Cowboy Movie

Album: If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)
Play Video


  • Running 8:02, "Cowboy Movie" is a track from David Crosby's debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. It tells the story of his band, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, as if they were cowboys in a Western movie. The band had been extant for just two years but had more than enough drama and backstory to fill a screenplay - or at least eight minutes of lyrics. The group formed in 1969, made a big splash at Woodstock, and released massive-selling albums in 1969 and 1970. But they had a lot of trouble getting along, and by the end of 1971 had all released solo albums. CSN&Y reunited in 1974 for a tour, but didn't put out another studio album (without Young) until 1977.
  • Here's the cast of characters in this song:

    Fat Albert - David Crosby
    Eli - Stephen Stills
    Duke - Graham Nash
    Young Billy - Neil Young
    Raven - Rita Coolidge

    In the story, Eli and Duke battle for Raven's affections, and Eli goes off the rails. And for some reason, Raven bites Albert's thumb.

    Stills and Nash both met Coolidge when they were all working on Stills' solo track "Love The One You're With." Both guys fell for her, but Stills made his move and they started dating. What happened next Nash explained in Goldmine:

    "One day I found out from Rita that she also wanted to be with me. And I said, 'We have a problem here, because you're Stephen's girlfriend right now, and there's no way we can be together, with a good heart, unless we face Stephen and tell him ourselves.' So we went to Stephen and told him that we wanted to see each other. Stephen wasn't very happy. Actually, he tried to spit on me. That's basically what 'Cowboy Movie' was about."
  • Members of the Grateful Dead backed Crosby on this track:

    Jerry Garcia - guitar
    Phil Lesh - bass
    Mickey Hart - drums
    Bill Kreutzmann - tambourine

    When CSN&Y went on hiatus, Crosby started performing and making music with members of the Dead. They worked up the song in jam sessions and played it live at a nightclub before recording it for Crosby's album.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Andrew Farriss of INXS

Andrew Farriss of INXSSongwriter Interviews

Andrew Farriss on writing with Michael Hutchence, the stories behind "Mystify" and other INXS hits, and his country-flavored debut solo album.

Rob Halford of Judas Priest

Rob Halford of Judas PriestSongwriter Interviews

Rob Halford dives into some of his Judas Priest lyrics, talking about his most personal songs and the message behind "You've Got Another Thing Comin'."

John Parr

John ParrSongwriter Interviews

John tells the "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" story and explains why he disappeared for so long.

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top Proverb

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top ProverbSong Writing

How a country weeper and a blues number made "rolling stone" the most popular phrase in rock.

Joe Jackson

Joe JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Joe talks about the challenges of of making a Duke Ellington tribute album, and tells the stories behind some of his hits.

Holly Knight ("The Best," "Love Is A Battlefield")

Holly Knight ("The Best," "Love Is A Battlefield")Songwriter Interviews

Holly Knight talks about some of the hit songs she wrote, including "The Warrior," "Never" and "The Best," and explains some songwriting philosophy, including how to think of a bridge.