“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”
Written by Sharon Vaughn
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
March 7, 1980
#1 (2 weeks)
March 8 – March 15, 1980
Willie Nelson entered the eighties as one of the genre’s biggest stars and as the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year. Leading up to “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” Nelson had visited the top five with a cover of “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” His first No. 1 of the eighties had already been featured on a landmark Nelson album, The Outlaws, with Waylon Jennings as the artist performing it.
“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” is Nelson at his interpretive best, delivering a thoughtful ballad with his signature guitar playing as his primary accompaniment. It’s a celebration of cowboy as hero on the surface, but it reveals the sad and lonely lives such cowboys often lead, making careful listeners reconsider just how heroic the lifestyle is:
Cowboys are special with their own brand of miseryFrom bein’ alone too long You could die from the cold in the arms of a nightman Knowin’ well that your best days are gone
Pickin’ up hookers instead of my penI let the words of my youth fade away Old worn-out saddles, and old worn-out memories With no one and no place to stay
If imploring mammas to not let their babies grow up to be cowboys didn’t quite do the trick, “Heroes” might be just enough to convince those babies to choose a more viable path.
Nelson pulled another top ten single from The Electric Horseman: the top ten “Midnight Rider.” We’ll see him again with two singles from another soundtrack: Honeysuckle Rose.
“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” gets an A.
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