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‘Forgotten’ music: Riders in the Sky sing about struggles in the ‘magical’ West

There’s something about a Western song that captures the attention of Ranger Doug Green.

The legendary group Riders in the Sky will perform a show that benefits the International Western Music Association. (Courtesy of Frontier Management)

“You don’t necessarily have to live that type of life to understand,” he says. “The songs that survive are that ones that have a common thread. It’s about perseverance. We all struggle through life at times.”

Green is a member of the legendary Western group Riders in the Sky. Rounding out the band are Fred LaBour, aka Too Slim, Woody Paul Chrisman and Joey Miskulin.

The band has been making music since 1977 and is still celebrating the 40th anniversary of its existence. The quartet will perform on July 26 at the African American Performing Arts Center as a benefit for the International Western Music Association.

Riders in the Sky are known for its family-friendly style, which appeals to children. In fact, they had a children’s show that aired on CBS for one season.

They have won two Grammy Awards and written music for movies, most notably “Woody’s Roundup” from “Toy Story 2” and music for Pixar’s short film “For the Birds.”

Green says that although production of original music has slowed, touring remains the same for the band.

“Songwriting is a young person’s game, and we’ve all tried to keep our hand in it,” he says. “We’ve tried to continue to write. We’ve come up with fewer original tracks, but we’re still coming up with some original comedy for the shows.”

After more than 40 years of performing, Green says what gets him out of bed is being able to introduce new generations to the band’s music.

“We start off with music that has been forgotten,” he says. “We’re getting out there and showing them why these songs are great. Sure, we put our Riders in the Sky twist on everything so that every generation can relate to it.”

One aspect of his career that he doesn’t enjoy much is the travel.

“I like to travel in the sense that I get to revisit old places and see some new ones,” he says. “I’m not that fond of airports anymore, but it’s better than getting hitched up in a wagon and traveling that way. Imagine that.”

The performance in Albuquerque for Green and crew is a long time coming, and he is looking forward to getting out West.

“We feel at home in the West, for obvious reasons,” he says. “There’s something magical about being out there. It’s like two different worlds manage to coexist.”

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