There are a lot of country songs about fathers. But I’ve got a lot of time to get to all those other songs. Sometimes the meaning of a song is as much about you finding that particular song in that particular place and that particular time. And this is a particular time and place—my first Father’s Day as a father, and half a lifetime since my own father died.
Chris LeDoux knew a thing or two about cowboy hats: he was a world champion bronc rider. This Cowboy’s Hat is a story about what happens when a group of bikers threaten to take the hat right off a cowboy’s head. A cowboy’s hat is the sort of thing that means a lot to him. The first reason the cowboy gives is because “it used to be my daddy’s. But last year he passed on.”
I grew up weaned on a lot of Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers from my parents, a swallow of mainstream country from the radio, and a horn of Hank and outlaw country from my best friend. College opened me up to a whole new world of country, and Chris LeDoux was a big part of that. It was like nothing else I’d ever heard. But what really hit me was that line.
My dad spent most of the last year of his life in Houston, Texas at M.D. Anderson (in one of life’s little ironies, many years later we would buy our first house a couple miles away from M.D. Anderson). His treatments for leukemia took most of his hair, robbed him of his health, and left him with swollen feet. When he got home he completely unabashedly rocked socks and sandals, a duck mask . . . and a cowboy hat.
So, yeah, hearing the narrator talked about how his cowboy hat “used to be my daddy’s. But last year he passed on” hit me hard.
It is a great song. And there is something near to my heart when a song about “how we all have a lot of things in common” ends with an indication of readiness to throwdown. “And if you touch my hat you’re going to have to fight us all” still gives me goosebumps to this day.
I saw Chris LeDoux in concert about a year later, shortly before he died, but that is a story for another day.
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