"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" is a pop song written by Lee Hazlewood and recorded by Nancy Sinatra. It was released on February 22, 1966, and hit No. 1 in the United States Billboard Hot 100 and in the UK Singles Chart.
Subsequently, many cover versions of the song have been released in a range of styles: metal, pop, rock, punk rock, country, dance, and industrial. Jessica Simpson, Geri Halliwell, Jewel, Operation Ivy and KMFDM also released covers of the song.
The second single taken from her debut album Boots, and follow-up to the minor hit "So Long, Babe," the song became an instant success. In late February 1966, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a move it replicated in similar charts across the world.
When the single was first released, some thought it had to do with the subway strike in New York.That same year, Sinatra recorded an early music video for the song. It was produced by Color-Sonics, and played on Scopitone video jukeboxes. In 1986, for the song's twentieth anniversary, cable station VH1 played this music video.
Nancy Sinatra was encouraged by Lee Hazlewood to sing the song as if she were "a sixteen-year-old girl who fucks truck drivers." Sinatra's recording of the song was made with the help of Los Angeles session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. This session included Hal Blaine on drums, Al Casey, Tommy Tedesco, and Billy Strange on guitars, Ollie Mitchell, Roy Caton and Lew McCreary on horns, Carol Kaye on electric bass, and Chuck Berghofer on double bass, providing the notable bass line.
According to Carol Kaye, "Arranger Billy Strange believed in using the two basses together. Producer Lee Hazlewood asked Chuck to put a sliding run on the front of the tune. Chuck complied by playing notes about three tones apart (4-6 frets apart), but Lee stopped the take. 'No Chuck, make your sliding notes closer together', and that is what you hear."
According to Al Casey, "Well, Lee and I had been friends forever, and he said, 'I've got this song I'm working on, and I want the guitar to play this.' And he showed me, because there's a little bit more than banging on an 'E-chord', which is what most people do. There's more to it than that. He said, 'I want you to do this on the song,' and he sang the song and played the rhythm guitar lick, and I went 'Oh, that's cute!', little suspecting it was gonna be huge."
Nancy Sinatra would later record one of Don Lanier's songs on her 1969 album Nancy. Nick Bonney was the guitarist for the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
In 2006, Pitchfork Media selected it as the 114th best song of the 1960s. Critic Tom Breihan described the song as "maybe the finest bitchy kiss-off in pop history".
The song was used in a number of ways related to the Vietnam War:
- During television news coverage in 1966/67, the song was aired as a soundtrack as the cameras focused on US Infantrymen on patrol during the Vietnam War.
- In 1966 and 1967 Sinatra traveled to Vietnam to perform for the troops. Many US soldiers adopted the song as their anthem, as shown in Pierre Schoendoerffer's academy award winning documentary The Anderson Platoon (1967).
- The song's popularity with US Infantrymen in Vietnam was reprised in a scene in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987).
- Sinatra played herself, re-enacting her 1960s performance of the song in Vietnam, in episode 6 (June 1988) of the television show China Beach.
- In 2005, Paul Revere & the Raiders recorded a revamped version of the song using Sinatra's original vocal track. It appeared on the CD Ride to the Wall, Vol. 2, with proceeds going to help Vietnam veterans.
- Variation of title used in dialog for Four for Texas, Frank Sinatra's character says "They tell me those boots ain't built for walking" when Dean Martin's character is walking back towards him after trying to get away. At the end of the scene when Dean's character gets the drop on Frank's, he says "And you're right about those boots. They sure ain't made for walking."
Goodyear Tire and Rubber used portions of the song for its 1960s' ad campaign promoting its "wide boots" tires. Nancy Sinatra unsuccessfully sued Goodyear for using the song, claiming that it had violated her publicity rights. In the 1997 film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, the Fembots were introduced to the strains of the opening and closing notes of the song.