April 2, 2007 in News

The Cowboy Song

Welcome to my entry devoted to “The Cowboy Song” originally sung by Tom Hanks in the movie Joe vs. the Volcano. Here you will find my version of the song, as well as the chords and lyrics and a little bit of information. (If you want an MP3s of Tom Hanks singing this, sorry, I can’t help you there.) However, if you just want information about the song or you’re looking for the lyrics and/or tabs, keep reading.

This is the song that made me want to learn ukulele in the first place. When my wife was pregnant with our twins I decided that I wanted to be able to play and sing this to them, so I bought a cheap ukulele and started teaching myself chord changes and strumming patterns. Before too long, I was playing “The Cowboy Song” as well as writing my own songs.

The song was written by John Patrick Shanley for the film. I contacted Mr. Shanley and asked him if I could cover the song on a new album of children’s music, and he graciously agreed (thanks, John!). So here’s my take on the song. I figured that when Joe Banks is singing this in the movie he’s singing a song he’d heard somewhere before, so I tried to imagine what that ‘original’ song would have sounded like. This is what I came up with:

And here’s the video!

You can download the MP3 of this song here. It’s also available on my album Ukulele Jim’s Jumping Flea Circus which is full of great music for kids and parents alike.

Okay, that’s it for my shameless self-promotion. Now how do you play it?

There are only two chords in this song. In the movie, I think Tom Hanks plays F and C, but I also think his ukulele is tuned differently than GCEA. I play them as G and D7 which is a little better for my singing range. Pick whatever voicing works for you.

The complete lyrics and chords of the song are as below. The part in italics were in the screenplay but not in the film.

Ee he o he-o [G]cowboy
Ee he o he-o [D7]oooo
Ee he o he-o cowboy, cowboy, cowboy
Under the [G]moon.

I was ridin’ my [G]horse
by the Rio Grand[D7]ee
and all o’ them coyotes singing
in a prairie [G]symphony.

I was ridin’ my [G]horse
down by the Rio Grand[D7]ee
when I seen me a cowboy, cowboy, cowboy,
ridin’ toward [G]me.

Ee he o he-o [G]cowboy
Ee he o he-o [D7]oooo
Ee he o he-o cowboy, cowboy, cowboy
Under the [G]moon.

He was twirling his [G]guns
And he had a gui[D7]tar
And we sang us up a sweet old
song about love
Under the [G]stars

Ee he o he-o [G]cowboy
Ee he o he-o [D7]oooo
Ee he o he-o cowboy, cowboy, cowboy
Under the [G]moon.

[G]Giddyup!

If you just want to learn how to play it as an instrumental, William LaBerdia put together some tabulature here in a couple different keys for you to try.

This is an easy enough song that a simple DOWN-UP-DOWN-UP strum should work quite nicely. No need for anything fancy with this one.

I hope you found this information helpful, and I hope you enjoyed my version of the song. Please leave some feedback in the comments section below. Why did you visit this page today? What were you looking for, and did you find it? Do you play the ukulele? I’d love to hear from you!

Giddyap!

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  • Otis Pishaw

    For 20 some years, I always thought Tom Hanks was singing “Ethiopian Cowboy”, in a way I am disappointed he wasn’t.

    • Nothing’s stopping you from singing it that way. 🙂

  • Jade

    I needed a really easy cowboy uke song for my 6 year old uke students to play in a cowboy themed recital. This is perfect – only 2 chords!! Yay!! Mahalo

  • Yasunori Tsuchida

    Great job! 🙂 I had always assumed that it was an old cowboy song transcribed to ukelele for Tom Hanks. Within our group of white water paddlers, we used to improvise this song with guitar, harmonica, and mouth harp, making up funny new lyrics, in camp. It’s also a great song for novice yodelers.

  • Brandi Brashears.

    This is fantastic. Joe Versus The Vokcano is my favorite movie and this song in particular. It sums up the whole feel of the movie. I was dying to hear the song again and I bought your version on iTunes. Love it! I’ve got it on repeat today. Thank you.

  • Lauren

    hi there, so new to ukulele and dying to play this tune – was wondering if you had any suggestions for strum pattern?

    for some reason that's the hardest thing for me to figure out and I can't seem to get it quite right!

    thanks so much!

