Don’t Fence Me In

Music Archives

Music that reflects a universal truth can resonate across generations and become timeless. As in any good art the meaning is interpreted by the individual or current situations of society at the time. Don’t Fence Me In has remained popular for almost 60 years and been recorded by numerous musicians. First sung as a traditional western about wide open spaces, then an appeal to avoid jail time, the song was also  popular with GIs during WWII,  as a political statement at the building of the Berlin Wall, taken on meaning of ethnic diversity, and continues to be find new nuances today. Timeless.

Originally written in 1934 for Adios, Argentina, an unproduced 20th Century Fox film musical, “Don’t Fence Me In” was based on text by a poet and engineer with the Department of Highways in Helena, Montana, Robert (Bob) Fletcher. Cole Porter, who had been asked to write a cowboy song for the 20th Century Fox musical, bought the poem from Fletcher for $250. Although it was one of the most popular songs of its time, Porter claimed it was his least favorite of his own compositions

The song was also made famous by the original “Singin’ Cowboy” Gene Autry ( A great American hero).That is the version I am most familiar with as a traditional western ballad and my all time favorite.

Ten years after it was first written, in 1944, Warner Bros.  resurrected “Don’t Fence Me In” for Roy Rogers to sing in the movie, Hollywood Canteen.

The following year, the song was sung again as the title tune of another Roy Rogers film, Don’t Fence Me In (1945), in which Dale Evans plays a magazine reporter who comes to Roy Rogers’ and George ‘Gabby’ Hayes  ranch to research a story which she is writing about a legendary late gunslinger. When it’s revealed that Gabby Hayes is actually the supposedly dead outlaw, Roy must clear his name. Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers also find time to perform some songs, including the Cole Porter title tune.

“Don’t Fence Me In” was also recorded by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters in 1944. Crosby entered the studio on July 25, 1944, without having seen or heard the song. Within 30 minutes, he and The Andrews Sisters had made the recording, which later sold over a million copies and topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks in 1944-45.

  • David Byrne did a cover of this song in 1990 for a Cole Porter tribute album entitled Red Hot + Blue. Byrne performed what he describes as his “Brazilian” version of the song during his 2004 tour for the Grown Backwards album.[6]

  • The song was sung in the 1954 action movie “Hell and High Water.” Starring Richard Widmark
  • Shortly after the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, a communist-run East Berlin radio station called Ops used “Don’t Fence Me In” as the theme song for its nightly propaganda broadcast aimed at Allied soldiers based in  West Berlin
  •  Steve Goodman performed the song, including on his album The Easter Tapes recorded during one of his annual visits with New York radio personality Vin Scelsa.
  • Lynn Anderson recorded the song for her album Cowboy’s Sweetheart  in 1992.
  •  Chumbawamba recorded a version of the song with lead vocals by Danbert Nobacon . A segment of the song featured on the unreleased album Jesus H. Christ that was later reworked to become Shhh! (1992), but “Don’t Fence Me In” did not feature on the final album cut.
  • The first verse of the song was sung by Apu in The Simpsons episode “The Lastest Gun in the West“.
  • The song was featured in the 1999 film The Bachelor , which follows a sworn bachelor who is reluctant to marry.
  • The song was used in the opening credits of the 2000 film Chopper .
  •  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s character Eddie Sakamura sings it at a karaoke bar in the opening scene of the 1993 film Rising Sun. It is also played while the end credits roll.
  • Australian male voice choir The Spooky Men’s Chorale  have recorded this on their DVD album “Deep”

For me it is the lyrics  written by Robert Fletcher up in Helena, Montana that still carry a personal resonance:

Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in

Adiois amigos, Dohn

source material: Wikipedia

About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
This entry was posted in environment, history, the hungry brain and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Don’t Fence Me In

  1. Marc Reid says:

    Great song history! Thank You,
    I’m adding it to my show (entertaining seniors) and this gives me fodder for intro chatter on stage.

    • Fantastic. Glad you enjoyed it Marc. I also compiled a short selection of songs to help bring awareness of water issues that may inspire you .. Check out Wasser Music and River songs at the site. Aloha, Dohn

  2. Paul says:

    I always thought Gene Autry wrote that song. Cole Porter? Is there no limit to that man’s genius? Roy Rogers sings Cole Porter. Talk about musical Americana!

  3. Margaret says:

    What a great project you have here!

  4. theozarker says:

    That song will be rattling around in my head for weeks, now. But thanks for some great memories in this piece.

  5. A lot of work you’ve put together. Nice of you to share with us. Ah the memories. Thank you.

  6. mountainmae says:

    I remember it in all it’s incarnations. I loved it then and I actually still sing it from time to time. Thanks for bringing the originals back to my ears.

  7. df says:

    A wonderful song with a great history; I had no idea that it was Cole Porter’s least favourite. How odd, given how popular it has proved to be! I enjoyed your take on this.

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