The title track of the Desperado album by the Eagles was never released as a single, even though it appeared in the Top 500 songs of all time published by Rolling Stone magazine. Adding to its immortality was the fact that the song was a focus on an episode of Seinfeld, a show about different kinds of singles.
It makes an ideal song for Western shows or films, as its imagery depicts cowboy themes like riding, playing cards, and sleeping outdoors. The Desperado album cover even shows the group’s members donning attire that one might associate with those who work on the range.
Glenn Frey and Don Henley, the two composers of the hit, have admitted that the song was not based on any of the legends of the Old West. Still, there are plenty of songs which do mention famous people associated with that theme, and here are ten.
John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan
This title track to the follow up of Blonde On Blonde reveres an outlaw akin to Robin Hood, who takes from the wealthy while offering financial assistance to poor sharecroppers.
Pretty Boy Floyd by Woody Guthrie
Dylan was probably inspired by this song from his folk idol, for the title character performed similar deeds to those of Harding.
Frank and Jesse James by Warren Zevon
These two legendary brothers are the subjects of a song that appeared on Zevon’s self-titled album, released a few years before he hit the Top Ten with “Werewolves Of London” and Excitable Boy.
Ballad of Billy the Kid by Billy Joel
Piano Man is the album most associated with the pop legend, and this is just one of the classic tunes which it spawned.
Bronco Bill’s Lament by Don McLean
This track from his self-titled follow up to American Pie serves as a sort of musical companion to the classic E.E. Cummings poem “Buffalo Bill’s Defunct,” which discusses the degrading transformation from an actual cowboy to one who merely acts as one.
Pancho and Lefty by Townes Van Zandt
The folk songwriter exults the West hero from Mexico, Pancho Villa.
I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford) by Elton John
The man in the sub title is the James Gang member who shot and killed Jesse, thus serving as the epitome of the betrayal of a so-called friend.
Roy Rogers by Elton John
Reginald Dwight identified the singer before he adopted his now famous pseudonym, and the subject of this song from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road had the birth name of Len Slye.
Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott? by the Statler Brothers
Several of the Hollywood Old West stars are named in this country classic, including Lash LaRue, Gene Autrey and Tex Ritter.
Annie Get Your Gun by Squeeze
Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook managed to pay homage to the most famous female in the Old West, the Ohio girl nicknamed Annie Oakley.