"Chemo Limo" as written by and Regina Spektor....
I had a dream
Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin came over
Baby-sat all four of my kids

Then in my dream
I told the doctor off
He said if you don't want to do it
Then you don't have to do it
He said the truth is
You'll be okay, anyway

Then in my dream
Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin and the doctor
Went and had a talk with my boss

Something about insurance policies
They kept the door closed at all times
I couldnt hear or see

When they came out they said
You'll be okay, anyway
And I smiled cause I'd known it all along.

No thank you no thank you no thank you no thank you
I don't have to pay for this shit
I couldn't afford chemo like I couldn't afford a limo
And on any given day I'd rather ride a limousine

No thank you no thank you no thank you no thank you
I ain't about to to die like this
I couldn't afford chemo like I couldn't afford a limo
And besides this shit is making me tired
It's making me tired
It's making me tired
You know I plan to retire some day,
And I'm gonna go out in style
Go out in style
This shit it's making me tired
It's making me tired
It's making me tired
I'm-a gonna go out in style go out in style

When I woke up
My kids were being quiet
I knew it was a dream right away
I called the limousine company

Then I got dressed
I dressed the kids as well
The limousine pulled in
And we piled in

The doctor he asked which way we were headed
I said, Sir, let's just go west and he listened obediently,
Sophie only wants to listen to radio BBC
Michael sat on my knees and whispered to me
All about the meanies
Jacqueline was being such a big girl
With her cup of tea looking out of the window
And Barbara
She looks just like my mom
Oh my god, Barbara
She looks so much like my mom

No thank you no thank you no thank you no thank you
I don't have to pay for this shit
I couldn't afford chemo like I couldn't afford a limo
And on any given day I'd rather ride a limousine

No thank you no thank you no thank you no thank you
I ain't about to die like this
I couldn't afford chemo like I couldn't afford a limo
And besides this shit is making me tired
It's making me tired
It'smaking me die
You know I plan to retire some day,
And I'm-a gonna go out in style
Go out in style
This shit it's making me tired
It's making me tired
It's making me tired
I'm-a gonna go out in style go out in style

Style
Style
Style?
Style.
Style..?
Style
Style..??
Style.

I had a dream
Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin came over and
Baby-sat all four of my kids

I had a dream
Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin came over and
Baby-sat all four of my kids

Sophie only want to tune us into radio BBC
Michael sat on my knees and whispered to me
All about the meanie
Jacqueline was being such a big girl
With her cup of tea looking out of the window
And Barbara
She looks just like my mom
Oh my god, Barbara
She looks so much like my mom

Oh my god, Barbara
She looks so much just like my mom...


Lyrics submitted by medicine

"Chemo Limo" as written by Regina Spektor

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Chemo Limo song meanings
Add your thoughts

142 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +9
    General CommentThere are lots of great, in-depth analyses of this song, but I don't think anyone has addressed the larger social issue that pervades it. Although it's a personal story of one woman's battle with cancer, she represents all the working poor who've been failed by the privatized American health care system.

    The (probably single) mom of this song obviously works very hard ("I plan to retire someday" and "go out in style," she sings proudly) but has trouble making ends meet. Her concern with cash is introduced immediately, when she dreams that "crispy, crispy Benjamin Franklin" babysits her kids. Franklin had many other incarnations--as a founding father, an inventor, an essayist--but, significantly, the one she associates him with is his image on a $100 bill. Money is on her mind, especially when it comes to her kids. She probably struggles to provide for them, and a babysitter is a luxury, something to be dreamt about.

    Despite how hard this woman works, she doesn't have adequate insurance coverage. A number of people interpret her attitude as a "f*** you" to the medical establishment and an active choice to let the disease take its natural course, but that's not what I see going on here. The lyrics tell us candidly that she's been in treatment with chemo, radiation, or both ("this shit is making me tired") but that her insurance has now run out. Hence she dreams that her doctor consults her employer about her insurance policy and, when he finds out it won't cover further medical care, dismisses her with the condescending assurance that everything is just fine. The image of her waiting for the verdict of their secret conference only to be given a pat on the head and sent home perfectly captures the powerlessness that many working class citizens experience in their encounters with the health care system. To regain a sense of dignity and control over her own life, the singer rationalizes the choice that has been made for her as her own, and certainly there is some amount of denial ("I smiled 'cause I'd known it all along") and relief in giving up the fight and living out her last days in peace ("on any given day, I'd rather ride a limousine"). But make no mistake about it--this mom doesn't CHOOSE to succumb to cancer and leave her kids alone. She simply "can afford chemo like...a limo." In other words, she can't. It's money (or lack thereof) that chooses for her.

    Whether the singer really uses the last of her savings to rent a limo or not doesn't really matter. The whole song is surreal and dreamlike, including the limo ride, in which the doctor is the chauffeur and they symbolically head west into the dying day. The meaning is far more important here than a dissection of which words should be taken literally and which are metaphorical. However, I DO believe that the children are really kids. After all, isn't that what makes this song so poignant? That not only has this woman been victimized by a health care system that won't treat her cancer but that her kids are about to become victims by proxy? The sequence in the limo is so heartbreaking not just because the singer realizes what she is losing but because she (and we) realize what her children are about to lose. Who will foster Sophie's love of learning? Who will protect Michael from the school bulllies? And Jacqueline, already trying to be so mature about this, is losing her innocence.

