"Kathleen" as written by and Philip Parris Lynott....
All the other girls here are stars?you are the Northern Lights
They try to shine in through your curtains?you're too close and too bright
They try and they try but everything that they do
Is the ghost of a trace of a pale imitation of you

I'll be the one to drive you back home Kathleen
This party is made with the night air and the chance that a smile
Will wind its way from your face to one of the boys in your line
You act like you're hip to their tricks and you're strong
But a virgin Wurlitzer heart never once had a song
I'll be the one to drive you back home Kathleen

And I'll have you back by break of day
I'm going your way anyway
And if you'd like to come along
I'll be yours for a song

I know you are waiting and I know that it is not for me
But I'm here and I'm ready and I've saved you the passenger seat
I won't be your last dance just your last goodnight
Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied
I'll be the one to drive you back home Kathleen
So crawl up your trellis and quietly back into your room
And I'll coast down the length of your drive by the light of the moon
And the next time I see you?a new kind of hello
Both our hearts have a secret only both of us know
?bout the night that I drove you back home Kathleen


Lyrics submitted by Beazer

"Kathleen" as written by Josh Ritter

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, DUCHAMP, INC

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Kathleen song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentThe song is about a virgin, Kathleen, but from what I get out of it... he mets her at a party and they talk and in their conversation, she mentions that she is a virgin and he probably doesn't feel that it's the right place for her to be, so he takes her home.

    I think this is a song about seeing how pure and innocent somebody can be and wanting them to stay that way... It reminds me of the last scene in the film "American Beauty", when the father (Spacey) finds out that the friends' best friend (Sorvino) isn't a slut as she puts off but a virgin and all of a sudden he doesn't want her anymore.. you know? The young girl cries thinking she isn't beautiful or wanted but he talks about how she's way too beautiful and pure and that he didn't want to disturb that.

    "I know you are waiting and I know that it is not for me!" That line pretty much sums it up, it even talks about how they didn't have sex. He's saying that he's saved her a passenger seat because he's going to take her home, where it's safe...

    I also think its about learning a secret about somebody. Being virgin is sort of something to be ashamed about in our society (which I feel it shouldn't be). He even talks about how she's "hip to their tricks and strong", meaning that she tries to not act so innocent (sort of like the friend in American Beauty).

    I think in the end of this song, they both share her secret and he has a new respect for her.

    "And the next time we meet-a new kind of hello"
    ckad79on May 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"All the other girls here are stars-you are the Northern Lights.
    They try to shine in through your curtains-you're too close and too bright.
    They try and they try but everything that they do
    Is the ghost of a trace of a pale imitation of you.
    I'll be the one to drive you back home, Kathleen."

    He thinks she's beautiful. That part is pretty self-explanatory.

    "This party was made with the night air and the chance that a smile
    Will wind it's way from your face to one of the boys in your line.
    You act like you're hip to their tricks and you're strong,
    But a virgin Wurlitzer heart never once had a song.
    I'll be the one to drive you back home, Kathleen."

    "One of the boys in your line" makes me think that she has her eye on one particular guy that's there. She tries to seem "cool"/not innocent (you act like you're hip to their tricks and you're strong), but she's never been in love before (a virgin Wurlitzer heart never once had a song).

    "And I'll have you back by break of day,
    I'm going your way anyway.
    And if you come along,
    I'll be yours for a song."

    Maybe that one guy wasn't interested in her, even though it seems that all of the other guys there were. She's upset, maybe she's considering going home with some other guy there, and the narrator offers to give her a ride home, both to protect her and to offer some support.

    "I know you are waiting and I know that it is not for me,
    But I'm here and I'm ready and I saved you the passenger seat.
    I won't be your last dance, just your last good night.
    Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied.
    I'll be the one to drive you back home, Kathleen."

    He knows that she's waiting to give her virginity to someone she loves, and the narrator knows that she doesn't love him. Still, he's there to offer support and platonic love (I'm here and I'm ready and I've saved you the passenger seat). They probably go drive around that night, just enjoying each other's company. "I won't be your last dance, just your last goodnight" might mean that he won't be the last guy that she connects with/has fun with, but he might be the last one she says goodnight to (meaning the relationship doesn't continue). I'm not sure, I was a little confused about that line. "Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied" I think means that everyone is influenced by the people they've loved and the people who have loved them.

    "So crawl up your trellis and quietly back into your room,
    And I'll coast down the length of your drive by the light of the moon.
    And the next time we meet-a new kind of hello,
    Both our hearts have a secret only both of us know,
    'bout the night that I drove you back home Kathleen."

    He takes her home, she sneaks back into her room, and he drives home. "The next time we meet, a new kind of hello" means that things between them will be different the next time they see each other, because they got to know each other better that night. He learned something about her that she didn't tell anybody else (that she's saving herself for someone she loves), which might be what he means by "both our hearts have a secret only both of us know".

    I don't know if any of that's right or not, but it's a sweet song. I love Josh Ritter.
    koeln2007on April 08, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe first few lines of this song are such a nice compliment, I love it.

    I'm not so sure what the rest of it means..
    fireplaceon January 10, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis katleen girl, is a virgin and she's wanted by all the guys at the party, but he ends up driving her home, and they do it... and they keep it a secret that only both of them know
    beachgirl4433on February 07, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm not sure, but I think it's this song.

    I saw him live not so long ago, and he said that this song was a memory of his prom night. His town only had about half as many girls as guys, so when he went to the prom he had to "share" the date with his best friend, and they were kind of competing, and he got the second half of the night. Of course, that might be for a totally different song. The one above sounds pretty plausible
    Guerillabaabaaon February 08, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI saw him live a few days ago, and I remember before playing a song, he said it was about prom night, and I thought he was going to play Kathleen. But he ended up playing something else, I forget what it was, perhaps "Bright Eyes".
    geekusaon February 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnd by "Bright Eyes", I clearly mean "Bright Smile". Oops! :)
    geekusaon February 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh, such a lovely song. It's one of my favorites. I'm envious of anyone who has seen Josh Ritter live, as I can only imagine what Kathleen would be like live...
    pristinityon May 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh my gosh, I was just going to comment on how great it would be to see Josh Ritter live as well. BUT THEN I realized that I have seen him live but it was when I didn't care because I was too excited to see the person her was opening for.
    He was pretty fantastic though.
    waxpoeticon August 18, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI just saw Josh last week. He is wonderful. So humble, so completely talented. It was magical. Kathleen was GREAT, as was his ending song Lawrence, KS. He did a slower version of it and it was a beautiful ending to a wonderful night of music.
    I was a fan of his before, but now, I am a HUGE fan.
    cdhound1on April 27, 2006   Link

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