The Eyes of Texas

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UT Students and Football players singing The Eyes of Texas after a win versus Nebraska

"The Eyes of Texas" is the school spirit song of the University of Texas at Austin. It is set to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University sing the song at Longhorn sports games, before the fireworks and other events.


The Eyes of Texas at a University of Texas basketball game
The Eyes of Texas after a University of Texas baseball game

John Sinclair wrote the Texas-specific song lyrics in 1903 to the tune of the original folk song, "I've Been Working on the Railroad," that was published nine years earlier in 1894. Sinclair was the editor of the Cactus yearbook and a UT band member, and he wrote the lyrics per the request of band member Lewis Johnson. Johnson was also the program director of the Varsity Minstrel Show that raised funds for the university track team. He debuted the song at the minstrel show. [1]

The lyrics are said to be intended to poke fun at University President William Lambdin (Colonel) Prather. Prather had attended Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, whose president, Robert E. Lee, would frequently tell his students, "the eyes of the South are upon you." Prather was known for including in his speeches a similar admonition, "The eyes of Texas are upon you," meaning that the state of Texas was watching and expecting the students to go out and do great things. Prather enjoyed the song and promoted its usage. He died not long thereafter, and the song was played at his funeral.

The song is sung at momentous occasions such as graduation and even solemn occasions such as funerals. Led by the Longhorn Marching Band, it was sung at the July 14, 2007, funeral of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, an alumna of the University of Texas.[1][2] When singing the song, participants generally raise their right arm with their hand making the Hook 'em Horns symbol of The University.[2] A recording of "The Eyes of Texas" was played over the Rose Bowl public-address system when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills to win Super Bowl XXVII, while Madison Square Garden organist Ray Castoldi played it when the Houston Rockets defeated the New York Knicks in the seventh game of the 1994 NBA Finals to clinch Texas' first NBA championship.

Highway rest stops through the state feature road signs stating that "The Eyes of Texas are upon You!" These signs feature a silhouette of a Texas Ranger, encouraging motorists to call 9-1-1 to report criminal activity.

The Eyes of Texas was once the fight song of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). In 1920, UTEP was known as College of Mines and Metallurgy of the University of Texas (sometimes referred to as "Texas College of Mines," or "TCM"). As a branch of the University of Texas, the song automatically became TCM's fight song. It was replaced by Marty Robbins's "El Paso" in 1985.[3][4]

The Eyes of Texas is also sung at the graduation of University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). UTMB is the first, but not the only state medical school. [2]

The song originally appeared in the "Carmina Princetonia: The Princeton Song Book" as "Levee Song." It combines both the "Eyes of Texas" and "Texas Fight."[citation needed]


The wording of the song is as follows.[5]

The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn --
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
Til Gabriel blows his horn.

As stated, the lyrics are set to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." It is common practice that the last line, "Til Gabriel blows his horn," is sung and played to a slightly slower beat than the rest of the song. Students, faculty, staff, athletes, and alum punctuate each beat of the last line with a small chopping motion of their right raised arm and "Hook 'Em" hand sign.


In June 2020, several players on the University of Texas at Austin football team requested that the university replace the song with one "without racist undertones."[6][7] Although University of Texas football players Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams pefer to keep the song as is.[8]

Campbell was quoted to say

"I'm proud of that song,” ~ “I think there's a lot of things that can be done other than that song in my opinion. I just believe 'The Eyes of Texas' stands for something."[8]

and Williams was quoted as saying

"I think it's important to understand our history and to understand where the song came from, but I think it's more powerful to transform the meaning of the song and the definition of the song rather than trying to erase our history like it never existed,”[8]

Following those request, interim UT president Jay Hartzell announced that the song would remain as the alma mater but that the university would work to "reclaim and redefine" the song by openly acknowledging its history.[9][10][11]

Usage in popular culture[edit]

Appearances in film[edit]

Other uses[edit]

  • Sung at Texas Bluebonnet Girls State, as part of the flag ceremony medley.
  • On November 7, 2019, Gucci Mane performed a trap version of the song on the special taping of the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at the University of Texas at Austin.

Appearances in other songs[edit]

  • The song forms the chorus portion of "VI. Chorale and Finale" from Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities.[5]
  • The rock group Masters of Reality uses the title in the lyrics of their song "The Eyes of Texas", on their 1989 self-titled debut album.
  • The Aggie War Hymn references the song with the lyrics "'The Eyes of Texas are upon you', that is the song they sing so well (sounds like hell)".
  • The opening fanfare of "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" features Alabama's vocalists – accompanied by just a piano – singing a few bars of "The Eyes of Texas." This introduction leads into the single's opening, which suddenly picks up the tempo to a quick duple-meter.
  • The Christmas song "Santa Got Lost In Texas" is based on the melody, with lyrics rewritten by Ken Darby. It was introduced by Michael Landon in the LP "Bonanza - Christmas On The Ponderosa" in 1963. The Jeff Carson version became a national chart record in early 1996.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger uses a rewritten version in the opening credits " the eyes of the Ranger are upon you every wrong you do he's gonna see"


  1. ^ Holley, Joe (July 15, 2007). "Lady Bird Johnson is remembered". Washington Post. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Lady Bird Johnson Funeral - The Eyes of Texas". Retrieved August 3, 2007.
  3. ^ Calderon, Damiane (January 31, 1985). "Robbins Hit to Replace Fight Song". Prospector.
  4. ^ "UTEP Spirit". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  5. ^ "Texas Longhorns Athletics - Traditions: 'The Eyes of Texas'". Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  6. ^ "✊🏾"What starts here changes the world" #WeAreOne". Twitter.
  7. ^ Cramer, Maria; Diaz, Johnny (June 13, 2020). "Texas Football Players Call on University to Drop a Song Steeped in Racist History". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Young, Matt (September 9, 2020). "Earl Campbell still supports his school's 'Eyes of Texas' song". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  9. ^ Kercheval, Ben (July 13, 2020). "Texas will keep 'Eyes of Texas' as alma mater, rename field after former Heisman Trophy winners". CBS Sports. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  10. ^ Oxner, Reese (July 13, 2020). "UT will keep 'Eyes of Texas,' but will rename buildings as Black students call for change". CBS Austin. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  11. ^ Cramer, Maria (July 14, 2020). "University of Texas Won't Drop Song With Racist History as Players Requested". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  1. ^ "It's a Century Later, and the Eyes of Texas are Still Upon You" Support UT news story from March 2003 concerning the centennial of The Eyes of Texas
  2. ^ Film review of "Giant" - Accessed 20 March 2006
  3. ^ The Alamo - Accessed 20 March 2006
  4. ^ "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Excellence Award Winners"
  5. ^ P.D.Q. Bach. "VI. Chorus and Finale". Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities. CD. Telarc CD-80239, 1990.

External links[edit]