Skip directly to content

Women in the Lyrics

  • Jenniffer_2's picture
    Women in the Lyrics
    says (2011-05-21 07:38)

    Talking to my (girl)friends whom I force Sam on at every opportunity (it's hard keeping this much awesomness all to myself), they all eventually comment on his treatment of women in his music.  "He gets us."  "Oooh, it's like he *knows*..."  "He understands what it means to be a woman"  "Are you sure he's a feller?"

    I see it a little differently.  What I always hear in his music is a respect for (and awe of) the mystery, whether that mystery is a woman, a friendship, or the world at large.

    What do you think?  Is there a particular song that makes you feel like Sam's seen ya nekkid?

    10
Jenniffer_2's picture
on (May 21, 2011)

Talking to my (girl)friends whom I force Sam on at every opportunity (it's hard keeping this much awesomness all to myself), they all eventually comment on his treatment of women in his music.  "He gets us."  "Oooh, it's like he *knows*..."  "He understands what it means to be a woman"  "Are you sure he's a feller?"

I see it a little differently.  What I always hear in his music is a respect for (and awe of) the mystery, whether that mystery is a woman, a friendship, or the world at large.

What do you think?  Is there a particular song that makes you feel like Sam's seen ya nekkid?

Forum category: 
Jenniffer_2's picture

Ophelia was Hamlet's love interest, driven mad by his (feigned?) madness & his (accidental?) murder of her father. She is, as a woman of that time, very much a people-pleaser. She tries to please her father, her brother, the King & Queen, & Hamlet himself, until the balancing and the conflict of trying to please everyone at once drives her into madness.

There's a scene where she talks about flowers, gives flowers to other characters (flowers had meanings in that time, & the flowers she gave to each character conveyed a meaning), & when she drowns herself (accidentally or on purpose, depending on your perspective), she falls into the water with bunches of flowers. Here's the pertinent passage:

http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=ha...

It makes me think that the Gray Stables are the sea (the sound), & the horses are the waves, maybe, when I think of it that way.

Jezebel is lovely. Many blame the whore, but Sam presents her as the victim of men's lust. They devour her and then blame her, project their own self-disgust onto her. He sees her as a goddess worthy of worship.

If he is talking about Ophelia in Gray Stables, there's a parallel there. Some think that Hamlet and Ophelia were lovers, that they were in love prior to the action of the play and that they made love. When Hamlet uses her as part of his plan, he repeatedly accuses her of, basically, being a whore. The rejection is part of her madness (she makes all sorts of sexual comments in her "mad" scene) When she is dead, he is filled with remorse for his treatment of her. Not saying the Lady is Ophelia, but perhaps an Ophelia-like character.

I'm dominating the thread, but I could talk about his poetry all day :) Love digging into the lyrics.

Mit's picture

Wow, brilliant. I enjoy your perspective.
I'm going to read up on Ophelia so I better understand the reference.

Also, I might read up on Jezebel. I enjoy the song tremendously with only a weak understanding of the biblical reference.
As someone who enjoys writing, I feel the power behind saying, "She was certainly the spark for all I've done."
In my loose understanding, Jezebel was not a revered character in the bible. Therefor, the alternate perspective offered in the song is certainly interesting. By modern standards, I might even think to myself, "Jezebel sounds like quite the woman."

Jenniffer_2's picture

Any father whose wife has nursed his baby can relate to "the milk from your breast is on my lips". I think the music is so sensual that my mind can't help but go there. "My hands believe and move...over you..." When I played it for a friend, her immediate reaction was to ask for a cigarette ;)

My favorite mother/son song, though, is Upward Over the Mountain. It always makes me tearful, for both the mother and her son.

Gray Stable is such a mystery to me. I can see so much in it, but no matter which way I turn it, I can't make everything fit. When I read it the way that you're reading it, as two separate women, Brave Lady and My Lady, I can see why you're describing My Lady as vain. The people-pleasing, the comparison to a frail teacup, the reference to her porcelain. I can see the contrast with the Brave Lady who is without shame and gorgeous in her weakness. When I read it that way, I can see your points and the conclusion you draw.

