Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The meaning of Sundown
I can see her lying back in her satin dress
In a room where you do what you don't confess
Thus begins one of the most widely intrepretated songs in Gordon Lightfoot's impressive catalog. Was "Sundown" -- which was sitting pretty at No. 1 on the Billboard chart on this day in 1974 -- about:
a) a night in a whorehouse
b) Lightfoot's girlfriend cheating on him
c) Lightfoot's wife divorcing him
d) the hamlet in New York where the song was written
e) coping with alcoholism
e) a drag queen
Answer: All of the above. (Kidding!!!!) When we were listening to "Sundown" that summer it seemed obvious the song was about a hooker. But what did we know back then? A year after the song became a hit, Lightfoot offered his vague explanation in an interview with Crawdaddy magazine:
"All it is, is a thought about a situation where someone is wondering what his live one is doing at the moment. He doesn't quite know where she is. He's not ready to give up on her, either, and that's about all I got to say about that."
Well, that really clears things up! The best suggestion we've heard yet comes someone who left this interesting comment on songfacts.com:
"'Sundown' was the nickname of a close friend of Mr. Lightfoot's who shall remain nameless. Suffice to say, Mr. Lightfoot began to suspect that his friend was having an affair with his first wife. This occurred at a point when Mr. Lightfoot's marriage was on the rocks to begin with, and also when he was struggling with pretty serious problem with alcohol and the violence that drinking tended to bring out of him. In this context, the meaning of each line of this song should be clear to you all."
If this is true, we've at least been able to eliminate the drag queen. And that's relief enough for now. Baby steps...