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The Meaning of Some Indigo Girls Lyrics

Blood and Fire
It is a very intense and emotional song and Amy does not perform it anymore because she does not want to revisit the feelings that went into writing (and performing) the song. She has stated that if she were to sing the song now, it would be dishonest.

"It's a love song," Amy said about "Blood and Fire." she fidgeted. "It's about a relationship that was important to me in a self-destructive way. It took a long time to write it, a couple of years to get through it. It expresses a kind of love that a lot of people feel at one time in their lives. It's the obsessive compulsive love, which is very, very dangerous."

"Caramia" is an Italian term of affection that means "my dear".

"['Caramia' is] actually two songs that were put together... I just came up with the opening chord riff and wrote the song around it. It's two sections - one is about the relationship that's totally screwed up, the other is from a dream that actually our bass player Sara Lee had and told me about - and so I put the dream in with the other reflections for the song, and it just came out as it is." ~Emily

Cedar Tree
"I was walking around up in north Georgia, in the mountains, and I came upon this settlement from the 1830's and there were all these cedar trees planted around these old chimneys. And a friend of my father's said that back in those days a husband would plant a tree for every wife he'd had and so I wrote a song about it, 'cause there were bunch of trees up there." ~Amy

In the "Rites of Passage" press kit Amy said, "This is a real person, an older guy who lives in a trailer in the middle of this junkyard off the highway somewhere between Houston and Austin. There's a big sign that says 'CHICKEN MAN'. It looks like everything's for sale, but you'll ask about something and he'll say, 'Oh that's not for sale.' We got into a conversation, and some of his values and ideas seemed incredibly comforting to me at the time. It was the way he'd look out over this piece of land and take such pride and satisfaction in this collection of junk! This guy was deep, he had layers of character underneath that rough skin and dirt. 'Chickenman' is really a stream-of-consciousness type song."

"Median cats" refers to cats which Amy and Emily have seen in the median strips of highways while driving. In an interview on Atlanta radio station WREK in 1988 Emily said, "You know what else we've noticed? There are cats in the medians all over the highways." Amy added, "They're called median cats."

In a stream-of-consciousness during "Chickenman" in London in November 1994, Amy said, "On the way out west, I saw a cat in the median and I tried to catch it...but it got hit by a car..."

Cut it Out
Darwin's Theory, is a bar in Anchorage, Alaska. "The 48s" is a term used to refer to the forty-eight contiguous US states (i.e. all the states minus Alaska and Hawaii).

Dead Man's Hill
"The point of view shifts back and forth from child to adult. In some ways the song is directed to my parents - that's why I asked my dad to sing on it. It's like I'm saying, 'When things are bad I may not be able to ask for your help, but I'll let you know they're bad!'" ~Amy

"Dead Man's Hill" was inspired by an experience that Amy had when she was very young; she saw some high school boys douse cats with gasoline and light them on fire. It was, in her words, her "first exposure to real evil."

"Deconstruction," says Emily, "is about a relationship that just gets picked apart and analyzed and thrown away. It's about the desecration of the simple and good parts of love."

Don't Give that Girl a Gun
"It's real direct. I'm not quite sure everything I meant by it, but it's kind of a tortured love song. It's literal, and most people know what it's about. It's a breakup song, and it's also a love song. It's a 'don't let go' song, that's what I'd call it, and it's sad. But it wasn't supposed to be as sad as it is. It's kind of a drag." ~Amy

Everything In Its Own Time
"I also love 'Everything In Its Own Time' because it's so different. The writing style reminds me of old Emily, when we first met. It's a certain kind of ballad-- melodramatic, with Hispanic-sounding chord changes. She used to write more like that in the old days, when we were first playing together." ~Amy

Fare Thee Well
"I mean, if my voice came into Fare Thee Well (performed solo by Emily on Swamp Ophelia) it would be like this elephant stepping through a china cabinet you know...ggrrrrr." ~Amy Ray

