Thursday, November 26, 2020

If I Was A Priest, a Bruce Springsteen lyrical analysis from his new album Letter To You

If I Was A Priest, a Bruce Springsteen lyrical analysis from his new album Letter To You




I LOVED this song by Bruce Springsteen when I first heard it and I really enjoyed the lyrics so I wanted to talk about it here. Bruce is hosting SNL next month with Timothee Chalamet and I just love the juxtaposition of that! It's like the exact intersection of my interests. 

I believe "If I Was A Priest" is about questioning the religious rules that we have been taught and following your heart instead.

There's a light on yonder mountain and it's calling me to shine
There's a girl over by the water fountain and she's asking to be mine
And Jesus is standing in the doorway in a buckskin jacket, boots and spurs so fine
He says, "We need you son tonight up in Dodge City
'Cause there's just too many outlaws trying to work the same line"

The song starts off with Bruce Springsteen dreaming about his future. He wants to follow his passions (music, where he shines), and he wants a beautiful love story. He wants to follow his dreams but Jesus is in the way, dressed like a sheriff, telling him, "no, you need to do this." Jesus is the authority figure. When Jesus says, "there's just too many outlaws trying to work the same line," he means there are so many people who don't follow the religious path, and so Bruce shouldn't be an outlaw like them.

Plus, the song is titled, "If I Was A Priest," and priests definitely give up love with another woman and other worldly dreams so they can be truly engrossed in religion. 
Well things ain't been the same in heaven since big bad Bobby came to town
He's been known to down eleven, then ask for another round
Me I've got scabs on my knees from kneeling way too long
It's about time I played the man, took a stand where I belong

Bobby drinks too much (which is a vice! and too much alcohol can cause sin!) and is described as being "bad." But the key thing to note is that Bobby makes it to heaven! Meanwhile, Bruce has been super devoted to his religion, getting scabs on his knees from praying. He is doing so much but will probably make it to the same place as Bobby - heaven! This makes Bruce think that he doesn't want religion to constrict him. He wants to live the life he dreams of.

Well there's a light on yonder mountain and it's calling me to shine
There's a girl over by the water fountain 'cause she's asking to be mine
Jesus is standing in the doorway, six gun drawn and ready to fan
Said, "We need you tonight son up in Dodge City"
Told him I was already overdue for Cheyenne

In this verse, Jesus tells him to continue following his religious rules (go to Dodge City), but Bruce finally tells him, he actually needs to follow his dreams instead (go to Cheyenne...a city in Wyoming...but also a woman's name?).

There's still too many bad boys trying to work the same line
I interpreted this line two ways. The first I talked about earlier in this post - Jesus saying there are too many people straying from religion. But you can also interpret this line through Bruce's point of view. Bruce can say, "there are too many people who appear religious but are actually bad." They are all "working the same line" as in, "going through the motions" of religion.  

Thanks for reading! I chose not to analyze every lyric - just the ones that spoke to me.

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    1 comment:

    1. This was a great write-up. Thank you for this - was looking to make sense of this song (which I've loved since the record dropped).

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