Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chicago/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track Nine

Part of A Series: Route 66: Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
To View the whole series as one LONG post CLICK HERE


Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois/Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Track One:
Yellow Volkswagen Bus
(Wikimedia Commons)

This was the big hit of the album Illinois. It went to number one on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart when the album was released. It also gained a lot of exposure due to it being used for the opening segment of the film Little Miss Sunshine. The song is a semi auto-biographical story of a few road trips made be Steven as an up and coming musician. It talks about experiences and hard times traveling to both Chicago and New York. Being a song from the Illinois album that actually is about a road trip it is particularly suited for coverage in this blog.Here are the lyrics from SongMeanings.Com:

I fell in love again
All things go, all things go
Drove to Chicago
All things know, all things know

We sold our clothes to the state
I don't mind, I don't mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

I drove to New York
In the van, with my friend
We slept in parking lots
I don't mind, I don't mind

I was in love with the place
In my mind, in my mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

If I was crying
In the van, with my friend
It was for freedom
From myself and from the land

I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

you came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mindset
(I made a lot of mistakes)
All things know, all things know
(I made a lot of mistakes)

You had to find it
(I made a lot of mistakes)
All things go, all things go
(I made a lot of mistakes)

In the fan conversations I read when researching this post a lot is made of the  2nd verse:

We sold our clothes to the state
I don't mind, I don't mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

What is meant by we sold our clothes to the state? Many folks take it as an expression of hitting rock bottom. And they are right. There is a certain amount of his fan base who think that this is a reference to Jesus's quote: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." While this is an interesting analysis, I think he is being more literal. 

For me the song continues the themes of unattained dreams that he explores in so many of the other tracks. For someone who wrote a whole album about Illinois I am starting to feel the state has offered the narrator nothing but unattained dreams. But we continue onward. 

I can certainly see the biblical allusions he is making throughout this album. I like that he is subtle about his testifying, leaving options for secular interpretation as well. If there is a biblical reference to be found in this song, rather than the quote about Caesar, it would be to the story of the prodigal son. Who, upon leaving and exploring the world finds that true riches aren't worldly possessions. That's not a literal translation of the parable, but I consider that the motivation for the son returning home in the timeless story.

In traveling to Chicago and then New York, Sufjan is quoted as having said that this was loosely based semi-autobiographically on a few trips he made trying to establish himself as a professional musician. These trips that caused a great change in the narrators world view.The narrator sums it in up in what I think may be the best verse in the song. The music stops as if to emphasize the abrupt change about to occur. Then in acapella verse Stevens sings:
If I was crying
In the van, with my friend
It was for freedom
From myself and from the land

He is held by his own mistakes. The land won't give him escape, yet he tries to make that happen. When he says you came to take us, he experiences a cathartic moment. Like being born again, or when Tommy shatters the mirror in the famous rock opera. That moments allows him to let go of those attachments and obsessions and to finally be truly free. I guess that would be the first line of the song: I fell in love again.

Or something like that. 

Anyway, here is a fan video of the tune for you to enjoy as well as a link to download the track from amazon on mp3.





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Thanks for stopping by, Come back tomorrow for more Tijuana fun and next Saturday as we continue the meander through The Great State of Illinois and songs of disappointment that is Sufjan Stevens' Illinois.

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