"In "Fugitive" it's obvious I'm talking about a girl." ~Amy

"'Fugitive' is... kind of a love song, but it's also, you know, it's very abstract. It's me, the struggle within myself and the struggle with someone else to create commitment in a world of this - of the music industry, which is really kind of screwy. And the idea of invading privacy and-- it's about freedom, really, and about the ability to be free." ~Amy

"I think I feel things very deeply," Emily said. "I think a lot about love and relationships, so I write about it. When I was writing 'Ghost,' I was thinking about the experience of never being able to get over someone in particular and being haunted forever and how endless and painful yet powerful that is. I think a lot of people have had that experience and continue to have it."

Hey Kind Friend
"Yeah, it's a friendship song. It's not just to her, though (Ani DiFranco). I hooked up with her ensemble for a few days because our bassist Sara Lee was playing with them. I got to know Ani better through that experience. It was a hard time in my life and I went out with them for about a week. They kind of saved me, that whole group. And I didn't know them well. Sometimes what you need is the company of strangers. So that song was written in reflection of that time... Ani, she's a good girl." ~Amy

The tune playing in "Hey Kind Friend" is a cornet solo. It's the hymn "This Is My Father's World" (also known as "This Is Our Father's House"). The tune is also picked up by the dulcimer near the end of the song.

I Don't Wanna Know
At the end of "I Don't Wanna Know" Amy and Michelle Malone are talking. It is very hard to make out what they are saying although Michelle can be heard saying, "Hey, hey, get off the stage," "Loosen up," and "I can't talk to ya, I gotta go - I gotta go, okay." Either Amy or Michelle also says, "Over one billion served."

It's Alright
"I think when I was writing 'It's Alright' I was just thinking about forms of oppression against people, and the way gay people are oppressed. I think rather than trying to say it in a poetic way, I came out and said it plain and straight, you know, there are those of you out there, 'You might hate me because I'm gay.' I just thought of it as stating the facts, and why a song comes to you at a certain time instead of another time is a mystery but, you know, there it is." ~Emily

Jonas and Ezekiel
"We played Dartmouth College and met some real free thinkers up there. I took a long bike ride on Highway 5, on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, and this song uses references from that and from earlier road trips-- things I heard in conversation, things from the news... It's a political song about people who put their faith in prophesy, who're walking toward disaster instead of doing anything about it." ~Amy

Jonas and Ezekial are names that Amy saw on tombstones in a slave cemetery. They are possibly also references to the biblical characters of the same name, although the names are spelt differently in different translations of the Bible.

The "activist with a very short life" is a reference to Bob Sheldon, the owner of Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Sheldon was an active anti-war activist at the time of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He was shot while alone in his store on February 21, 1991.

Kid Fears
"I wrote Kid Fears thinking about a few of my friends that had been through very painful experiences when they were young-- abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse-- by parents or friends or, you know, peers in school. And I was comparing that to the fact that the things that I was afraid of as a child you know was the ghost under the bed, it wasn't my dad coming in to beat me up, and there's a big difference between that." ~Amy

Leeds is a city in northern England.

Emily: "Yeah... that song is about a love that, like two people come from totally different parts of the spectrum, or however you want to voice it, and I was trying to create tension with that verse. And I was trying to juxtapose the brutality of a pirate, and that strength and force and masculinity or whatever it was, with the sort of subdued quality, or listening ear of the person who's taken in by that and how it all meshes together... I was just sort of trying to mix those images together."

