"14th Street" as written by and Rufus Wainwright....
You've got my lost brother's soul
My dear mother's eyes
A brown horse's mane
And my uncle's name
You walked me down 14th Street
For the doctor to meet after thoughts of the grave
In the home of the brave and of the weak

But why'd you have to break all my heart
Couldn't you have saved a little bit of it?
Why'd you have to break all my heart?
Couldn't you have saved a minor part?

I could have clipped and saved and planted in the garden
Damn you guess I'll have to get a new one

I'd love to sit and watch you drink
With the reins to the world, gripping a smoke
Vaguely missing link
Don't ever change you hungry little bashful hound
I got the sheep, poor little Bo Peep
Has lost and filed for grounds.

But why'd you have to break all my heart
I could have ripped apart and thrown into the river
Wonder if there's hearts that will deliver

Don't ever change, don't ever worry
Because I'm coming back home tomorrow
To 14th Street where I won't hurry
And where I'll learn how to save, not just borrow
And they'll be rainbows and we will finally know


Lyrics submitted by BlueAndStarry

"14th Street" as written by Rufus Wainwright

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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14th Street song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentNow, I have read any commentary for this song, so all I can give is my interpretation, via a stanza-by-stanza explanation:

    "You've got my lost brother's soul
    My dear mother's eyes
    A brown horse's man
    and my uncle's name"

    I think this just means that there are a lot of aspects in the person he's with/was with that he remembers from other people and things in his life. The soul of his brother, the eyes of his mother, a horse's mane (maybe reference to facial hair), and uncle's name.

    "You walked me down 14th Street
    for the doctor to meet after thoughts of the grave
    In the home of the brave and of the weak"

    I honestly think, when I hear this, that the 2nd guy is taking Rufus to the doctor to get checked up on for AIDS. The thoughts of the grave aspect along with being brought to a doctor really enforces this. Home of the brave and weak is obviously a reference to us Americans. He may consider himself and others like him weak, or maybe he's saying people who can't accept gays are weak. I'm not sure.

    "But why'd you have to break all my heart..."

    This stanza, that gets repeated often, means that something went wrong with the relationship (obviously). More than likely the 2nd man got scared and ran away before the results could even be given. Or maybe he did test positive and the guy ran away. Just b/c Rufus sings this song doesn't necessarily mean its his story. He may have heard it from someone else and been inspired.

    "I could have clipped and saved and planted in the garden..."

    This reminds me of clipping coupons in order to save money on groceries and stuff. He could also be talking all about the garden, but i think the general meaning is, "We could have been happy together, but now I guess I'll have to find someone else".

    "I'd love to sit and watch..."
    He's just pining over how much he adored this man and how much of a joy it was to be with him. And, he never wants him to change. The Bo Peep reference makes me feel that maybe he felt that he had found what he was looking for, what most people were looking for, "true love". but then...

    "Why'd you have to break all my heart...."
    This stanza says that he wishes he could have "ripped apart" and gotten away before he really fell in love. Now he wonders if there will be others out there for him, "hearts that will deliver".

    "Don't ever change, don't ever worry
    Because I'm coming back home tomorrow
    To 14th Street where I won't hurry
    And where I'll learn how to save, not just borrow
    And they'll be rainbows and we will finally know"
    This whole stanza seems like his resolve to say he'll come back to 14th street tomorrow, and he wont' run, he won't be desperate. He'll come normal b/c he knows things are gonna be alright. He knows that he'll learn how to save something (obviously not money, but maybe love and time) instead of just borrowing it (one night stands, short flings, etc.). And they'll be rainbows (everything will be beautiful)

    "and we will finally know"
    Can be taken two ways:
    (1) They'll finally know whether or not he has AIDS
    (2) He'll finally know if there are others in the world who will love him.
    RTBRAND1on December 15, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think RTBRAND is right about the first two stanzas.

    I think the reference to "minor part" is really sweet and shows his deep connection music, especially classical. He's so deeply broken hearted that he would settle for even having the minor, sad strains of himself left after the heartbreak.. but even those remind him of the man he loved (probably, as wingofasongbird said, a straight man).

    I could have clipped and saved and planted in the garden
    Damn you guess I'll have to get a new one

    Here he's saying he didn't hold back at all. There was no thinking ahead, planting in spring for a late summer without love, he is left with no life or hope of his own. He has to start over from scratch.

    I'd love to sit and watch you drink
    With the reins to the world, gripping a smoke
    Vaguely missing link
    Don't ever change you hungry little bashful hound

    This is a great image of his love .. exactly what he loved about him .. that he's vaguely broken and selfish, hungry and full of unhealthy habits. The reins to the world line makes it sound like rufus saw him as having all the power, at least in his own universe. Easier to love someone imperfect, sometimes.

    I got the sheep, poor little Bo Peep
    Has lost and filed for grounds.

    This confuses me still.

    Wonder if there's hearts that will deliver

    heh. not so easy, Rufus.

    And where I'll learn how to save, not just borrow
    And they'll be rainbows and we will finally know

    So he's starting to see all the work that goes into being a strong healthy adult, hurt but capable of loving himself. And they'll be Rainbows! is the gayest moment in music I've discovered to date. Love it.

    One of my favorite memories from a Rufus concert, was when he made a self-depracating comment, and the whole crowd basically gasped like - omg, Rufus hates himself?!!?! - and he reassured us by saying "I know my own worth, don't worry." So it seems he's recovered from this incident (if anyone was worried).

    Nice to know that even RUFUS had to go to the work of becoming an adult. Maybe, given his over the top heart, passion, and insight, I should say: especially Rufus had to go the work of becoming an adult.
    npfanaticson January 04, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI got the sheep, poor little Bo Peep
    Has lost and filed for grounds.

    thats he's stoled some girls husband/boyfriend.
    pennycrayolaon November 15, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI absolutely adore this song. It's so catchy and fun and classic Rufus.

    No idea what it means, though I do understand some parts but not all of them. It's a pretty happy song for the kind of sad lyrics.
    fireplaceon October 18, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentRufus said once that this song had something to do with one of his many relationships with straight men. I think he basically wants to be a part of this person's life again, because he's missing the time they shared together, but his heart has been absolutely broken.

    I also think the "where I'll learn how to save, not just borrow" refers to the fact that the man was married. I'm just taking this from the Want One commentary.
    wingofasongbirdon November 21, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is so catchy and good and like the first person said these are really kind of melancholic lyrics for such a happy tune.

    some parts make sense but the song as a whole doesn't have just one meaning i don't think.
    fireplaceon November 23, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIf Rufus were straight, I'd be his sex slave :D
    rufusworshipperon April 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think whoever he is singing about, male or female, has done something to hurt his feelings though:
    "But why'd you have to break all my heart
    Couldn't you have saved a little bit of it?"
    zennoron February 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI definitely think this song is based on personal experience, most of Rufus' music is, but I also think the song can be uniquely personal to everyone who hears it. I think a lot of people experience this bittersweet sort of obsession with someone they know they can't have. It brings them joy and inexplicable sadness at the same time, and that's why the lyrics are sad but the song can be described as musically upbeat.
    mandaffeineon June 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAhh, Rufus. I agree with most of what's been said. I always like the "lost brother's soul" line. To me it's describing that feeling of meeting someone who is so similar to you that you feel like you two are of the same soul. How heartbreaking to not be with that person yet Rufus still appreciates the pleasure of his company. Beautiful.
    This song is, to me, the most joyful on the album. It makes me feel like I'm in a loud, cheerful piano bar downtown!
    rain cityon February 04, 2007   Link

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