"For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" as written by and Sufjan Stevens....
I've have called you children
I have called you son
What is there to answer
If I'm the only one
Morning comes in Paradise
Morning comes in light
Still I must obey
Still I must invite

If there's anything say
If there's anything to do
I there's any other way
I'd do anything for you

I was dressed in embarrassment
I was dressed in white
If you had a part of me
Will you take your time
Even if I come back
Even if I die
Is there some idea
To replace my life

Like a father to impress
Like a mother's morning dress
If we ever make a mess
I'll do anything for you

I have called you preacher
I have called you son
If you have a father
Or if you haven't one

I'll do anything for you
I'll do anything for you
I'll do anything for you
I'll do anything for you
I'll do anything for you

I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you

I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you

I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you
I did everything for you


Lyrics submitted by antennas, edited by lightningrod14

"For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" as written by Sufjan Stevens

Lyrics © NEW JERUSALEM MUSIC

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For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti song meanings
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  • +11
    General CommentThis song is definitely about Jesus, but like Casimir Pulaski day it has some undertones that are distinctly different from "christian" music. It certainly is about the sacrifice of Jesus "I'll do anything for you". But there is also a definite hint of uncertainty in his thinking "even if I come back, even if I die" (this last line is amazing to me, because it implies that Jesus wasn't even sure that he would come back!) "is there some idea to replace my life?"--hoping that his death will mean something. Then at the end, he says "I did EVERYTHING for you!" (I think it should be punctuated like that)--speaking to Jesus' frustration with his people (or maybe God, but probably people) for continuing to do... something. I think it's a mistake to read any more into it that that, like what that thing(s) is. This sort of "christian" music actually does so much more to make me sympathize with Jesus that so much "God is perfect all the time and we should always thank him" jibberish that most christian music is. It points to a humanity that is lost in that stuff; Jesus' humanity, yes, but also his beliver's humanity, in admitting that there are periods of doubt even for the most devout. That sort of thought is anathema to most christian music. Stevens should be lauded for putting thought into christian music.
    jadyon July 25, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI think the reality of multiple meanings and Christian undertones has already been firmly established, and I'm quite happy with both ideas.

    The thing is, Christianity has become so repugnant to so many people, but artists like Sufjan have a way of transforming it into something that's so identifiable and human.

    I'm not really a Christian, but I prefer to believe that the Christian interpretation is, in fact, one of several actual meanings. Given the story it tells, religious inclinations aside, that makes it all the more beautiful.
    narcissus_ton May 02, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentBeulahrawk is right; there are definitely religious undertones to this song.

    It seems like Jesus in the narrator. I don't understand some of the lines, but then again, I don't know much about Christianity.

    I'm mostly fascinated by the lines "If you have a father, or if you haven't one. I'll do anything for you." This is very similar to the lines in another song of his, Vito's Ordination. In that song he sings "If you haven't one (a father), rest in my arms, sleep in my bed."

    I think both of these lines mean that even if you don't believe in God (father), God will still care and provide for you. A nice thought. Apparently Sufjan believes in a benevolent God, unlike certain proclaimed Christian government officials, who shall remain unnamed.........George W. Bush.
    Raving Lunaticon March 02, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentevery song he makes is beautiful
    coheedandcambriaon September 30, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlso, I have a live version of this song that Sufjan performed in Belgium on March 10, 2004. In it he explains the origin of the name of the song. I'll just quote what he says here:

    "Let me do a song really quick about a small town up here called Paradise. Michigan has Paradise as well as Hell Michigan. It's kind of interesting. And, Um Paradise is a place...I noticed when we went up there to play a football tournament in high school, I noticed that there was all these single mothers and women and grandmothers but there weren't any men, and so I had sort of devised a story in my mind that they had all died in the war and that they were all widows. But they were really a very happy and optimistic community and they all seemed to be working together, and it was, like, women of the world take over. This is for the widows in Paradise."

    It's an amazing concert. I love that guy.
    Raving Lunaticon March 02, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI certainly agree that this song carries strong Christian undertones. if anyone is familiar with the gospels, specifically the story of Christ's death, there is a part which talks about how the morning before His crucifixion ("Morning comes in Paradise") Jesus is talking to God and basically saying "why me?" I believe he says "if there is any other way, I will do it" or something to that extent, a la:
    If there's anything say
    If there's anything to do
    I there's any other way
    I'd do anything for you.
    Jesus was human after all, it's not as if he was totally gung-ho about suffering terribly and dying on a cross.
    "I was dressed in embarassment
    I was dressed in white"
    most depictions of the passion of Christ depict him wearing white, and He was beaten and scorned and "embarassed" in front of a large crowd.

    Even if I come back
    Even if I die
    Is there some idea
    To replace my life?

    as for this part, I think He wants to know that His death is for a purpose, that His ideas and such will be left behind and He won't have died in vain.

    basically this is a beautiful song, regardless of one's beliefs. it's quite Christian-themed but I don't think it's offensive to someone who doesn't believe. I hope not anyway, it's got a wonderful positive message.
    asymptoteson May 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song is interpreted how you want it to be interpreted. If it has an impact on your life then who cares what someone else thinks it means. Just be happy with the way it makes you feel. It is still a beautiful song.
    duff_man_8on September 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe beauty of good art is that you can put it into the context of your own life. The spiritual element of this song can refer to Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or anything, because it's a common idea and a common theme throughout all of humanity. Expressing your love by suffering for something greater than yourself is what all artists do, in a sense. Sufjan happens to be Christian, but why does that have to ruin the song for you? Why bother with art at all if you're not willing to set aside your bias and ignorance?
    RyGuy86on January 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentToo many comments to address, but! The title is referring to a verse in the Bible, common for Sufjan. The verse actually is about what pure religion is (loving one another), minus doctrine and other necessary but complicating factors.

    James 1:27
    "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world"
    wdboston December 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI've been listening to Sufjan for a few years now, and I've really grown to consider him one of the single best artists out there. That being said, I'm totally blown away when people actually come here and dispute or even play ignorant to the fact that his songs have a very deep, purposeful, intentional, and not-so-subtle religious connotation, undertone, or message. However you want to word it, claiming his message ruins it is such an ignorant and sad thing to say. I mean, really, especially when the lyrics are masked in metaphors to take your mind off one thing if you choose not to dive into that area of meaning. I'm not religious at all, and I actually don't really enjoy most music with blatant religious or even political messages, but Sufjan Stevens has an undeniable and high-acclaimed gift for crafting his lyrics and his songs to give multiple messages, even if he only has one intentionally. That is a gift not a lot have, and to see anybody say it ruins it for them...wow, it's just a complete shame.
    Vocalitieson October 30, 2008   Link

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