“Papa Was a Rodeo” by The Magnetic Fields

Perhaps “Papa Was a Rodeo” can be deemed a song of gay love song in that the main vocalist, Stephin Merritt, is a known homosexual, and in the first verse the addressee is also identified as a male. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Magnetic Fields's Papa Was a Rodeo at Lyrics.org.

However, the lyrics don’t actually focus on the sexual orientation of the participants at hand. Instead, the emphasis is on the singer putting forth that his “papa was a rodeo” and “mama… a rock n’ roll band”. 

And it has been concluded that what those analogies are meant to point to, most simply put, is the idea of the narrator coming from an unstable upbringing. For instance, he further goes on to state that “home was anywhere with diesel gas”, implying that he was on the road a lot, and his family unsettled.

Whom he’s explaining this to is once again an addressee that is a romantic interest. So all of this is basically Stephin’s poetic way of telling this person that he shouldn’t expect a long-term relationship out of him, as the character Merritt is portraying is the type who is inclined to not even “(stick) around long enough” to see “a one-night stand” through. 

But there is a twist ending, in that the third verse apparently reveals that he and the addressee have managed to stay together – and for nearly 60 years at that.


So all lyrics considered, we can conclude by saying that the singer represents someone who has little faith in his own romantic fortitude, and this is because he was brought up in an environment where meaningful relationships tended to be unstable or transient. 

But it’s as if at the end of the day, fate had something different in store. Or put otherwise even though he did end up in a very long-term romance, at the time he and his significant other got acquainted, the vocalist didn’t truly believe such was possible on his part.

Lyrics for "Papa Was a Rodeo"

Who are The Magnetic Fields?

The Magnetic Fields is the colorful moniker of a pop band from Boston that has been around since the very-late 1980s. This act is fronted by singer/instrumentalist Stephin Merritt, and apparently his homey/bandmate, Claudia Gonson, has also been down for the cause since day one. 

From 1991 to 2020, this group has dropped a dozen albums and experienced some moderate success along the way. 

When was “Papa Was a Rodeo” released?

“Papa Was a Rodeo” was released on 7 September 1999, through Merge Records. The tune was issued as part of The Magnetic Fields’ fifth LP, “69 Love Songs”. 


“Pap Was a Rodeo” was produced and written by Stephin Merritt, who also acted as its vocalist alongside another Magnetic Fields’ member, Shirley Simms.

Papa Was a Rodeo

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