There’s an inherent romanticism to the cowboy archetype: a restless wanderer, perpetually in search of his next heroic adventure somewhere in the American southwest. Billy Joe Shaver turned that idea upside down in his 1981 song “We Are the Cowboys,” pointing out that cowboys are just average folks of all stripes — “Texicans, Mexicans, black men and Jews” — and their heroism comes in fighting everyday injustices, from hunger to violence.
Willie Nelson covers the song on his upcoming album, First Rose of Spring, and released a video for the track on Friday. Filmed at Nelson’s Luck Ranch outside of Austin by his son Micah Nelson, the video captures the aging outlaw tending to his horses and walking the grounds of his old cowboy town. There are also subtle nods to Nelson’s own white-hatted heroes, in the forms of cardboard cut-outs of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
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This isn’t the first time that Nelson has recorded “We Are the Cowboys.” He joined Shaver, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson for an all-star version on 2000’s Honky Tonk Heroes, a Highwaymen-type album that found the legends singing Shaver compositions like “Oklahoma Wind,” “Tramp on Your Street,” and “You Asked Me To,” which Elvis Presley cut in 1973 for his 1975 album Promised Land.
Nelson, who turned 87 in April, will release First Rose of Spring on July 3rd.
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