Soundscaping Source: Sample Song Spotlight

Don’t Fence Me In

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  • Mood: Relaxed
  • Tempo: Country life, Cowboys, Restrictions, Being “Fenced In”
  • Genre: Western/Cowboy

A brief history:

This song was written by Cole Porter, who is better known for writing jazz standards like “Night and Day” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” In fact, Cole Porter said this was his least favorite of his own songs. Still, that didn’t stop dozens of famous performers like Kate Smith, Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, and Ella Fitzgerald from recording the song, though. And, of course, this song was a signature piece for Roy Rogers, the famous singing cowboy of Hollywood, who premiered the song in the 1944 movie Hollywood Canteen.

Why this song is great:

“Don’t Fence Me In” is a great entrée into a discussion about cowboys and western movies, of course, but what I really love is that the fence provides a great metaphor for talking about the restrictions that come with aging, like being stuck in a wheelchair or not being able to drive their own cars anymore. Singing out “don’t fence me in!” is a validation of those difficult feelings that come with these restrictions in movement or declines in ability level.

What to discuss:

  • Western movies (John Wayne or Roy Rogers, for example)
    • Do you like watching cowboy movies? Which one was your favorite?
  • Cowboy life
    • What do you think it was like to be a cowboy? What did they eat? Where did they sleep?
  • Country living and farm life
    • Have you ever lived on a farm? What did you like or dislike about it? How is it different than city life?
  • Whether you feel like you’re fenced in by life circumstances
    • Do you ever feel fenced in by living here (or by being a senior citizen or living on a fixed income)? How do you handle that?

 Try these additional ideas:

  • After playing the song, write down or draw the things that fence you or your loved one in on the picture of a fence. Discuss how you feel about these “fences.”
  • Play or sing this song for someone who is trying to get through a locked door or go someplace they shouldn’t. It provides musical validation of the frustration they feel and helps to turn their attention back towards music.

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