What does Cowgirl in the Sand mean?

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Neil Young: Cowgirl in the Sand Meaning

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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.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 19th, 3:42pm report


    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.  

    anonymous
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    May 14th, 2016 5:06pm report


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



  3.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 3rd, 2015 4:50am report


    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.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 8th, 2014 11:51pm report


    Holy smoke, I've never seen or read so much bullsh*t, as the too many posts about this song! Turn back, turn bad, purple this, grey that! So what? However you interpret it, you're right! End of story! Sheesh! THUnderhill



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 23rd, 2014 10:37pm report


    I'm not certain, but I have a feeling that the song is about Joni Mitchell. Neil Young met her several years before he wrote this song.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 29th, 2014 4:05am report


    I love this song. It may be my favorite Neil Young song. It is a mistake to try to interpret some lyrics and some poems too literally. A poet and often a great lyricist play with words, reaching for a sound and a rhythm. With a lyricist the words and the music have to fit so a song like this one is evocative rather than literal. I think most of the song is pretty straightforward. The only question that I've wondered about for years is what is a cowgirl in the sand. I heard a great CBC interview with NY in which he said he didn't know where the songs come from, that the best thing he can do is get outta the way and let the songs come through him



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 25th, 2012 6:46am report


    He wrote it while lying in bed with a 103 degree fever. You can't have your songs mean anything when you're that sick.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    May 25th, 2012 5:47pm report


    PURPLE WORDS ON A GREY BACKGROUND, LE LONER-BLOG DE JACQUES-ERIC LEGARDE
    "This is a song I wrote about the beaches in Spain. I've never been on the beaches in Spain.
    Sort of my own idea of what it's like over there".
    Intro de "Cowgirl in the Sand", Londres 27 février 1971



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 17th, 2011 11:02pm report


    The lyrics above have two serious mistakes. It's not "we'd turned back," it's "we'd turned bad" and it's "purple words on a gray background". The lyrics are printed on the album sleeve of Four-Way Street, the live CSN&Y album. The sinister intepretations of the song are ridiculous when you get the lyrics right.



  10.  

    anonymous
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    May 2nd, 2011 5:05pm report


    I would say it is about a prostitute....



  11.  

    drogovska
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    Apr 15th, 2011 4:47am report


    I have to say, and I mean no sarcasm or skepticism--only curiosit--there is an amazing amount of detail and certainty in the previous anonymous posts. Could these anonymous posts have been written by the actual author of the song?



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 4th, 2011 4:03pm report


    NY is singing about someone who is afraid of commitment and therefore is looking for someone who is never really available. Furthermore when he finds the woman of his dreams he still turns her down.

    I hear a little angry towards women{ its the women in u that makes u want to play this game}

    I love NY and I am not male hater.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 5th, 2011 3:30pm report


    "After all the sin we've had,
    I was hoping that we'd turn back."

    This suggests the girl was pregnant, and the singer did not want her to go ahead and have the child. This of course adds to the loss and grief expressed in the song, as he soon comes to regret the loss of his love, and his unborn child...



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 5th, 2011 3:24pm report


    Actually, have listened some more, and i've decided my first impressions were correct. Should not have been misled by the lyrics on this site and elsewhere. Its most definitely NOT "Purple words on a grey background". Its "Purple words on the grey dark ground". This is a reference to the dried blood on the ground, and the story it tells...



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 17th, 2011 2:17am report


    I should add, since noone else in the world seems to understand it, the line "purple words on a grey background" means this:

    By the third verse, much more time has passed. His life has become a meaningless dull grey background, but he still dreams of her, vividly, and in particular the violent end of it all. Purple means angry, apoplectic with rage, on the verge of murder. So his dreams have become nightmares, those final moments and words, the words that drove him to kill. Repeated night after night... driving the pain and loss into his skull until he can bear no more.



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