"It was a great experience. There's a really new, hip scene there, different from the country scene. I had lived there for a year before and it was really terrible. There was a lot of prejudice. But that city goes through phases. This time when we went back, there was more of a bohemian perspective. But you're never going to get rid of what k.d. doesn't like, which is the cliques and the really paranoid atmosphere. You get caught up in that. There are just so many songwriters, so many musicians." ~Amy

"This is a song from 1984 which never exactly fit in with an album before. I wrote it when I was in college at Vanderbilt University, not exactly a hotbed of liberalism. In fact, there were some very racist and sexist things happening on that campus, and I found the city reflected those same qualities to an extent... As a songwriter trying to be heard, I found it extremely competitive and oppressive. As a Southerner, I feel free to criticize from 'within the family.' I could say some of the same things about Atlanta that I'm saying here about Nashville." ~Amy

Our Deliverance
(3/4/02 - Stanford Univ.) She wrote "our deliverance" to serve as a commentary of the events of Sept. 11 and her opinion about war: "they're sending soldiers to distant places/x's and o's on someone's drawing board/light green and plastic with human faces/and they want to tell you it's a merciful sword."

(3/8/02 CNN) Saliers: "[I'm] just thinking of a song 'Our Deliverance,' that was greatly affected by the events in our country September 11. It's actually a song for a call to peace, saying that war doesn't work; it's never worked since the beginning of humankind. And the song starts out on a very personal note. At this point in life, hopefully I can see patterns emerging, and how faith guides your life when you don't know how you can control things and make them work and fit the pieces, but if you have faith, good things are going to come.

(3/21/02 Univ. Wire) Emily: "A song like 'Our Deliverance' (from 'Become You') really speaks more to where my faith is now. My faith is the guiding thing in my life, above all else. It doesn't have to be a particular faith - Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or whatever. I don't have to put a name on it. But I do feel I need a community to share it with

(GIRLFRIENDS MAGAZINE) Emily: "'Our Deliverance' started out as a personal song and then became more of an outcry against the devastation of war, how violence doesn't work, and how we've got to find a way to do it different."

Philosophy of Loss
(Online chat transcript, 2000) Emily: "The inspiration was particularly about the church rejecting gay people and how hurtful that is to me as an individual, a gay person. It was just about the way we as a society or a culture rationalize our loss or the destruction that we create. It was a hidden track because originally, Amy wanted to make a pretty short record and as it was, we had twelve complete songs. But I was so attached to that song personally that we decided to make it a hidden track. So, we got the song on the album without making it part of the concise whole of 12 songs. I also like the idea that you've got the CD on, and you're listening, and it's just there. It's a nice surprise."

Pushing the Needle too Far
"This song deals with alienation and the way we sometimes numb ourselves to things. Obviously, the needle suggests a drug analogy, but it's also like the needle on a meter. But it's a symbol, not a literal usage like Neil Young's 'The Needle and the Damage Done'. It's about the things people do to numb themselves to the pain of their situation." ~Amy

"I went to my high school reunion about a year and a half ago... It was a weird and ambivalent experience, because I had actually had a good time in high school and Emily didn't. So I went expecting the best and... I had this friend, sort of, that I went around with. Every time I would go up to someone and give 'em a hug or shake their hand or something, my friend would take me over to the side of the room and say, 'You know, that person you just hugged over there, they hated you in high school and made fun of you every day.' And I was like, 'Shit!' So I just learned-- I chalked it up to experience and felt like it didn't really matter and I could be friends with anybody anyway. So this is a song about faith in yourself." ~Amy

Amy's lyrics examine "that loss of youthful fire, the end of that period when you broke the boundaries, when you ran as hard as you could. You got older and started to temper yourself 'cause you thought that was the way to fit in. But in doing that, people seemed to shy away from their really good experiences and to dramatize the bad things. 'Faith is one thing that's hard to deliver'- that's really the crux of the song. "Musically, it was real simple. Emily and I did the arrangement, and we put in a modulation, almost a turn-of-the-century waltz type thing. We cut it live with Jerry and Sara, then the Roches sang what we call the la-la section, then Michael Lorant sang his part. Danny Thompson put on the stand-up bass when we sent him a tape in England, and Emily played the bouzouki."

Romeo and Juliet
"Romeo and Juliet" was written by Mark Knopfler and can be found on Dire Straits' 1980 album "Making Movies."

