The Horses by Rickie Lee Jones

Rickie Lee Jones is a one hit wonder in the eyes of the public; she charted with the jazzy, breezy ‘Chuck E.’s In Love’ from her 1979 debut album, which established her bohemian credentials, dating Tom Waits and wearing a beret. But there’s a long, artistically interesting career there despite the lack of hit singles – sophomore album Pirates is probably my favourite album of 1981, and 1989’s Flying Cowboys was a comeback after a 5 year layoff, produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker.
The opening track from Flying Cowboys, ‘The Horses’ wasn’t a single, but it’s had staying power for an album track. It featured on the soundtrack to Jerry Maguire, while a contemporary cover version by Daryl Braithwaite went to number one in Australia. It’s slick and adult contemporary, but it’s also warm and organic – the ubiquitous Michael Omartian, who also played with Becker on Katy Lied, provides the piano part.

We will fly
Way up high
Where the cold wind blows
Or in the sun
Laughing having fun
With the people that she knows
And if the situation
Should keep us separated
You know the world won’t fall apart
And you will free the beautiful bird
That’s caught inside your heart
Can’t you hear her?
Oh she cries so loud
Casts her wild note
Over water and cloud
That’s the way it’s gonna be, little darlin’
We’ll be riding on the horses, yeah
Way up in the sky, little darlin’
And if you fall I’ll pick you up, pick you up
You will grow
And until you go
I’ll be right there by your side
And even then
Whisper the wind
And she will carry up your ride
I hear all the people of the world
In one bird’s lonely cry
See them trying every way they know how
To make their spirit fly
Can’t you see him?
He’s down on the ground
He has a broken wing
Looking all around
That’s the way it’s gonna be, little darlin’
You go riding on the horses, yeah
Way up in the sky, little darlin’
And if you fall I’ll pick you up, pick you up
Can’t you hear her?
Oh she cries so loud
Casts her wild note
Over water and cloud
I’ll pick you up darlin’ if you fall
Don’t worry ’bout a thing little girl
Because I was young myself not so long ago
And when I was young
When I was young
And when I was young, oh I was a wild, wild one.


  1. You’re spot on. Last time I saw Rickie Lee Jones in concert – at the Recital Centre here in Melbourne last year – she invited Braithwaite on stage for Horses. Terrific duet. Braithwaite seemed a little embarrassed by Jones’ praise.

    • Cool, don’t know if she made it out to NZ that time. I don’t like Braithwaite’s version quite as much, but New Zealander Margaret Urlich is on backing vocals.

  2. I don’t know anything beyond the debut (which I like a whole lot). Pirates has been on my list a while… the result of a conversation with a friend (it was his favourite) and I guess I’ll add Flying Cowboys to that list, too.

    • All of Rickie Lee Jones’ albums are well worth exploring. She goes out on the edge sometimes, which is part of her creative spirit. And if she’s ever touring in your part of the world, get along…Cheers.

  3. I think that’s been one of the big lessons from the 1001 list for me – the ones I thought were ‘one hit wonders’ had/have many more wonderful recordings well worth hearing!

  4. I always liked her stuff but had never bought anything. And so the first CD I ever bought was ‘Flying Cowboys.’ Loved it. We, in fact, went to see her in a local club just this past winter. I didn’t write about it as frankly, we were a little disappointed. She clearly was not happy playing a small club in the middle of nowhere but you know, what’s the alternative? She’s not arena-level if she ever was. But we still dug seeing her and I do like her recorded stuff.

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