What does Cowgirl in the Sand mean?

Neil Young: Cowgirl in the Sand Meaning

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Album cover for Cowgirl in the Sand album cover

Cowgirl in the Sand Lyrics

Hello, cowgirl in the sand,
Hello, cowgirl in the sand,
Is this place at your command.
Can I stay here for a while,
Can I see your sweet, sweet smile. old enough now to change your name.
When so many love you, is it the same?
It's the...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Mar 19th 2017 !⃝

    I have no idea what the song is really about, but I always took it this way:

    It's about a certain type of woman's life.

    Starts off when she's about 18 (old enough to change your name,) and she's very attractive and men flock to her. (Is this place at your command) and she plays with them, because she can. She's young and hot and why not? (It's the woman in you that makes you want to play this game.)

    Then she begins to get older and eventually settles down only to find (hello ruby in the dust, has your band begun to rust.) She's in a middle aged marriage and it's failing.

    Finally, she finds herself alone. "Hello woman of og my dreams, this is not the way it seems....) Here I have a disagreement with the lyrics. I think he's saying "purple words on a grey dark ground." A metaphor for dried blood on the ground? A reference to her beauty being lost to time and it's impact on her. (To be a woman and to be turned down..."

    Again, this is just my personal take on it and it probably has nothing to do with what Neil was thinking. Who knows?

  2. FrostbitBlueNick
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    Oct 10th 2022 !⃝

    I read somewhere that it refers to a prostitute on the beaches of Spain. Makes sense as Neil was there in the late 60’s. Also certain Spain beaches at that time had plenty of Lady’s of the night.

  3. anonymous
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    Aug 30th 2020 !⃝

    Having come of age in the Sixties, to me this song is ultimately about the singer’s unrequited love for a beautiful free-spirited woman he first encounters when she is young and very desirable (girl on the beach) but who is unwilling or unable to commit to him because she is enjoying “the ride” with so many other suitors. When next we see her she is more mature, and even more desirable, a ruby in the dust of a failing marriage (rusting band), but she is still unwilling or unable to commit to him notwithstanding their apparent physical involvement with each other (so much sin). In the final “chapter,” they re-engage and she (the woman of his dreams) is finally willing to commit to him, but he ultimately turns her down because the “game” has gone on too long and the passion has died (only purple words on a gray background).

  4. anonymous
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    Jun 18th 2020 !⃝

    Young met Charlie Manson and his girls in 1968 at Wilson's place on Sunset. Most people know Charlie's girls were mostly bait for recording execs, used as a quid pro quo in securing a deal. Neil liked Manson's songwriting quite a bit, tried to get a deal for him at Warner Bros., and clearly sampled the ex-pimp's candy. In his Howard Stern interview in 2015, Neil said almost sadly that "the girls couldn't see past Charlie...". Couple this with one of the women admitting on several occasions that she dressed up as the "cowgirl" in her and the family's many role playing excursions on LSD, and I believe Young had a thing for her. Of course he'd never publicly admit that.

  5. anonymous
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    Jan 4th 2020 !⃝

    This is about a woman that he has known from his youth, perhaps his first love, and their long and rocky mostly one sided relationship that he has had with her. There are three stanzas and the long guitar solo in between them feels like time elapses between the stages of their relationship. In the first stanza they’re young and the relationship is just begun. He’s obviously smitten and in love with her but she is beautiful and popular and doesn’t want to commit even though she’s old enough to. She wants to play the field and the field is at her command. He wants her to love him the same way that he loves her but there are so many others that vie for her affection.

    In the second stanza time has elapsed. They’ve been broken up and there’s been a lot of sin and hurt in their relationship. Now their back together but it’s really more of the same. She’s still beautiful like a ruby but she has a lot of baggage now. There’s been a lot of pain in this relationship but he still wants to forgive her because his feelings for her are still the same. He believes that she will only bring pain but he would still settle with her if only she would stop playing this game.

