The Meaning Behind “Cowboy Take Me Away” by The Chicks

The Chicks—formerly known as the Dixie Chicks—have become one of the most influential country groups of the 21st century. With their three-part harmonies and powerhouse vocals, The Chicks prove that authentic country can also be polished, trendy, and powerful.

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Formed in 1989 in Nashville, The Chicks became well-known in the 1990s. At the turn of the century, they were chart-toppers thanks to singles such as “Wide Open Spaces,” “You Were Mine,” and “There’s Your Trouble.” Even after their controversial comments on the Iraq War, their single “Not Ready to Make Nice” was a crossover smash. In the group’s time together, they have racked up an impressive 13 Grammy Awards and become the best-selling female group since 1991.

But of all their hits, their signature song is “Cowboy Take Me Away,” a romantic ballad about escaping to the country with a lover. The track was released on their much-lauded sophomore album, which won two Grammys and has been placed on some country lovers’ lists as one of the greatest albums of all time. Frontwoman Natalie Maines’ yearning vocals against the layered harmonies of the background singers have made the song a fan favorite. Let’s discover what inspired “Cowboy Take Me Away,” and how it became one of The Chicks’ best songs.

A Sisterly Dream

“Cowboy Take Me Away”was inspired by a real-life romance: the marriage of The Chicks’ Emily Erwin and musician Charlie Robison. But it was her sister, Martie Maguire, the band’s violinist and backup vocalist, who was the one inspired.

In 2006, The Chicks appeared on an episode of Storytellers, a show featuring famous musicians explaining the inspiration behind some of their greatest hits in an interview setting. During this appearance, Maguire referenced where she’d gotten the idea for “Cowboy Take Me Away.”

“She had been dating a bunch of guys I didn’t approve of,” Maguire said, speaking about her sister on Storytellers. “Then she met Charlie, and I sort of pictured him whisking her off into the sunset.”

Maguire is three years older than her sister, and the two have a close relationship. Emily and Charlie Robison were married for nine years before divorcing in 2008. During their marriage, they had three children together.

[RELATED: Behind the Career Altering Band Name Change The Dixie Chicks to The Chicks]

A Famous Slogan

The title came from an unusual source—a famous commercial during the 1970s. Those around back then are familiar with the phrase, “Calgon, take me away!” It’s not known precisely why The Chicks chose to include this line. But it strikes a surprisingly meaningful image: as opposed to the original commercial, the singer is begging a real person to take her away from fakeness and shallowness.

A True Country Song

“Cowboy Take Me Away” is a touching ballad about wanting to run away with a lover. The singer has come to realize that her life feels false and empty. She begs her lover to take her away from the city so they can start their authentic life together.

I wanna sleep on the hard ground
In the comfort of your arms
On a pillow of bluebonnets
In a blanket made of stars

The mention of bluebonnets may be a nod to The Chicks’ home state of Texas. The bluebonnet is the state flower, and covers the Texas hills like a blue blanket in the spring. Bluebonnets are most often seen in the wild, and although they’re not protected legally, they hold a special place in the hearts of many Texans.

Cowboy, take me away
Fly this girl as high as you can into the wild blue
Set me free, oh, I pray
Closer to heaven above and closer to you

The singer also acknowledges that a simpler life is in store for them. Things aren’t overstated in this world; instead, she looks forward to the small, happy things.

I want to be the only one for miles and miles
Except maybe you and your simple smile
Oh, it sounds good to me

The repetition of the phrase “It sounds good to me” could also be seen as significant. It’s a casual phrase reflecting the singer’s desire for authenticity. She won’t give a big speech about what she wants, but she will speak the truth.

The Legacy of “Cowboy Take Me Away”

The song has some famous fans, including pop princess Taylor Swift.

“To this day, when I hear ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ by [The Chicks], I instantly recall the feeling of being 12 years old, sitting in a little wood-paneled room in my family home in Pennsylvania,” Swift told Elle Magazine. “I’m clutching a guitar and learning to play the chords and sing the words at the same time, rehearsing for a gig at a coffee house.”

The song has also become a Chicks live standard, played at almost all of their gigs since its release. After peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, “Cowboy Take Me Away” cemented The Chicks as modern, authentic country singers who could be sentimental without being saccharine.

Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage

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