It’s a cold, cold wind…

My daughter requested that I blog about this song – it is her favorite Elton John song.  I’m quite fond of it, too.

American Triangle is about the death of Matthew Shephard, a gay college student from Wyoming who was brutally murdered in 1998.  I remember hearing about this when it happened – I was shocked and disturbed.  Actually, horrified would be more accurate.

Matthew Shepard

Only 22, Matthew was brutalized and tortured by two men (and I use that term very loosely), tied to a fence and left to die.  He was discovered 18 hours later, mistaken for a scarecrow.  He died 3 days later.


The song was originally titled “American Tragedy.”   To say the least.

‘Western skies’ don’t make it right
‘Home of the brave’ don’t make no sense
I’ve seen a scarecrow wrapped in wire
Left to die on a high ridge fence
It’s a cold, cold wind
It’s a cold, cold wind
It’s a cold wind blowing, Wyoming

It’s painful to hear those words, knowing this happened in America.

The song came out in 2001, three years after Matthew’s death.  I remember reading a review of “Songs from the West Coast,” and the reviewer was describing this song as preachy.  Oh come on.  Elton has said that Matthew’s death truly disturbed him and he wanted to do a song in tribute, so he asked Bernie to write the words.

I find the lyrics quite moving (even though they are painfully, brutally specific) and the melody appropriately haunting.  The sadness and anger is palpable in Elton’s vocals.  And the background harmonies by Rufus Wainwright are a perfect match to Elton’s voice.

See two coyotes run down a deer
Hate what we don’t understand

That last line says it all, doesn’t it?  If we could just stop hating, even – and especially – when we don’t understand.  Please.

American Triangle

American Triangle (Songs from the West Coast – 2001)