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Jerseyfornia

Kyle William they called him

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Take a baby to the river, Kyle William they called him
Wash the baby in the water, take away little Kyle's sin
In a whitewash shotgun shack an old man passes away
Take his body to the graveyard, over him they pray

I was talking to a friend today, another fan, about Bruce's music and the conversation found its way to discussing lyrics we thought really showed Bruce's abilities as a writer. I mentioned the verse above and said it showed me a lot of his ability in that he manages to encapsulate a life into just those four lines. My friend asked me what I meant and I said that I always heard that verse as being about the same person, that the baby Kyle William is the old man  who dies in the shotgun shack. In one verse, Bruce shows us the birth and the death and the minor details of faith and loneliness and hard times are enough to allow my imagination to fill in the days between. He said he'd always thought of the baby and the old man as two different people and I realized how a simple difference of perspective on a lyric can make a huge difference in what we both heard and loved in the songs and in Bruce's writing.

I'm just curious now how you hear that verse? In your mind, are Kyle William and the old man two different people or one in the same?

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I hear both. I always wondered which Bruce meant, or even if he wanted it to be read either way. I like the idea that it could be either. I like that subtlety because both conjure up very different images. 

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I really like the idea both people are Kyle

but I always heard it as one dies and another is born to full his place

...I gotta go listen again 

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I like that reading because it conjures up the repetition and futility as the narrator sees it. Like this is just one unending joke.  There again I like the way JF sees it as there's another version of futility in that. 

Min the end both lead to the same conclusion. It's futile, we're all fucked haha! It's 4.35 in the morning here folk, and the calvary's having happy thoughts! 

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Everything comes in full circle. This is one of them. You're born, you get baptised, you live your life, you may or may not believe in God, you die, and someone out there will pray for you.

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I read them as different people, with the point being as one birth is being celebrated, another person's death is mourned. (what is that lyric? "for every smile you make, a tear must fall somewhere"?)

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Either way it proves your point though, JF, not so? If it's really well written, as in this example, it can be read or interpreted both ways and neither are necessarily 'wrong'.

I'd add that I would hate to have an interviewer ask Bruce and him explain it one way or the other. Leave it open for each of us to reach our own conclusions as the artist hoped for...

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I think the genius behind some of Bruce's music/lyrics is how different people CAN find something they relate to, even if both don't see it the same.

A simple sentence like "when you're alone, you ain't nothing but alone"  doesn't exactly enlighten the listener.  

But for a person who understands the emotion, it is amazingly powerful and affirming.  

"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse" could be discussed endlessly and each poster could share a personal expression about the line and what it means to them and we might find 10-12 themes in those few words

Most musicians/lyricists can't do that.    "Baby got back" doesn't have too many interpretations :D

 

 

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1 minute ago, CrushOnOutlawPete said:

I've wondered this, I've never come to an answer, and I'm not sure that I want one.

It's her butt. Back means butt. Like a big butt.

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....boys can be so odd :lol::P

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I had always thought of them as two different people, but this has got me thinking. As we have drifted into lyrics, someone asked me the other day what is so special about Bruce and I said that, in the end, for me, it is all about the lyrics. My husband would argue that Dylan is the (marginally) better writer, but I think nobody sums up the human condition better than Bruce. My personal favourite is 'stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born' a perfect description of depression.

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29 minutes ago, Ann Jones said:

I had always thought of them as two different people, but this has got me thinking. As we have drifted into lyrics, someone asked me the other day what is so special about Bruce and I said that, in the end, for me, it is all about the lyrics. My husband would argue that Dylan is the (marginally) better writer, but I think nobody sums up the human condition better than Bruce. My personal favourite is 'stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born' a perfect description of depression.

it's like how I think JF said above

everyone is ganna have a different interpretation of any chosen great line

I hear that line as being reresentive of someone who's life isn't quite working out how they thought and they have no idea how to fix it

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And how about this one? "Bobby said he would pull out, but Bobby stayed in. Janey had a baby, it wasn't any sin."

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Well, that answers the question that's been bugging me all these years, 'whatever DID happen to little Kyle William?' :)

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3 hours ago, CmonMrTrouble said:

I think the genius behind some of Bruce's music/lyrics is how different people CAN find something they relate to, even if both don't see it the same.

A simple sentence like "when you're alone, you ain't nothing but alone"  doesn't exactly enlighten the listener.  

But for a person who understands the emotion, it is amazingly powerful and affirming.  

"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse" could be discussed endlessly and each poster could share a personal expression about the line and what it means to them and we might find 10-12 themes in those few words

Most musicians/lyricists can't do that.    "Baby got back" doesn't have too many interpretations :D

 

 

I wouldn't say "most musicians/lyricists can't do that"... sure there's plenty of examples of simple straight to the point pop songs... and there's at least an equally long list of songs with great lyrics which weren't written by Bruce.

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It struck me kind of funny, how at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe... if it's funny because the reason is "why do these people bother believing, we know how this is going to end" then yes I think that Kyle William and the old man are one and the same.

If it's funny because the narrator is an atheist and can't understand why people believe in a higher power, it could just be humanity rather than a literal single person.

 

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7 hours ago, CmonMrTrouble said:

Mary's dress SWAYS

Well a dress can,t wave got no hands:P

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2 hours ago, tie that bind said:

Well a dress can,t wave got no hands:P

How about a flag? It can wave.

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10 hours ago, Bosstralian said:

se the reason is "why do these people bother believing, we know how this is going to end" then yes I think that Kyle William and the old man are one and the same.

If it's funny because the narrator is an atheist and can't understand why people believe in a higher power, it could just be huma

I have always added "in something" after all the "reason to believes" in the verses. Something can be God, good, someone else, people, purpose, meaning, destiny, themselves, Rock and Roll.... The narrator is probably not an atheist, would an atheist ask God a question?

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Actually, the narrator doesn't ask God anything... it's those praying over the old man's body at the graveyard who question "Lord, won't you tell us / Tell us what does it mean"....

 

 

About the OP's question, I read it as the two characters are different persons.

The song is written in present tense, the narrator tells what he sees and I think it wouldn't just sound right if he would mix events which are separated by dozens of years; so in my view Kyle Williams and the old man are metaphors for the endless circle of life and death.

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Always seen them as different people. With the irony in the lyric that two contrasting events lead to the same response. I like the lyrical ambiguity in the track, whilst to me it is broadly atheist in tone there is an element of envy that despite all their travails some people still have faith. 

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I've never thought of this song having anything remotely to do with Gods or atheists.

Considering this is our only stab at it, life can seem pretty dull and repetitive. I'd say most of us can pretty much set a clock to what we'll be doing at any given time, especially during the week. Add to that all the disappointments, struggles and heartbreaks that people have to suffer along the way.

As the life of Kyle William begins, full of unlimited promise and opportunity, the life of another for who those promises and opportunities faded long ago dies alone. 

The song isn't about a reason to believe in god. It's about people having the faith that tomorrow will be better. A reason to believe in life.

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