Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Garth Brooks, “The Beaches of Cheyenne”

“The Beaches of Cheyenne

Garth Brooks

Written by Garth Brooks, Bryan Kennedy, and Dan Roberts

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

March 16, 1996

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

March 11 – March 18, 1996

Garth Brooks emphasizes emotion over logic on this chart-topping hit.

The Road to No. 1

After “She’s Every Woman” got Fresh Horses off to a strong start, Brooks released a rodeo rewrite of the Aerosmith track “The Fever,” which went top thirty.  He returned to the top with the third single from the album.

The No. 1

Garth Brooks is a hell of a storyteller.

He emotes effectively throughout this power ballad, which finds a woman committing suicide in the aftermath of her partner dying at a Cheyenne rodeo:

They never found her body, just her diary by the bed
It told about the fight they had and the words that she had said
When he told her he was ridin’ she said, “Then I don’t give a damn
If you never come back from Cheyenne”
Nobody can explain it, some say she’s still alive
They’d even claim they’ve seen her on the shoreline late at night
If you go down by the water, you’ll see her footprints in the sand
‘Cause every night she walks the beaches of Cheyenne
Spooky, right?
Here’s the logical problem.  She committed suicide in California by running out of their beachside home and into the water.  Her partner died in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a landlocked state.
Perhaps it’s silly to have less trouble suspending disbelief that she’s a ghost haunting the beach than it is to dismiss the geographical error here.  She’s either haunting the beach where she died, which is in California, or she somehow floated over to Wyoming, where she’d be haunting Cheyenne but not on a beach.  Rodeo grounds, maybe.
Whatever. Brooks sells it so well that it transcends the boundaries of time and space.  Still, they should’ve given Brooks and his co-writers Atlas Maps at the No. 1 party.
The Road From No. 1
Brooks followed “Cheyenne” with the bombastic “The Change,” which went top twenty.  This was followed by the top five hit, “It’s Midnight Cinderella.”  For the first time, Brooks sent six official singles to country radio from one studio album.  He’ll have the first No. 1 hit of 1997 with that release.
“The Beaches of Cheyenne” gets a B.

4 Comments

  1. I love this song, it always makes me emotional (the lines you quoted are particularly effective) but I have to suspend all disbelief and logic as I do know that Wyoming and therefore Cheyenne don’t have beaches. I found out due to discussion of this song. I do wonder – just to make it all make more sense – if there may be lakes with beaches in Wyoming? Even if they’re not in Cheyenne I could forgive it.

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  2. I’ve always assumed the title was not literal. She died on and haunts the beach, but she’s “in Cheyenne”

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  3. Yet another one of my all time favorites from the mid 90’s that brings back great memories! This is personally one of my favorite 90’s Garth Brooks songs, as well.

    This is another song that reminds me of the tiny, computer mouse shaped radio that my step dad bought in early 1996 while I was in fourth grade. One morning just after I had finished eating breakfast and just before he took me to school, he brought the radio into the kitchen to show it to my mom and I. Of course, he had it tuned into the country station, and “The Beaches Of Cheyanne” was the first song I ever heard playing on that little radio. I just thought it was the neatest thing as it played sitting on the kitchen table! My mom, however, who was never really the biggest Garth Brooks fan, was making fun of that little “squeak” (don’t know how else to describe it) in Garth’s voice while he was singing the first verses. It was not the first time I’d heard the song and I remember trying to defend it by going “I really like this song!” She just ignored it though and continued to imitate him, lol (This wasn’t the first or last time we had little disagreements on an artist and/or song throughout the decade). Anyway, from that point on in early ’96, I’d spend many of my afternoons after school downstairs playing Doom while my step dad worked from home, and the local country station would be coming out of that little mouse radio as it sat on his desk. Such great times! :)

    I also got this song on the first tape I recorded in 1996. It was actually part of a “double play,” which was a new thing one of our stations was doing at the time. You would hear the latest song from a certain artist followed by an older tune from that same artist. So I ended up getting both “Beaches of Cheyanne” and “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” back to back on the same tape.

    While I wasn’t quite following the song’s story yet as a fourth grader, I always thought it was just a really cool song, nonetheless. This song probably has some of the most distinctive fiddle and steel guitar parts of any 90’s country song, and I love how they’re right there in your face from the beginning. I especially always thought the opening fiddle was really neat, and I can picture myself driving through the western states whenever it comes on. I also always liked how Garth sang “They say she just went crazy!” in the chorus.

    As I got older and started following it more closely, I came to really appreciate storytelling aspect of it and also realize just how sad and tragic the song really was. The most heartbreaking part for me is when the diary recalls the couple’s argument that occurred before the guy went to Cheyanne and died and her telling him before he left, “I don’t give a damn if you ever come back.” But besides being unbelievably sad, it does make for a good ghost story and a good rodeo themed story, as well. Since I’ve never been the most logical person out there, it’s always been easy for me to “leave my brain at the door” and ignore the geographical details and just enjoy the song and story. However after reading other comments on the song in the past and now Bob Loblaw’s comment here, I’m inclined to agree with what he said. At least for me, it makes sense. She died out in the ocean in California and still roams those beaches as a ghost, but she is forever haunted by the guilt of what she said to the man she still loved before he died in Cheyanne, which is where her mind and soul are. My dad, though, is another one who would always say “There are no beaches in Cheyanne!” whenever he heard this song, lol, so you’re not the only one. :)

    For me, this is also another great example of Garth being one of the few in the 90’s who kept the Western part of Country & Western alive. I really miss hearing good rodeo themed songs like this on the radio!

    I’m also really looking forward to the next Garth entry, and if I’m correct on which one it is, it’s another great storytelling tune from him. :) Love this pic of Garth too, btw!

  4. The beaches of Cheyenne are a parabolic place! Fact fundamentalism is so limiting in storytelling. How boring if we only worry about the actual geography of the song; the entire emotional thrust of the narrative is missed. I would much rather find multitudes of metaphoric meaning in the song than literally become lost on some map looking for a place that doesn’t exist. This is a song about the geography of the heart.

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