What Song Is It You Want Me To Analyze?


If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.
But, if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Oh… oh… oh… oh… oh…
And the bird you cannot change.
And this bird you cannot change.
Lord knows I can’t change.

Bye, bye, baby it’s been a sweet love.
Yea, yea
Though this feeling I can’t change.
But please don’t take it so badly,
‘Cause the lord knows I’m to blame.
But, if I stayed here with you girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Oh… oh… oh… oh… oh…
And this bird you cannot change.
And this bird you cannot change.
Lord knows, I can’t change.
Lord help me, I can’t change.
Lord I can’t change,
Won’t you fly high free bird yea.

I’m going to start off saying I misheard these lyrics up until today.  Well, it’s a little odder than that. Sometimes I’ll hear lyrics a certain way, and even when confronted with the actual lyrics, I’ll still use my lyrics.  Time will pass and I will eventually forget they are my lyrics, and think they are the actual song lyrics again.  I think that is the case with “Free Bird”.

I always thought a line in the song was “And this bird you cannot chain“.  This post actually arose from my misunderstanding.  I thought to myself, why not “cage”?  I mean, you don’t chain a bird.  Maybe you can chain Prometheus to a rock and have an eagle eat his liver, but you don’t chain down the eagle.

Okay, so it’s not chain.  But can you really change a bird?  How would you change a bird?  That makes less sense than chaining a bird.

Before the events of this song, the protagonist was settled, at least in some manner, into a relationship with the girl he is addressing.  But he has to go!  He realizes there’s lots of places he wants to see!  Did he understand this was a desire within himself from the beginning?  If so, he should not have started to get into a relationship serious enough that it needs to be addressed in a song.

There’s another possibility, of course.  Perhaps he was content in this relationship, and then realized something about himself he was previously unaware of.  What was once okay for him was no longer okay.  He thought he knew what he wanted in life, but his frame of reference shifted to reveal something deeper and more fulfilling to him.  In other words, he CHANGED.  The free bird who cannot be changed had changed.

So, either the narrator is a duplicitous creep who hoodwinked a perfectly-nice girl into a relationship he had no intention of honoring, or he’s a stupid liar that changed his outlook on life while at the same time insisting that he can’t be “changed”.

Is there a subtext I’m missing?  Is the protagonist saying he can’t be changed by external forces, that change only arises from within?  That’s possible, but I don’t know that he has that level of introspection.

Look at the first two lines of the song, for example.  That’s something a self-involved teenager would say.  He’s the one doing the leaving, hurting his girl in the process, and the first thing that pops into his head to say is that hey, after I ditch you, you won’t forget about me, right?  What a DICK.

Why has this song made such a mark on our culture?  Is it the two-guitar solo at the end?  Is it the idea of America being a frontier, of a place of freedom to be/do what you want, that any song or product with the word “free” has virulent appeal?

I don’t know.

I hope that girl found someone nicer, though.

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