Are There Any More Real Cowboys?

  • Throughout Neil Young's career, his music has explored themes of rural American life. In the country song "Are There Any More Real Cowboys?," he's lamenting the loss not only of cowboys but also of traditional country and family values.

    Interestingly, Young specifically goes after fake cowboys "snortin' cocaine when the honky-tonk's all closed." It's sort of strange coming from a musician who's indulged in multiple substances, including cocaine (remember the infamous pebble-sized chunk of cocaine hanging out of his nose in The Last Waltz?), throughout his life. Even stranger, and some may say even more hypocritical, is that Willie Nelson sings and plays guitar on the song. Nelson himself is legendary for his excess, though primarily with marijuana.

    Still, "Are There Any More Real Cowboys" comes across as a heartfelt lament for the disappearance of country life and simple, traditional values. Christianity and God are never specifically mentioned in the song, but they're alluded to in the lines:

    But the one
    That prays for more rain
    Heaven knows
    That the good feed
    Brings the money
    And the money buys the clothes
    Not the diamond sequins
    Shining on TV
    But the kind the
    Working cowboy really needs
  • Neil Young shot a video for this song with Willie Nelson a few days after Live Aid, a massive benefit concert held on Saturday July 13, 1985, to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief. During that concert, Bob Dylan asked if some of the donated money could be given to American farmers. During the music video shoot, Young and Nelson discussed Dylan's suggestion and came up with the idea for Farm Aid, a benefit concert for American farmers that's been going on annually since 1985.

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