Another way I sometimes look at is that he's talking about one woman, in two different times or states of being. There's lots of drowning imagery in the song that I turn around in my mind. Porcelain brings to mind white skin. Her weightless face evokes a floating feeling. There are wet flowers. "My Lady" is sad, and there are bones floating in the sound. "My Lady" bathes lately all alone. He asks "would you love me if I left her" but if you read the next line as part of the question, he's asking, "Would you love me if I left her laid breathless in the sun." It makes me think of a body literally without breath, or dead. Sometimes I think the Brave Lady is his dead lover and My Lady is when she was alive. I can read it as him having killed her (the bit where he asks, "Could you see me, in the darkness, wait, nameless, like a stone" and the line about the watches by the mattress), but wonder if she killed herself. Maybe the bones in the sound are her sad bones. Like Ophelia. The wet flowers make me think of her.

Mit's picture

Hmmm... Lover, Oedipal. Never considered either. Or never considered lover because then it would get Oedipal? It's "the milk from your breast, is on my lips." A line strong enough to make me feel like he is referring to a mother's love the whole time.
Either way, the emotion is very raw, the words are masterfully organized.

Getting back to the topic of women, while it may not reflect Sam's attitude toward women, in "Gray Stables" he asks, "would you love me, if I left her."
Do you think his inspiration for this song was the thought of what he would do if he were stuck with a vein woman?
Choosing to trade her for someone more genuine?

Growing wiser and learning when to say, "She's just not right for me," is a tough skill to grasp.

Jenniffer_2's picture

Sea & the Rhythm is a favorite of mine, as well. I love the overlap of mother & lover imagery. The first time I heard it, I was awestruck by how naturally he was able to present that relationship. Very natural, primal...Oedipal, and yes, sacred. Gorgeous expression of that ancient story.

Mit's picture

From a male perspective, I have an observation to make on a favorite song of mine.
In "Sea and the Rhythm" there are 3 elements(in my interpretation); the sea (environment), the mother, the narrator. What I enjoy are the correlations between the mother and the sea. Naturally, they already have beautiful correlations, such as the bounty of the sea as it relates to the love of a mother, however the words "Your hands they move like waves, over me" definitely offers memories that may be the most beautiful any of us will ever have.
Also notable, my favorite line, which also stirs pleasant memories, as well as painting a gorgeous picture of a mothers love: "the scent of your long black hair, spread out like your breath, across my back." The feeling I get from that imagery is something similar to scared.

yutzie's picture

I agree with "A vision"'s comment. Something I might add is that Sam's wife is a mid-wife, and he has five children... all girls. He most definately respects women and all that you do and who you are. Look for a song called "Beauty and a Family" on youtube. Listen to the lyrics. Beautiful.

Jenniffer_2's picture

Yay! I was feeling lonely :)

You do feel that respect in so many of his songs. I like that it doesn't feel inflated or overblown. He doesn't put women on a pedestal, but seems to embrace them in their various roles, realistically, warts and all. Sometimes it feels like the warts are where the beauty lies. You mentioned Upward Over the Mountain. His treatment of the mother, for instance, is so forgiving even as he's dealing with her disappointment. It's so tender and plaintive. Just lovely :)

A Vision to Remove Dimension's picture

What I see in Sam when he uses women that aren't religious dictions are the women in his life - Passing Afternoon, Upwards Over the Mountain, Trapeze Swinger (and countless others). It's clear he's been raised with great respect for women, and believes in the ethics a woman supports - a woman's right to independence, for example (in Passing Afternoon: "And she's chosen where to be, though she's lost her wedding ring").

Jenniffer_2's picture

Alright, I'll start. One of his songs that gets under my skin (in a good way...in a shuttering, stuttering, glorious way, actually) is Faded from the Winter.

Daddy's ghost behind you
Sleeping dog beside you
You're a poem of mystery
You're the prayer inside me

Oof. How does he *do* that?