In a November 1994 interview Amy said that she had learned a lot of the songs from "Making Movies". "I used to play in a hotel lounge. I thought ['Romeo and Juliet'] was an incredibly well written song and I could relate to it at the time for some reason. It just kinda grew and changed over the years." At the time, she said she had never spoken to Mark about the song and said, "I wouldn't even want to know what he thinks."

Scooter Boys
"I don't have anything against scooter boys. But it's an image of England to me... I was referring to the idea of England as an imperialist country. And Argentina as a country that was colonized. I mean, I'm talking about colonization." ~Amy

"Well, it's sort of a personal song that turned into a political song, you know. Imperialism, and such. We did a lot of stuff in the last couple of years on indigenous rights, in North America, and in Mexico. I think a lot of people in the US don't think about the fact that Central and South America having similar situations with colonialism, etc. You may be a Spanish-speaking South American person, but you could be someone who is a colonizer just as easily as, you know, in North America, we, the white people, are colonizers. So it's kind of like the same dynamics, almost down there. It's interesting to recognize the patterns, because it presents itself to you, I think, when you're becoming politicized, you recognize what's driving them is greed. And money. And the power structure of corporations is what's driving them at this point. And so, I think in that song I was trying to say, look, I'm a person from a blue blood, I come from privilege, and I'm just as bad as the next person. I reap the benefits of what we've done to these people" ~Amy

"I feel like it's a fact that I have a legacy of destruction in my bloodline. But it doesn't mean that you have to continue it. I mean, we've benefited from it. We have all these resources at our fingertips, and we have wealth and shelter and food and everything you can imagine, and it's like, recognize that you're benefiting from something, bad, but don't let it continue, I think is what I'm saying. I think the song is really attacking the idea of the raping of the land for resources. Stealing from the best. We all think we're the wisest and the best, and that the corporations and the profits and all this stuff is progress, that it's the best way to go, but it's not, necessarily. There's a lot to be said for the things we leave behind, and the things that we don't understand anymore in our traditions." ~Amy

"Well, "Scooter Boys and Argentineans" was a really important moment for me. It was completely improv. I hadn't finished the song, Emily didn't know it at all, Andy Stochansky [Ani DiFranco's drummer] was playing drums with us that day and had never heard it. We just started playing and all of a sudden we got into this groove. I said, "Turn the tape recorder on" and we recorded it-- that's the song you hear on the album. So there are sentimental reasons why that song is really close to me." ~Amy

Secure Yourself
"Secure Yourself" is about the spiritual journey into heaven. The song was inspired by Amy's grief when one of her cats died.

Shame On You
"I saw this really cool movie called Displaced In The New South [by Atlanta filmmaker David Zeiger], and there was a whole section of it about Gainesville, and the poultry industry there and then later on down the road I had heard they were starting to crack down on illegal immigrants up there, working at these factories. But they hassled everyone, and to me, it's like, God, how hypocritical can you get? You're running this chicken [company], you're raking in the millions, you're hiring people for low wages, they have terrible work conditions and the city's making money off it, and at the same time the city's going, 'What are all these illegal immigrants doing here?' What do you think they're doing?! They're working, because somebody else doesn't want the job. All these people complain that all these jobs are being taken away and stuff like that, well, those people are the people that are willing to do it. I don't know enough about it to spout off about it, but that's what I see from the outside." ~Amy

Amy is referring to The Pixies' 1989 album, "Doolittle" (the title is spelled wrongly in the album lyrics). On "World Cafe" in May 1997 she explained, "['Shame on You'] is about the importance of the beauty of, like, ethnic things in our life... I was listening to the Pixies' album "Doolittle" and Van Morrison and all these things one day, when my friends were over. They have a window washing company, and they were, like, giving me a present, to wash my windows, and we were all hanging, and it's like all of a sudden, it turned into this song about immigration, I don't know what happened."

