[Chorus]
We were standing
Standing by peaceful waters
Standing by peaceful waters
Whoa wah oh wha oh
Whoa wah oh wha oh

Many years ago along the Illinois-Wisconsin Border
There was this Indian tribe
They found two babies in the woods
White babies
One of them was named Elizabeth
She was the fairer of the two
While the smaller and more fragile one was named Marie
Having never seen white girls before
And living on the two lakes known as the Twin Lakes
They named the larger and more beautiful Lake, Lake Elizabeth
And thus the smaller lake that was hidden from the highway
Became known forever as Lake Marie

[Chorus]

Many years later I found myself talking to this girl
Who was standing there with her back turned to Lake Marie
The wind was blowing especially through her hair
There was four Italian sausages cooking on the outdoor grill
And Man, they was ssssssssizzlin'
Many years later we found ourselves in Canada
Trying to save our marriage and perhaps catch a few fish
Whatever seemed easier
That night she fell asleep in my arms
Humming the tune to "Louie Louie'
Aah baby, We gotta go now.

[Chorus]

The dogs were barking as the cars were parking
The loan sharks were sharking the narcs were narcing
Practically everyone was there
In the parking lot by the forest preserve
The police had found two bodies
Nay, naked bodies
Their faces had been horribly disfigured by some sharp object
Saw it on the news on the TV news in a black and white video
You know what blood looks like in a black and white video?
Shadows, shadows that's exactly what it looks like
All the love we shared between her and me was slammed
Slammed up against the banks of Old Lake Marie, Marie

We were standing
Standing by peaceful waters
Standing by peaceful waters
Whoa wah oh wha oh
Whoa wah oh wha oh
Whoa wah oh wha oh
Whoa wah oh wha oh
Standing by peaceful waters
Peaceful waters
Standing by peaceful waters
Peaceful waters
Standing by peaceful waters
Peaceful waters
Standing by peaceful waters
Peaceful waters
Aah baby, we gotta go now



Lyrics submitted by Bobo192

"Lake Marie" as written by Prine

Lyrics © BUG MUSIC

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Lake Marie song meanings
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10 Comments

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  • +1
    General Comment:But how did the Indian tribe know the babies' names? :P

    I love the way he uses sounds to emphasize the meaning of some of the words e.g. "some SHHHHarp object" and "they were sssssizzlin'"

    This song is pure poetry to me with a mega-catchy melody thrown in for good measure. Awesome!
    owly jron November 05, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:I think all are applying rational minds (I assume) to an irrational mind, the narrator of the story. I have come to believe the song is sung from the viewpoint of someone who has gone crazy. Very little of the story is logical: Natives knowing the names of two white babies they find in the woods, his remembrances of meeting his wife (the wind, sausages on the grill) and especially his murder of his wife and some other seemingly prompted by the lyrics from 'Louie, Louie'.
    KevinNettleshipon December 12, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:Just found this on a website:

    Prine’s first experience with the song came while talking to a crew member in Wisconsin after a show. The subject of the conversation turned to some local lakes. He told Prine of Lake Marie, which was an interesting tale. The lake was tangled with mystery, and this persuaded Prine to want to visit it. The crew member and Prine decided to travel toward Lake Marie, which was only about twenty-five minutes away. Later, John and his brother did a little investigative reporting. They ended up in a library, reading old stories about the lake. It turned out to have a sister lake, named Lake Elizabeth. The two lakes were named after two abandoned babies that were found by a tribe of Native Americans. Prine began to write the song, basing the first verse after the discovery of the babies. But after that, John went into some fictional story-telling about a marriage on the rocks, and a shadowy double murder that took place in the proximity of Lake Marie. "When I was done, it was exactly what I wanted. I guess the point of the song is that if the Indians hadn’t named the lakes after a couple of white girls, they would still be peaceful waters." (Puckett 15)

    jpshrine.org/biography/…
    watersoilairon January 01, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:hmm havent reeeli looked at the words to this one but the melody is scarily catchy. i heard it when jp ws in concert nearly a year ago and i can still remember the tune!
    sk84urlifeon May 21, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:There isn't much to figure out... it's another contrast song from John Prine who mingles love and beauty with the darker realities of life.

    However, for those interested... There is indeed a town in Wisconsin called Twin Lakes... It's right along the Illinois border... There are two lakes there... the larger of the two is named Lake Elizabeth... while the smaller is names Lake Mary.
    chesterfieldon October 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:Love this song. I've been to both Lake Marie and Lake Elizabeth.
    Lyric Junkieon January 10, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:You know what blood looks like in a black and white video?
    SHADOWS!

    Love this line
    ruarchitecton February 20, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation:Perhaps John is commenting on the media and our appetite for it here. The initial tale about the indians is obviously false suggesting the other stories to follow are colored by time and perception as well. The description of blood in a black and white video appearing as "shadow" diminishes the deaths as most television "news" reports do. Likewise, the wind blowing "especially " through his lover's hair speaks to the idea that we see things through our own prism.
    Bob Dylan claimed John to be his favorite song writer and this to be his favorite Prine song. It is not mine but perhaps I need to learn it better.
    sndymornon October 07, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:What the song always meant to me was the contrast between modern life and earlier times, and what we've lost. In the past, even helpless innocents would be adopted and cared for. Today, although we have iPhones and flat screen TVs, innocents are murdered, or allowed to starve. It's harder and harder to find peaceful waters. And then Prine--the genius that he is--personalizes it. He multiplies the contrast, as not just between the native Americans' treatment of innocents and our modern-day, inherent violence and vulnerability, but adding in the statistical fact that we can't even manage to take care of and nurture those we have sworn to love in our personal lives. "What a beautiful world it once was," Norman McLean said in A River Runs Through It. What a cold, cruel, and messed-up world we've built to take its place, I think John is saying.
    JackleggedDawgon September 19, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Memory:I hadn't played the song for a couple of years, and I ran into the interview with Bob Dylan to which sndymornon alluded. I dug up the song and played it, and I remembered how intriguing the song was. I tried to find an article about the double-murder because I thought it may not be fictitious, knowing that the story featured in John's song, "Chain of Sorrow" about the alter boy being run down by a commuter train was true.

    I frankly don't really understand the song, but it sure brings out emotions in me. I think Dylan cribbed the "Ah baby" line in his song "Long and Wasted Years" (Tempest, 2012) from John's "Lake Marie."

    One other thing--On the map, the twin lake is called "Mary," not Marie. Maybe he's referring to Lake Marie, in Oregon, but that lake doesn't have a twin. Poetic license, I guess.
    Broccolion April 01, 2013   Link

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