Paula Cole: Where Have all the Cowboys Gone? Meaning
Song Released: 1997
Where Have all the Cowboys Gone? Lyrics
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 the laundry if you pay all the bills
Where is my John...
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:
Hollywood has always glamorized cowboys. The strong, silent, rugged macho man in a Stetson hat has always been a powerful image. Women wanted to marry a John Wayne or Gary Cooper, while men wanted to BE John Wayne or Gary Cooper.
Paula Cole is singing about the reality behind that image. The narrator of that song fell in love with a rugged, macho rural male and lost her virginity to him in the back of his car. She fell in love with him and married him... and only then learned that life with a REAL cowboys isn't so glamorous after all.
The "cowboy" she married doesn't have any tender feelings and doesn't think much about her needs. He works hard all day, then spends his nights either drinking or watching TV. She attends to all his wants, but he doesn't even notice that she HAS any wants of her own.
Cowboys, ranchers and farm workers in rural America don't make much money, so she and her husband are barely scraping by, financially. They had to sell their car, and he took a job at a farm far away.
So, she's left raising children by herself, working her fingers to the bone, while her husband drinks away the little money he earns.
She's left wondering... what happened to the man I idealized? I THOUGHT he was going to be the kind of romantic cowboy I saw in movies. But there's nothing romantic or glamorous about this life at all.
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:anonymous Nov 17th 2013 report
I think this song is about longing for the hero. Her relationship with her husband is
unhappy, abusive and does not fill her needs or desires. He has changed a lot since getting married and having children. He doesn't notice her anymore. She is wishing for someone to save her, someone like the good guys in the Old West.
anonymous May 13th report
Paula Cole is a feminist, who made this song as a sarcastic commentary about women who want traditional marriage with a traditional man. Cole flipped bird onstage at Grammys while singing this song, frustrated that people weren't picking up on how clever she was and were instead enjoying the song at face value. Since most people don't understand feminism sarcasm cloaked in a normal desire to find a spouse and have children.
anonymous Oct 14th 2021 report
Paula finally explains how her song was misunderstood and even used by Rush Limbaugh who thought it was about a woman longing for a real macho.
anonymous Mar 8th 2021 report
I think it is about how John Wayne loved to do cowboy stuff like wash dishes and help around the house
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Dec 14th 2016 report
I think it's a song with a strong feminist vibe. She's being sarcastic in her tone especially when she say's "I will wash the dishes, while you go have a beer" Then it kind of gets a little sad because she seems frustrated or confused, maybe she wants a cowboy but one who treats her right. It really expresses the frustration between the sexes after the feminist movement.
anonymous Nov 14th 2013 report
I think this is about marriage in general. It's fun and romantic when you are just dating and being boyfriend and girlfriend, but when you get married, and especially when you have kids, you have responsibilities which put a damper on romance. It doesn't like the husband is a bad guy. He just sounds tired after work, and wants to unwind. The wife is a little more interested in romance by trying on a new dress, but still it's not the fun it used to be. I think "cowboy" is symbolic of a romantic figure in general, and selling the truck shows them giving up what gave them fun and freedom so that they can make ends meet, take care of business. I think this song can be about most marriages, especially when you have kids.
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