    In the third stanza more time has elapsed. They’re back together after yet another of their many breakups and failures. She’s not quite the same as the woman of her youth. She’s the one woman that he fell for the most (woman of his dreams) but too much pain and distrust have brought him to the conclusion that he has no future with her. It’s ironic because she was always the one that turned his love down but now he’s turning her down which to her are as indiscernible as purple words on a grey background.
    JamesP on July 13,1996 from songfacts

    That's it.

  6. anonymous
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    Jan 4th 2020 !⃝

    “ To be a woman and to be turned down” To me, this is about a young alluring beautiful woman who was turned down by her lover. She is angry and sad about this, so she is messing around with the love and affection that subsequent suitors try to give her...She is playing with their hearts because this is what her lover did to her. “ Purple words on a gray background” To me this means that her words and feelings of passion were met with “gray” ... lack of caring and the opposite of passion. When lyrics are good, they are subject to our own interpretation . Back in the early 70’s I was dumped by my boyfriend and very angry about it. I was the cowgirl in the sand, ready to pass on the misery to any guy who dared approach me!

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  7. anonymous
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    Nov 16th 2019 !⃝

    Well sering as I'm from that era & had as of yet undiagnosed ADHD (of course they didn't know about ADHD back when I was just a little chitlin!

  8. anonymous
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    Aug 17th 2019 !⃝

    100% this is about Joni Mitchell who had romantic relationships with everyone in CSNY at some time.
    I’m curious about “purple words on a grey background “. Somehow it seems funereal to me.
    But I’d like Neil’s interpretation thank you.

  9. anonymous
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    Oct 16th 2018 !⃝

    It's about a cowgirl from Arizona she is in the sand it's about her growth as an artist and women.purple words on a grey background ...is her album cover ...band rust ...getting old

  10. anonymous
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    Sep 14th 2018 !⃝

    In 1813, North Maxwell Pyke, invited four women over to his house. Three of them smoked four joints, arising a peruvian torch, Israel, written in stone, and grown in sand.

  11. anonymous
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    Aug 15th 2018 !⃝

    All about Joni

  12. anonymous
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    Jul 2nd 2017 !⃝

    I think it's about a Canadian kid landing in Southern Calif, Hollywood, beaches, etc and how he deals with assault on his senses. Ultimately dealing with fame and fortune, which ages and ruins most people. The same 'ol sex drugs and rock n' roll story. He was probably stoned on Venice beach and imagined he was in Spain with any number of women who wanted him because of all different reasons, but mostly for sex, his money, or groupypower.

  13. SitkaRose
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    Jun 5th 2017 !⃝

    I began searching for the "purple words on a gray background," too. As a woman, living through the 60s and 70s it reminds me so much of Young's songs - love had, love lost or life passes so quickly either from old age (old man) or drugs (needle and the damage done). Now that I am older, much older, I have gone to many funerals and see all types of headstones that weather from age. Most of them are set in concrete that fades to a drab gray and the original letters look like a deep purple. I'm glad that artists do not always divulge the real meaning of their lyrics because I prefer that all of us interpret them in our own ways. ♥

  14. anonymous
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    Jun 1st 2017 !⃝

    Beautiful woman he knew and times they had together...
    Good and bad.

  15. anonymous
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    May 14th 2016 !⃝

    I think "purple words on a grey background" is referring to a wedding invitation. It seems to fit with the the lyrics that follow...

  16. anonymous
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    Apr 3rd 2015 !⃝

    This song is about a folksinger that he met in March of 1970. She had red hair and they were supposed to meet up later where he was playing at "The River" He wrote 3 songs on the same day that were supposedly about her. Down by the River, Cinnamon Girl, and Cowgirl in the Sand. They spent the day together. When they were supposed to meet back up she had gotten very ill and couldn't show. He waited for her at " The River" for 2 hours and finally left.

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