Midnight Cowboy

Album: Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  • songfacts ®
  • Written in 12/8 time, this mournful harmonica melody tripped off the pen of the Yorkshire-born composer John Barry (1933-2011) for the 1969 Oscar winner Midnight Cowboy. Based on the 1965 novel of the same name, this X-rated off-beat buddy-buddy movie depicts the underside of the American dream through the eyes of lowlife, Texan fantasist Joe Buck and the unfortunate small time homeless con-man (Ratso) who first tricks him out of twenty dollars then offers him a place to stay in a deserted apartment after Buck is unable to pay his hotel bill. Country boy Buck has come up to the metropolis hoping to make his fortune providing services to sex hungry women, depicting himself as a "stud", but it doesn't take too long for the Big Apple to punch holes in his dreams; instead he ends up soliciting men for sex, and even that sordid venture goes awry.

    At the end of the film there is redemption of sorts for Buck, even though he beats a man to death, but not for the seriously ill Ratso, who dies on the bus journey to Florida where the two had planned to make a new life for themselves.

    Some critics have read a homosexual theme into the friendship between Jon Voight's Joe Buck and Dustin Hoffman's Ratso, but the simple fact is that many if not most of the strongest friendships are based on things far more precious than sex, in this case the relationship was largely symbiotic.

    Amazingly, Barry's theme music manages to capture all this, and it is hardly surprising that he picked up no less than five Oscars in a career that lasted half a century.
  • The album version by John Barry & His Orchestra runs to a mere 2 minutes 48 seconds. The instrumental version is known as "Midnight Cowboy Theme" or "Theme From Midnight Cowboy".
  • The vocal version is called simply "Midnight Cowboy"; the sheet music to this retailed for 90c as per the Johnny Mathis recording on Columbia Records. The thematic lyrics were supplied by the American record producer Jack Gold (1921-92), who is not to be confused with the British film director of the same name. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3
  • Piano duo Ferrante & Teicher recorded the hit version peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 in 1969. Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher first met as children whilst attending the Juilliard School and in 1947 they launched a full-time concert career. For three decades they were a major American easy listening act, scoring several hits with their versions of movie songs. Their most successful release was their interpretation of the theme from Exodus, which peaked at #2 in 1960.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 2

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 7th, 1969, Ferrante and Teicher performed "Midnight Cowboy" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    One month earlier on November 1st, 1969 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #10 and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
    Arthur Ferrante passed away on September 19th, 2009 at age 88 and Louis Teicher died on August 3th, 2008 at age 83...
    May they both R.I.P.
  • Zabadak from London, EnglandThis was the only X-cert film to win the Best Picture Oscar...
see more comments

The Real Nick DrakeSong Writing

The head of Drake's estate shares his insights on the late folk singer's life and music.

Dino Cazares of Fear FactorySongwriter Interviews

The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.

Harry ShearerSongwriter Interviews

Harry is Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap, Mark Shubb in The Folksmen, and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.

Joe Elliott of Def LeppardSongwriter Interviews

The Def Leppard frontman talks about their "lamentable" hit he never thought of as a single, and why he's juiced by his Mott The Hoople cover band.

Guy ClarkSongwriter Interviews

Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett are just a few of the artists who have looked to Clark for insightful, intelligent songs.

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"They're Playing My Song

Wilder's hit "Break My Stride" had an unlikely inspiration: a famous record mogul who rejected it.