View Full Version : NYT article about "Good Ride Cowboy"

10-27-2005, 08:01 AM
They're Pop Immortals, Whether Dead or Alive

Published: October 27, 2005

Have you heard the new Chris LeDoux hit single? Of course, it's not a new song by LeDoux, the beloved rodeo star turned country star who died in March. It's a new song about him, recorded by his friend Garth Brooks. It's called "Good Ride Cowboy," and it's a high-spirited send-off. The eulogy culminates with a celebratory reference to that famous goddess of victory and sneakers: "Be more like Chris/Pull your hat down tight and just LeDoux it!"

While "Good Ride Cowboy" canters up the country charts, the hip-hop world is getting acquainted with a different kind of tribute song: an ode to the Notorious B.I.G., more often known as Biggie, who was killed in 1997. Since this is hip-hop, it's fitting that the homage is delivered by the rapper himself, with lyrics recycled from an old recording. And the new song is "Hold Ya Head," a stitched-together collaboration with Bob Marley, and it reminds listeners of B.I.G.'s grim sense of humor. It begins with his famous declaration that when he dies, "I wanna go to hell."

Like Buddhist monks and soap opera villains, pop stars know that death isn't the end. While the pop marketplace often demands constant transformation from its living stars, it has also found ways to reward the immutability of the ones who will forever remain tragically young or laudably old. The departed stay fixed firmly in place, sometimes seeming sturdier than the flighty singers and rappers who can't afford to stay the same. And so when the living and the dead collaborate, each borrows a little immortality from the other. That's the idea when Peggy Lee and Tupac Shakur are reincarnated as a Bette Midler tribute album and a CD of hip-hop poetry. (You can guess which became which, although it would be more fun if you couldn't.)

"Good Ride Cowboy" borrows some of its power from a story that country fans already know: the two singers were famous friends, and their careers have been intertwined. Mr. Brooks helped push LeDoux into the mainstream when he sang, on his 1989 debut album, about a "worn-out tape of Chris LeDoux"; a few years later, the two collaborated on a hit single, "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy?"

LeDoux never became a stadium-sized star, unlike Mr. Brooks. With his boyish enthusiasm and fondness for melodramatic - and quite often riveting - stories, Mr. Brooks is a great narrator, while LeDoux was more like a protagonist. His voice is rougher and less precise, and, when he sang about the rodeo, fans knew that he was a 1976 bareback riding champion.

When Mr. Brooks sings about LeDoux, you can hear not just affection but also awe. Borrowing words and phrases from LeDoux's huge oeuvre (he released more than two dozen albums), and confident that true LeDoux fans will recognize every one, Mr. Brooks turns an old friend into a new hero:

From "Bareback Jack" to "This Cowboy's Hat"

The songs were stronger than his pain

He would not "Slow Down" from town to town

Like children "Running Through the Rain."

That reference to pain is an indirect acknowledgment of the illness that took Ledoux's life. He had a rare disorder called primary sclerosing cholangitis, and eventually died from cancer of the bile duct. You won't find any mention of that in the song, and not just because those words would ruin the meter. When a singer dies too young, fans can't help imagining that the end somehow reflects all that came before. And so if "Good Ride Cowboy" helps some listeners to imagine that LeDoux met his fate in some rodeo disaster, after riding one too many horses and testing his luck one too many times - well, so much the better.



10-27-2005, 09:17 AM
Thanks for posting that. :)

10-27-2005, 02:34 PM
Nice article, I wonder what the deal is with giving Garth a title and not Chris? Interesting.

Thanks for posting :)


10-28-2005, 05:15 PM
Thanks Ann,

You always find the best stuff :)