"Something Happened On The Way To Heaven" as written by and Phil/stuermer Collins....
We had a life, we had a love,
But you don't know what you've got 'til you lose it
Well that was then and this is now
And I want you back
How many times do I have to say I'm sorry

How can something so good go so bad
How can something so right go so wrong
I don't know, I don't have all the answers
But I want you back
How many times can I say I'm sorry

You can run, and you can hide
But I'm not leaving less you come with me
We've had our problems but I'm on your side
You're all I need, please believe in me

I only wanted someone to love
But something happened on the way to heaven
It got a hold of me and wouldn't let go
And I want you back
How many times do I have to say I'm sorry

You can run, and you can hide
But I'm not leaving less you come with me
We've had our problems but I'm on your side
You're all I need, please believe in me

They say you can't take it with you
When you go
And I believe it
But taking what I've got or being
here with you, you know
I'd rather leave it

You can run, and you can hide
But I'm not leaving less you come with me
We've had our problems but I'm on your side
You're all I need, please believe in me


Lyrics submitted by Boonechic_21

"Something Happened on the Way to Heaven" as written by Phil/stuermer Collins

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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Something Happened On The Way To Heaven song meanings
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  • +2
    My InterpretationThis is quite a disturbing song actually. Beneath this song's timeless adult contemporary pop beat lies a truly sinister message... despite its seemingly innocent, catchy lyrical phrasing made safe for top 40 radio play - it's surprisingly easy to unravel just what he is meaning to convey with this gem of a song. I will get to exactly what that is in just a bit - but first I'll introduce a few clues:

    1) The name of the song is "On the way to Heaven" (think about that for a second... odd name choice for a song most people assume is merely about a man trying to mend a broken relationship, right? I suppose "I want you back was taken" - but nevertheless, it should first be understood that the narrator is not who you think it is...

    2) Re-read carefully the first verse of the song... "We had a life, we had a love..." - the narrator is immediately expressing the misery of his situation - implying that not only has he lost a love - but more importantly, that he's lost his life!

    3) Yes, I’m suggesting that the narrator is indeed dead (fine, don't believe me? read the very next verse "...but you don't know what you've got 'til you lose it") Taken in the literal sense this would mean that the narrator is no longer among the living - but is confined now to the ethereal afterlife where he obsessively laments over the torment of having to spend the rest of eternity never again being able to experience this woman's love once more.

    4) Yet beneath his rhetorical demands to know how many times he must say he’s sorry - he is quietly laying out his menacing plan to capture her love once more the only way he possibly can - which is by haunting her for the rest of her life… as a ghost.

    5) As he clearly has much unfinished business on earth - his spirit is incapable of moving on to the afterworld - and thus it was when he was “on the way to heaven” (the reason behind the obscure naming of the song) that he realized this was his only option to be near her.

    6) This is not a break-up/make-up/love song - in fact the lyrics possess nearly all of the same narrative techniques routinely used in classic ghost stories. For instance, his spirit is having a great deal of trouble explaining the circumstances surrounding his indeterminate state “I don't know, I don't have all the answers” and he explicitly warns her (quite threateningly) “you can run - but you can’t hide” over and over again - and that he’s “not leaving less you come with me” - insinuating that his spirit will constantly follow her until they reunite in death and move on to Heaven together.

    7) Another common element of a classic ghost tale - in his attempts to make earthly contact with her, he admits they shared hardships and nonetheless insists “I'm on your side, you're all I need” and out of respect that most people are taught not to believe in ghosts - he pleads for her to “please believe in me”.

    8) The final nail in the coffin comes with the final verses of the song:

    “They say you can't take it with you when you go and I believe it, but taking what I've got or being here with you, you know I'd rather leave it.”

    And now, to rephrase it just to clarify how these words correspond perfectly within my hypothetical context of the unrequited love between a forlorn phantom doomed to walk the earth in the shadowy footprints of the woman and love of his life he departed from too soon:

    “They say you can't take (the earthly-pleasures of love) with you when you go (to Heaven) and I believe it, but taking (my place in Heaven) or being here (almost) with you, you know I'd rather leave (Heaven for later).”

    9) In the end - the most intriguing question remains whether or not the woman is longing to reunite with him one day in Heaven as well - or if his constant eerie presence is unwelcomed. Perhaps… she never even knew this man at all - and all of his memories of their star-crossed love affair were merely the result of nothing more than a sick infatuation with a woman he observed from afar, and whose twisted imagination created the love and their life he mentions they shared in the song - perhaps he was a complete and total stranger… just some random creep who lived down the street - an outcast from society who balefully sat alone day and night watching her pass by and over the years in his loneliness and out of his insanity simply became… obsessed.

    And somehow she still can't explain those sleepless nights she hears his whispering from just beyond the darkness of her bedroom:

    “You can run… but you can’t hide!”
    DKVilleon April 09, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentJD JD JD lol... every step of our way.. and I wont ever be too selfish not to say that Im sorry!.
    privateyon August 20, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song, but I think it has been forgotten about in the minds of most people. The song is about a man who has broken off relations with a loved one but doesn't understand how things ended up so bad. He wants him/her to give another chance.

    The song expresses regret but is a bit obsessional:
    "But taking what I've got or being
    here with you, you know
    I'd rather leave it "

    bust most popular songs about love usually do express desperation or obsession. But hey that's OK, and we all feel that way sometimes.
    stoolhardyon December 23, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song, espesh live!
    robomalpa1on December 29, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is great, phil collins is amazing!!!
    the lyrics tell exactly what is going on, but in most cases songs like these when have a very mellow and depressing beat. i believe that he made an enjoyable beat to this song because he's happy when he talks about his lover, even though they are not together at the moment. he's confindent he'll get her back.
    markyrokzon December 03, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI spent YEARS listening and fully LOVING this song whenever it played on the radio....but do you think they'd tell me the name of the song after it played...NO! I knew it was a Phil Collins song, and that was my only lead....luckily it was enough, and finally I found it! One of the greatest days of my life! I can listen to it on constant repeat and never get sick of it! Phil = Legend!!!
    Phoenix_G87on June 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this is the ultimate "take me back" song that can be applied in so many contexts. It's essentially "I messed up, I'm sorry, I want you back" but the delivery is what makes this in my opinion.
    AthenAltenaon March 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentits about taking somebody for granted then realising when they've gone he is still quite positive in this song"you can run you can hide" hes letting her know he'll come after her and he will make her return
    annmarie7on September 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI like the US sleeve artwork for this single. It shows someone lying on a bed with a drip, surrounded by surgeons in front of a staircase leading up to heaven with a crowd of historical figures looking on! Nice interpretation of the song's title, although it clearly isn't really about someone who is dying.
    IntroducingLeoon August 27, 2008   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaninga couple of week ago my boyfriend of 16yrs on and off got out of jail after 2 years.we've got 2 girls aged 15 & 6.anyhow all four of us was in the kitchen listening to phil collins cooking a curry.my boyfriend fell off his stool and had a fit on the floor.he is on tramadol,he'd had a few drinks,which i think caused it.anyhow he overdosed and stopped breathing.rang 999 for ambulance,and they was telling me what to do over the phone. i couldn't hear for music in background.told my eldest to turn it off and the chip pan etc.ambulance came got him to hospital.luckily he came round,had fractured is foot in 2 places.but was alive thank god.was very scary.4 days later i went to put the music on in the kitchen,and noticed this was the song that my daughter stopped the hifi on at the time he'd overdosed.i feel like someone was watching over us that day.
    winnie121on April 18, 2014   Link

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