Western Song: El Dorado
El Dorado is the theme song of the 1966 American Western film of the same name starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, directed and produced by Howard Hawks. Nelson Riddle composed and arranged the theme song. Western Writers of America included it in their list of the Top 100 Western Songs of all time.
El Dorado is the second of three films Hawks has directed about a sheriff protecting his office against aggressive outlaw elements in town after Rio Bravo (1959) and before Rio Lobo (1970), all starring Wayne in about the same role.
History and Adaptation
The repeated poem in the film and paraphrased in the theme song is a ballad poem by Edgar Allan Poe, called “Eldorado”.
Many 19th-century composers including the Americans Charles Sanford Skilton, Edgar Stillman Kelley, British composer Richard Henry Walthew, and the London choir by Joseph Harold Hinton, set the poem to music. Composer Jonathan Adams adapted the poems Eldorado, Hymn, and Evening Star as Three Songs from Edgar Allan Poe for SATB chorus and piano. Adams also composed an Eldorado symphony.
In popular music, Donovan used the poem for the lyrics of his song on his 1996 album Sutras. The darkwave band Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows adapted the poem as a song on their 2000 album Songs from the inverted Womb, and again on the album Poetica (All Beauty Sleeps) in 2013.
In the album Braggart stories and dark poems in 2017, Mad Duck recorded a version of Eldorado.
James Caan recites parts of the poems at different times in the 1966 John Wayne film El Dorado. Kiefer Sutherland’s character, Josiah “Doc” Scurlock, in the 1990 movie Young Guns 2, was heard reciting the last stanza for a prostitute and declaring to have written the poem himself. The poem is a central part and was recited in the plot of the horror-comedy film Eldorado in 2012.
Listen to El Dorado (Nelson Riddle Version)
El Dorado Lyrics
In sunshine and shadow, from darkness till noon Over mountains that reach from the sky to the moon A man with a dream that will never let go Keeps searching to find El Dorado So ride, boldly ride, to the end of the rainbow Ride, boldly ride, till you find El Dorado The wind becomes bitter, the sky turns to grey His body grows weary, he can’t find his way But he’ll never turn back, though he’s lost in the snow For he has to find El Dorado So ride, boldly ride, to the end of the rainbow Ride, boldly ride, till you find El Dorado My Daddy once told me what a man ought to be There’s much more to life than the things we can see And the godliest mortal you ever will know Is the one with the dream of El Dorado So ride, boldly ride, to the end of the rainbow Ride, boldly ride, till you find El Dorado