Song Analysis – “Under the Bridge” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner
Sometimes I feel like my only friend
Is the city I live in, the city of angels
Lonely as I am, together we cry

I drive on her streets because she’s my companion
I walk through her hill because she knows who I am
She sees my good deeds and she kisses me windy
I never worry, now that is a lie

I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way
I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way

It’s hard to believe that there’s nobody out there
It’s hard to believe that I’m all alone
At least I have her love, the city she loves me
Lonely as I am, together we cry

I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way
I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way

(Under the bridge downtown)
Is where I drew some blood
(Under the bridge downtown)
I could not get enough
(Under the bridge downtown)
Forgot about my love
(Under the bridge downtown)
I gave my life away.

[I must confess that I seriously misunderstood this song. I read it as a tribute to Los Angeles. I thought the day that the speaker refers to was the day of the 1992 Rodney King riots in L.A. But the song was released a month before the riots, so that interpretation doesn’t make sense. However, there is an aspect of paying homage to the city of Los Angeles within the song, so I wasn’t totally off-base.

Vocalist Anthony Kiedis describes a special kinship he felt with the city of Los Angeles, “I felt an unspoken bond between me and my city. I’d spent so much time wandering through the streets of L.A. and hiking through the Hollywood Hills that I sensed there was a nonhuman entity, maybe the spirit of the hills and the city, who had me in her sights and was looking after me.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_The_Bridge.

The title comes from a specific incident in Kiedis’s life in which he pretended to belong to a gang so that he could buy drugs from a gang-controlled site under an L.A. bridge. (Kiedis has never specified exactly where this occurred, and that is probably for the best.) He felt considerably lonely after quitting drugs and breaking off ties with his drug contacts. Yet he still believed himself to be far better off sober than he was as a user, saying, “no matter how sad or lonely I got, things were a million percent better than they were two years earlier when I was using drugs all the time.” (Ibid.)

An interesting musical feature of this song is the choir that comes in at the end. The effect of the choir is to give the song a dramatic, almost gospel tone.

Another remarkable aspect of the song is its therapeutic effect on its listeners. Several commentators on SongMeanings http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/13117/ relate how they have connected emotionally with this song. Many find that listening to the tune helps them cope with loneliness, depression, and difficulties. ]

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