In February of 1993, !-- react-text: 154 --"> released his debut single, "Should've Been a Cowboy." Co-produced by !-- react-text: 157 --"> and Harold Shedd -- the pair that co-produced all of Keith's self-titled debut album -- the song is about a man wistful for a different kind of life.
More precisely, the protagonist of "Should've Been a Cowboy" feels as if he'd fit in better elsewhere, in a place where he had a little more freedom, both emotionally and spatially.
"'Go west, young man,' haven't you been told? / California's full of whiskey, women and gold," Keith sings. "Sleeping out all night beneath the dessert stars / Dream in my eye and a prayer in my heart."
In keeping with the song's freewheeling, restless-cowboy theme, the lyrics of "Should've Been a Cowboy" reference Gunsmoke, the Texas Rangers, Jesse James and "Gene and Roy" (that would be Autry and Rogers, respectively). Musically, the song is relatively simple and streamlined -- pedal steel and honky-tonk guitar dominate -- which makes room for a catchy, buoyant hook and Keith's twangy vocals.