Shaming of the Sun
In an interview in the May 1997 issue of the Atlanta magazine "Poets, Artists and Madmen" Emily said, "It's from a Native American legend... I was looking through a book of Native American myths and legends, and that title just struck me. It's a legend from two different tribes. It's the story of how the sun came to be in the sky. And I just thought it was evocative."

Shed Your Skin
"I wrote 'Shed Your Skin' after my breakup as a song to my ex-girlfriend about how important it is to go do your thing and celebrate it and celebrate yourself. The growth we experience through all that pain is really important. The Indian stuff enters into it because it was happening at the same time and there were some of the same sentiments. My dedication to activism took away from my relationship. I found it important to say, 'Look, what I've been involved with has given me some freedom in my heart and soul that I've never experienced. You should find the same thing.'" ~Amy

Amy is referring to the number of poisonous snakes that exist in the United States. (Out of 115 varieties of snakes that are native to North America, 17 are venomous.)

In addition, at a show at Penn State University on April 15, 1997, Emily stated that the phrase "shaming of the sun" was taken from a Tunica legend. The Tunica (or more accurately, the Tunica-Biloxi tribal nation) are a Native American tribe located in Louisiana.

Strange Fire
As in all Indigo Girls songs, specific symbolism is left as an open question. For example, some believe "strange fire" is a reference to the Christian celebration of Pentecost (the empowerment of the 12 apostles by the Holy Spirit), while others see a reference to Milton. There are countless interpretations; however, most center about a common theme, that of an ineffable spirit which can strengthen and actuate those who possess it.

Swamp Ophelia
While on vacation in Florida, Amy went on a nature walk and saw a plant called swampophilia. In a 1994 interview she said, "It made me think of Hamlet and Ophelia and the swamp. But it all kind of mixes in together." However, there does not actually seem to be a plant called swampophilia; it's possible that the phrase came entirely from Amy's imagination.

The Girl With The Weight of the World in her Hands
"The bottom line is, we never know what someone is really going through inside. The loneliest people are those we tend to avoid the most. This is about wanting to overcome that feeling in myself and trying to get closer to someone in that situation, someone I might usually shy away from." ~Emily

This Train
"I went to the Holocaust Museum and it really affected me. There's a lot now that's being uncovered about the homosexual experience of the Holocaust and how it affected those survivors. At the Museum it's made very clear that although Jews were by far the main victims of the Holocaust, there were many others, too. I really need to write about these feelings. I wanted to talk about human nature, I didn't want to lay blame." ~Amy

Touch Me Fall
"It is very abstract. I don't think it is easy to understand the meaning of it because I don't really either. I just kind of let it all come out. It is sort of about decomposition in general. Decomposition of love, life and fame. Everything. It is the beauty of decomposition and I am tying it into the fall, meaning the season." ~Amy

Three Hits
"A music friend of mine sent me a book of his poetry, 'The Light the Dead See,' and I went crazy over it-- it changed my life a little. I was reading some biographical notes on Stanford and learned that he'd committed suicide in the early 80's at age 30-- he shot himself three times in the heart. That image really stuck with me. So I used images from his poems and his life: that he was adopted, that he left his wife behind..." ~Amy

Tried to Be True
"'Tried to Be True' was inspired by... the contrast of having a relationship where you're trying to be true, and also the relationship that you have with the music industry where you're trying to be true and not compromising in either way..." ~Amy

1200 Curfews
"1200 Curfews" stands for "Twelve Hundred Curfews", rather than "Twelve O'Clock Curfews." This refers to the fact that Indigo Girls had played approximately 1200 concerts between the start of their career and the time the album was released. Each concert had a curfew, to which Amy and Emily were often running close. As Amy says after "Closer to Fine" on the album, "We've gotta go, we've got a curfew!"

World Falls
Sejarez, whom Amy mentions in "World Falls", is not a real person; he was a character (possibly some kind of philosopher) that appeared in one of Amy's dreams.

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