Posts Tagged ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’

One of my favorite songs on the classic album from the Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, has always been “Blue Canadian Rockies,” credited there to C. Walker.  Unlike my other favorite, Gram Parsons’ Hickory Wind, I never learned it for performance, partly because there were some oddities with the words that seemed not quite right.  Until today, it had not occurred to me to look them up online.  (I should note that this does not always help; many sites that have lyrics and chords often get the lyrics (and chords) wrong, and also neglect to credit the writer of the song, and only credit some performer, as though they wrote the song themselves.)  So I was pleased this time with the results.  There were lyrics and chords, as well as links to some performances, by the Byrds of course, but also by a Canadian, Wilf Carter (known as Montana Slim in the US), Jim Reeves, Gene Autry, who sang it as the title song to a film he starred in (1952), and finally, Cindy Walker, who wrote the song in 1950. 

So you might guess that Cindy Walker was Canadian, but that is not so. She was born in Mart, Texas, in 1918 (and died in 2006). She was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. She wrote many songs that were hit records by well known artists, besides those already linked above: Bing Crosby, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Roy Orbison, Dean Martin, Pat Boone, Eddy Arnold, K.D. Lang, Ray Charles, and others.  There is a fun story in Wikipedia about how Bing Crosby came to record her song. Willie Nelson recorded a tribute album to her: “You Don’t Know Me:” The Songs of Cindy Walker, which was released just nine days before she died.  

If you know the rendition by the Byrds (or listen to the versions above), you will see that I was correct about the words — the Byrds got them wrong, and so did others. I don’t know where the Byrds got the lyrics, but I read that it was Chris Hillman who brought the song to them. He had heard it in his teen years when playing a tour in Alberta, and always remembered it. (Before playing bass with the Byrds, he had played mandolin with his brothers as the Hillmen.) He thought it would fit well into Sweetheart of the Rodeo.  

I’m glad I got the chance to learn about Cindy Walker, a good singer as well as a songwriter, and the first woman to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as a songwriter. I’ll be singing her song, with the correct lyrics.  

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