    • This song is simple enough that an easy DOWN-UP-DOWN-UP strum should work quite nicely. No need for anything fancy.

    • This song is simple enough that an easy DOWN-UP-DOWN-UP strum should work quite nicely. No need for anything fancy.

  • Myra

    I just love this song! I am not really a uke player but I have learned a couple of songs and now I will try this one. Thanks so much for your posting!

  • Jessica Griffin

    Hello Jim,

    Thank you so much for posting this song. I just purchased it off iTunes. My 8 week old son has bronchitis and for some reason when he wheezes really bad me singing and playing this song calms him down. Not sure why but anything that works right. So thanks for being here at 12:39 am with us when my son needs it.

    -Jessica Griffin

  • Hilary

    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for posting about this. I am just learning the ukulele, about 2.5 months into it and having a blast. Thanks for the link to William LaBerdia tabs for this song. I was able to pick it and my husband even recognized the song! YAY! Play on kind sir!

  • Hi Jim, I landed on your site following your bio post and comments on CD Baby recently. Love those sweet melodies and your uke playing. Well done. I also create music for kids, so I think I might have to purchase your CD.

    Greetings

    Ben

  • pato

    hello!! im about to buy an uke and i wanted to know which one is tom hanks playing in the film!! and if you know the tuning of it!!!

    • I'm not sure what kind of ukulele Tom Hanks plays in the movie. It looks like a cheap one, and I think he might have it tuned a step or two higher than re-entrant tuning. I play several different types of ukuleles, but on "The Cowboy Song" I used a KoAloha concert.

    • I’m not sure what kind of ukulele Tom Hanks plays in the movie. It looks like a cheap one, and I think he might have it tuned a step or two higher than re-entrant tuning. I play several different types of ukuleles, but on “The Cowboy Song” I used a KoAloha concert.

  • steve-o-reno

    Great job! This is one of my wife's favorite songs from one of her favorite movies. So, I'll be learning this for her. Thanks so much!

  • William Bunce

    Absolutely beautiful in its simplicity. Puts all those rappers to shame.

  • Gene

    What a really nice song. Easy to play and sing. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of the world. Gene

  • Reuben (VERY VERY NE

    If you had those tabs that would just make my day…

  • patrick

    How do I get a download of this. I love this song, as well as the movie.

  • Hodad

    Thanks, sweet and easy

  • Randolph Pritchard

    This is a GREAT version of this song! Where can I go to download a copy?

  • Rick Lester

    Great song Jim. I'll buy the album when it's available.

  • Katz

    I woke up with this song in my head and I was looking for the lyrics so that I could at least sing the words along with the melody in my head. So thank you for this! 😀 Made my day.

    Great version, too!

  • Tammie

    Love this song . Just got my own uke and would like to know the strum patterns and when to change chords. Could you help me? Thank You

    • Simple DOWN-UP-DOWN-UP strum pattern. The chord changes are in the tabs posted above. Play around with it, you'll get it.

    • Strum pattern is up to you. A simple “down down up down down up” would work nicely, or even “down up down up” is okay too.

      Listen for the chord changes. They’re fairly obvious, and learning where they come in is part of learning to play. But here’s a hint… listen for the change on the last syllable at the end of every other line in the lyrics. If that’s still confusing, let me know and I’ll make up some tabs that show you exactly where.

  • angie

    We came to your website after googling, “Joe vs the Volcano cowboy song.” My husband wanted to learn the song…this movie is his favorite of all time. We found exactly the information we were looking for!

  • Aaron Allen

    Awesome! I loved it. I too just purchased a uke and the primary reason is that scene in “Joe Vs. the Volcano”! Thanks for having it out there for anyone to find and play!

  • v

    Hey,

    I just picked up the uke and I want to learn this one too. What is the strum pattern? and when do you change chords?

    • Strum pattern is up to you. A simple "down down up down down up" would work nicely, or even "down up down up" is okay too.

      Listen for the chord changes. They're fairly obvious, and learning where they come in is part of learning to play. But here's a hint… listen for the change on the last syllable at the end of every other line in the lyrics. If that's still confusing, let me know and I'll make up some tabs that show you exactly where.

  • Here’s a video of the Central Ohio Ukulele Coup playing The Cowboy Song at one of their get togethers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHOTk0aJYm0

    They’re playing my arrangement, too!

  • Pat

    You sound great!