Song Analysis “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a, bed of roses
Sink me in the river, at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Uh oh, uh oh

Lord make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh and
Life ain’t always what you think it ought to be, no
Ain’t even gray, but she buries her baby

The sharp knife of a short life, well
I’ve had, just enough time

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a, bed of roses
Sink me in the river, at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

The sharp knife of a short life, well
I’ve had, just enough time

And I’ll be wearing white, when I come into your kingdom
I’m as green as the ring on my little, cold finger, I’ve
Never known the lovin’ of a man
But it sure felt nice when he was holding my hand, there’s a
Boy here in town says he’ll, love my forever
Who would have thought forever could be severed by
The sharp knife of a short life, well
I’ve had, just enough time

So put on your best boys and I’ll wear my pearls
What I never did is done

A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell them for a dollar
They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner
And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’
Funny when your dead how people start listenin’

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a, bed of roses
Sink me in the river, at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Uh oh (uh, oh)
The ballad of a dove (uh, oh)
Go with peace and love
Gather up your tears, keep ’em in your pocket
Save them for a time when you’re really gonna need them, oh

The sharp knife of a short life, well
I’ve had, just enough time

So put on your best boys and I’ll wear my pearls

[“If I Die Young” is a mid-tempo tune accompanied by acoustic guitar, banjo, accordion, mandolin, and fiddle.

One can view this song as a contemporary re-telling of the story of “The Lady of Shalott,” an Arthurian legend most famously captured in a Tennyson poem.  The legend is about a young maiden, trapped by a magic spell in a high tower. She sees the knight Sir Lancelot passing by and she tries to take a boat to Camelot. She drowns on the way and dies. Interestingly, in the music video, the lead singer holds a book of poems that says “Tennyson” on the cover.

I love the verse, “The sharp knife/ Of a short life.” This captures two striking aspects of death at a young age. One is the pain the friends and the family feel. But look again at the phrase, “a sharp knife.” It is a tool. In this case, it is a tool for understanding the fragility of life. Far too many people act as if they are somehow guaranteed 70 years on this planet.

This reminds me of a verse from the Quran, “They say, ‘The Fire (of punishment) will not touch us save for a certain number of days. Say: Have ye received a covenant from Allah – truly Allah will not break his covenant or tell ye concerning Allah which ye know not? “(2:80). This verse is talking about people who believed they had a deal with God that they would be safe from Hell, that even if they ended up in Hell, they would only be there for a short time. They say this as if Hell isn’t so bad if you are only there for a short while. But the bigger mistake is assigning to God something that He never said.

One part of this song that some people might not understand is, “I’m as green as the ring on my little, cold finger.” Saying you’re green can have many different meanings, depending on the context. It can mean you feel sick, you’re environmentally conscious, or, as in this case, it can mean you’re immature. If you think of plants, immature plants are often bright green, while older plants are yellow or brown. But why is her ring green? For this you need to know a little bit about jewelry. Young girls often wear fake gold because real gold is too expensive. Fake gold is made with a mix of a little gold and a lot of copper. Copper turns green when it corrodes.

Finally, one quite moving part of this song is this declaration, “Gather up your tears, keep ’em in your pocket/ Save them for a time when you’re really gonna need them, oh.” This makes more sense in the video where, at the end (SPOILER ALERT), she survives. Clearly, there’s no reason to cry if she’s safe and sound. But I think the line works even if she does die. It is awful to lose a loved one at a young age, but there are much worse tragedies that can affect a person. A slow, painful disease that causes a great deal of suffering for a long time tends to be hard to make peace with than a quick, painless death.

I suppose I would be remiss if I failed to address the spectre of suicide that is lurking in this song. I don’t think the speaker is necessarily suicidal. I think the song works just as well for a young girl who dies of a disease or in an accident. However, if you take the line, “Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’ ” I have to admit, that sounds an awful lot like suicidal teen crying out for help. There is a notion in that statement that one can express an idea powerfully by the act of dying. But it is tempered by other lines in the song such as “Life ain’t always what you thought it would be” and “I’ve had just enough time.” The overall impression I get is that this young woman is satisfied with the brief spark of life she had. She doesn’t emote the depression or the bitterness I would normally associate with suicide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_I_Die_Young

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  1. #1 by Bleed Art on August 15, 2011 - 4:02 pm

    I really appreciate this band, however personally, I believe the fellas really should use a personal hair stylist. Seriously. That hair is just fully awful. But anyhow, I love how she writes her songs. Very inventive. They sound really authentic.

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