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The Dying Cowboy

I have a new album out! Here are some details about the song "The Dying Cowboy" the third track from the new release Trade Songs: American West.


Being a cowboy was a dangerous job. Stampedes, illness, dehydration, were just some of the dangers a cowboy might face on the trail. People died, and there were very few places along the trail to take them to be buried. It was often too far away or too hard to take someone who had passed away on the trail and get them back home to their families to be buried. More often than not, they were probably buried on the prairie, and left behind by their companions.

This song appears in John Lomax’s book and has become a very famous cowboy song. It is sometimes called “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” and has been recorded many times including by the likes of Vernon Dalhart, Johnny Cash, and William Elliott Whitmore whose version appeared in the video game Red Dead Redemption.

This version comes from the great cowboy singer Carl Sprague, who recorded several cowboy songs for Victor records in the 1920s. He sings a less familiar, but arguably more haunting melody than Cash or Whitemore, and I was drawn to his haunting version the first time I heard it.

It’s a terribly sad song that captures how hard it must have been to leave a dying friend behind against his requests, even though there was nothing else that could have been done.

I sure hope you enjoy it!


The Dying Cowboy - Lyrics

"O bury me not on the lone prairie."

These words came low and mournfully

From the pallid lips of the youth who lay

On his dying bed at the close of day.

He had wailed in pain 'til o'er his brow

Death's shadows sure were gathering now

He thought of home and loved ones nigh,

As the cowboys gathered to see him die.

"O bury me not on the lone prairie

Where the coyotes howl and the wind blows free

In a shallow grave just six by three

O bury me not on the lone prairie"

"O bury me not..." And his voice failed there.

But they took no heed to his dying prayer.

In a narrow grave, just six by three

They buried him there on the lone prairie.

And the cowboys now as they roam the plain,

For they marked the spot where his bones were laid,

Fling a handful of roses over his grave

And the a pray to God his soul to save.

Oh bury me not on the lone prairie

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