: what happens when people marry wisely and learn to take each other for who they are, love each other for who they are, treat each other well, and find that their "ordinary" lives can be very fulfilling indeed.
    law4on November 15, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"I am wearing my new dress tonight
    But you don't, but you don't even notice me
    (Say our goodbyes...)''

    These fantasies some were raised with are just that....
    NIKKIEon September 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song has the illusions of traditional marriage down pat, I think. Brought down by the division of labor, the day-to-day routine, etc.

    That said, I have to admit the chorus of the song drives me crazy. Especially the last part.

    Where is my Marlboro Man
    Where is his shiny gun
    Where is my lonely ranger
    Where have all the cowboys gone?

    Is she being ironic? She's saying she WANTS a cowboy?

    What do we value about cowboys? Their self-sufficiency, their adventurous, independent spirit, their traditional manly-man ways, right? Womenfolk are rather background fixtures in their world, aren't they? If we figure into it at all.

    Seems like she's already got that with the situation at hand - that's why I wonder if there's supposed to be some irony here.
    42 stepson September 23, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think the song represents several themes.
    1. Women's unrealistic and romanticized view of the perfect man. As another reviewer says, she wants a manly man like John Wayne, but instead, she's got a manly man more like Homer Simpson.
    2. Those manly men types, so attractive when they were both young, tend to devolve into uncommunicative alcoholics who don't hear their woman's grievances - partly because she gave up complaining years earlier when she realized he wasn't listening. That's why she says "Goodbye" when he doesn't see her new dress. She's leaving & he hasn't a clue.
    3. She, like most women, doesn't seem know that there is another kind of man. Not a flashy jock stud in high school, instead perhaps a generous and loving academic type who learned to respect and appreciate people regarldess of gender - a responsible and emotional guy that parents and teachers admire, but girls regard as, well, boring.
    4. As one reviewer suggests, such guys are probably gay (he says especially if they like this song). But he is an example of the homer simpson manliness. That is, you must always be proving your manliness, and one way to rack up manly points, is to accuse others of being gay. Such "enforcers of manliness" must work hard to prove their own manliness standing at the expense of others. They are bullies who can't spell empathy, and the girls stand in line for these insecure manchilds who must constantly be proving they are not gay. Not that there is anything wrong with being gay, but why do they protest so much?
    And the girls who marry them should be able to consider this song their anthem in just a few years.
    5. You could say it's women's fault then that us men are so f'ed up. But both men and women have drunk the "assholes are manly" kool-aid. That 's why it is so hard for men to break out of this miserable lifestyle. Because by the time the girls and boys figure out that being an asshole isn't fun, it's not fun to be around, but by then they just figure that THEIR cowboy turned out to be a bum. And he's hanging out at the bar every night with a bunch of assholes who reinforce each other by mocking everyone else.

    So THAT's what the song is about. She thinks that her husband and his friends are all extremely unpleasant to be around, especially compared to the romanticized "real men" that Hollywood offers.

    She moves from the naive romantic, to accepting their limiting roles, and compromising to trade love for security. "I'll do the laundry AND raise the children if you'll pay the rent." God knows her manly guy won't do either of those.

    So she's unhappy, and she'll leave, and he'll think good riddance for awhile, till he realizes he's lost a darn good cook and housekeeper. But she won't come back. She knows he will never act like the "honorable man" she now realizes would be a much better companion. So they'll both go down to the bar and get another one. Because few of us have figured out that the tough uncommunicative types act like assholes eventually; and the loving respectful men will treat them with love and respect. But her ex and friends and family will work hard to keep her from marrying "a fag."

    She'll have plenty of time to thank them while her new old man is down at the bar proving his manliness by not being pussy-whipped into being home with his family.

    And she resigns herself to sing the lament that all the good cowboys are gone.

    Sorry for the cynicism.

    Remember, lovers deserve each other.

    If you've read this far, I guess you deserve to have a hint about what she, and he, could have done.

    She needs to break out of the passive subservient role, and he needs to learn to be loving -- difficult to impossible without emotionality. Thus, we men must learn how to be emotional. Then sensitivity, respect, empathy, caring for oneself, and caring for others will make possible loving and joyous relationships.

    Wow, that's a lot of meaning to get from an old ballad.
    backstadon November 05, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI see this song as about disillusionment that the real world brings about as you get older and realize that the wild, romantic dreams you had during your youth were unrealistic. I don't think her husband's a jerk, just a little thoughtless. And I don't think she's miserable, just a little wistful and yearning for the "old days."

    The first verse is set either before they're married or when they're newlyweds. They speak of romantic adventures and riding off into the sunset. They're young, they're naive, they're discussing their future together. They can go anywhere in his '56 Chevy.

    In the second verse, they've settled in to married life and she's trying to help him relax after a hard day's work. She suggests he watch TV, she'll make supper and some coffee, and maybe rub his back and enjoy a romantic evening with him. She may have given up on her dreams for now, but she's still hoping to reignite the spark in their relationship.

    She's still trying to bring back the passion they once had in the bridge, where she buys a new dress, but he still doesn't notice anything.

    Finally, in the third verse, we come to her present situation. We don't know how many children they have, but judging from the second verse that says "I will raise the children," they probably have at least three after the rival of "another baby." They sell the Chevy, which is the last thing remaining from the carefree days of their youth. Because of this, and the fact that he had to take a job in another state, suggests that they've fallen on hard times. But while she stays home, doing the housework and taking care of the kids, he, at least, gets to have a social life. Her disillusionment is complete; life may be comfortable, but it is no longer exciting.

    The way she says "while you go have a beer" sounds almost scornful. Also, notice that in this chorus, there is no "I'll do this if you'll do that." She no longer feels that she can rely on him, and perhaps she no longer wants to. But someone has to take care of the kids, and she probably can't afford daycare, and if they've moved to another state, she probably has no family nearby to help her. She's "stuck," more or less, at least until the kids are old enough to stay home by themselves. And by now, the question "Where have all the cowboys gone?" is rhetorical. She knows by now that there were never any "cowboys" to begin with. They were part of a childish, and later escapist, fantasy, where the good guys always won and the campfire never went out.

    Some people think of this song as anti-feminist, but I don't think that's necessarily so. It reminds me of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique," which explored the depression that often set in after middle-class women married. They supposedly had everything they wanted--a man to pay the bills, a baby or two, a comfortable house, and plenty of free time once the housework was complete, but they still felt unfulfilled. Like the woman in this song, these women longed for something more. And I like to think that the woman in this song went on to carve out her own identity, apart from her husband. This doesn't mean that her "goodbye" was literal, that she left him. But it means she has begun to look to herself for a way to live a fulfilling life. It may not be the life of cowboys and happy endings that she dreamed of in her early adulthood, but it will be one that is more meaningful than what she has now.
    littlerachon May 09, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFeminism killed the cowboy starting in the Roaring 20s, but we were subverted before that (1871). A generational plan to reduce the number of American patriots to make us ripe for a later invasion. Guess it's here now. Some call it genocide.
    sand107328on June 27, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think this song is a classic. love the cowboy allusions. too bad she was a two hit wonder
    boomerstyleon April 29, 2003   Link

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