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Thursday, May 23, 2024
Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other

Orville Peck and Willie Nelson in the music video for "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other" | courtesy of YouTube 

Orville Peck, Willie Nelson reaffirm country music’s new direction with hit single

In the wake of Beyonce’s “Cowboy Carter,” Willie Nelson hopped onto Orville Peck’s “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other” to prove that country music is moving forward with its values.

Beer, women and trucks: the holy trinity of stereotypical portrayals of country music.

Country legend Willie Nelson isn’t about to let that reputation stand. Just in late March, Nelson was featured on Beyonce’s hit “Cowboy Carter” album on “SMOKE HOUR ★ WILLIE NELSON,” and he’s back it again, appearing on shoegaze outlaw country singer Orville Peck’s 2024 cover of “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other.”

Although the song was written way back in 1982 by Ned Sublette, it was Nelson who popularized the song with his 2006 iTunes cover. It had a personal meaning to him — two years prior, his friend and tour manager David Anderson told Nelson he was gay.

"This song obviously has special meaning to me in more ways than one," Anderson told The Dallas Morning News in 2006. "I want people to know more than anything — gay, straight, whatever — just how cool Willie is and... his way of thinking, his tolerance, everything about him."

In fact, its release was for many the first mainstream country music track with explicit LGBTQ+ themes. 

With its 2024 release, the track feels like a symbolic “passing of the baton” as Nelson, 90, features alongside the up-and-coming Peck. Nelson has frequently been criticized by the conservative sides of the country music community for his willingness to sing about topics that country music typically strays away from, and he hasn’t been afraid of controversy in his career.

“But you know people are listenin' to it, likin' it. Every now and then somebody don't like it, but that's okay,” Nelson told Time Magazine in 2006. “Similar to years ago, when the hippie thing come out and I started growin' my hair and puttin' the earring in, I got a little flak here and there.”

Peck told Variety he’s faced barriers being an openly gay country music artist. But he concluded the “important thing that’s happening in country music at the moment is there’s so many more queer people, and people that aren’t just white, straight men making country music.”

The 2024 cover of the song is sung beautifully, and there’s a certain seemliness to hear genre trailblazer Nelson join forces with a modern-era trailblazer as they alternate verses.

Some of the lyrics are admittedly heavy-handed, such as “a cowboy may brag about things that he's done with his women / But the ones who brag loudest are the ones that are most likely queer.” 

However, if you keep in mind the spirit behind the song and that more than 40 years have passed since it was written, the lyrics are great and easy to enjoy.  

Along with the song, Peck released a music video depicting cowboys dancing with multiracial, same-sex and traditional dance partners while simultaneously depicting those same cowboys in stereotypical manners, like chucking hay or tending to a field. 

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That’s on top of plenty of shared shots with Peck and Nelson having fun,  and it’s hard to blame them — the song is a hoot. The video ends with a subtle but strong moment as Peck locks a saloon door and they share a moment as he shakes Nelson’s hand.

The message of Peck and Nelson’s 2024 cover of “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other” is clear: the LGBTQ+ community has always been a core part of country music, and they ain’t going nowhere. 

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Ian Wilder

Ian Wilder is a Sports Editor and former senior staff writer for The Daily Cardinal. He’s formerly covered the men’s hockey beat, state politics and features. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.

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