    All of this seems to hit home at once as the singer notices, perhaps for the first time, how much Barbara resembles her own mother. Although we can't be sure if her mother is living or dead, the reference is a jolting, physical reminder of the mother-daughter bond that will soon be severed. The singer's realization triggers a dual outpouring of grief for her own loss of her daughter's childhood and for her daughter's loss of her mom, a loss that perhaps the singer understands firsthand if her own mother has already passed on.

    As the last note fades away, we are left with that image of Barbara, who is the spitting image of her grandma, and wonder what now will become of these four children. Who will raise them and impart the values and family traditions that the singer's mom instilled in her?

    Well, when you go back to the beginning, you have your answer, and in fact, Spektor reminds us of it in the last verse: "Crispy, crispy Benjamin Franklin," this time in his incarnation as a federal official, takes care of her kids. It's a single parent's worst nightmare that, in the event of her death, her children might grow up schlepping through foster care homes or state institutions. And yet that is too often the reality for the littlest victims of a health care system that treats some people as second-class citizens.

    A heartbreaking and musically intricate cautionary tale about one of those ills of society we just don't like to face. And yet it happens every day.
    LyricallyInclinedon September 30, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI don't know if I am right in my viewings of this song, but this is my opinion of it:

    In basics, the woman found out she has some form of cancer and her doctor found out for her that her insurance will not cover the chemotherapy that is needed for her treatment. She has to make the descion of paying for chemo herself or to not have it at all. She says "I couldn't afford chemo like I couldn't afford a limo"(ll. 21), so it's obvious to the character that she can't pay for the chemo. I think Regina also tries to show that the main character is in some disbelief with this line: " You know I plan to retire some day." She is looking over what she had planned for her life and (most likely) for her family it would be better for her to die so they will have the money (shown in the line: "Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin came over/ Baby-sat all four of my kids". The money is taking care of her children.) I think the last half of the song is all metaphorical, with her telling the doctor to go west (which is the general direction for the sun to 'end it's day', so probably means that she's not taking the chemo and is dying) and while this is happening, she realizes that she doesn't want to do this. We're left to believe that the mother died and left her children alone.

    :( Such a sad song, but it's really good.
    unseengeniuson March 07, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationTo me it's pretty obvious that she doesn't have money for chemo just like she doesn't have money for a limo. But if she did she'd rather make the most of the rest of her life and choose the limo.

    "I couldn't afford chemo like I couldn't afford a limo"

    The line is only changed in the song once but I think it proves that point.

    I think this song is a time where she drifts in and out of consciousness and what's happening around her mixes with her dreams. Crispy Ben Franklin is money and symbolizes her lack of it. The doctor and her boss talking about insurance policies is discussing the fact that she can't afford treatment. They tell her she'll be OK so they don't have to worry her. I think she realizes that they're lying and she won't be OK but is willing to stay in denial so that she doesn't have to think about the fact that she's dying and will have to leave her children behind.

    "My kids were being quiet
    I knew it was a dream right away"

    Her kids are quiet so it has to be a dream, she goes back to sleep. But I think that part is real and her kids are upset about her having cancer and are behaving because they're sad. She just doesn't want to believe it and goes back to her dream/fantasy about riding in a limo.

    At the same time she's a fighter and wants to live the rest of her life. She wants to watch her children grow up and she wants to retire and go out in style. She hates the disease, it makes her tired, and she just wants to be OK again.

    She thinks about her children and their personalities and how much she loves them. I think the last verse is her coming out of denial and realizing that she's dying. She just sounds extra upset about Barbara and adds in the "Oh my God".

    This song is so heart-breaking. Especially as a nursing student since I know that I'll have to deal with these sorts of situations in the future.

    vegikusoon November 28, 2008   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationTo me this song is about a mother of four who is stuggling with cancer and simply wants the whole ordeal to be over. She doesn't want to go through chemo, because of how awful it is to experince but she also doesn't have the money to pay for it and is worried that if she died anyways there would be nothing left for her kids.

    The doctor being her drive and listening to her as she tells him to "just go west" is to me her ebing able to give the doctor instructions for a change and her lack of destination is a sort of freedom to just explore and spend time with her kids.

    As for the "crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin" That seems to pretty clearly be money as Benjamin Franklin is on the American (I believe its the 100$) dollar bill. Regardless if it isnt the Hundred he is def on one of their bills. So I see the " I had a dream Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin came over and Baby-sat all four of my kids" as meaning that she dreamt that she had enough money that her kids would be taken care of and fiancial set for life after shes forced to leave them.

    Sad but great song!
    Saxatilison August 14, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmeathoof knows what he's talking about. To be more specific about the end: the way she depicts her children is just her reflection of the present with the knowledge that she might die. she speaks of the first 3 with affection, but by the last child, she's sharing her fear of never seeing them (or her mother) again.
    bittersweet637on August 20, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think this is about a woman who is just finding out about her cancer. I think this woman is very close to dying. I picture a woman laying in the hospital bed just before she passes and is having these "dreams," only they aren't really dreams so much as just her slipping in and out of consciousness. The part where the doctor is driving the limousine makes me think that she is kind of looking around the room and just seeing the people in the room in her dreams. Looking at her kids one last time as they sit in the room and play... still a very very sad song and I love every drop of it.
    naomi6565on July 03, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBasically, what I got was that this woman has cancer, and is very close to dying. She doesn't have money, hence where she dreams about Ben Franklin babysitting her kids...she wants them to have money security when she can't be there. She has a choice to pay for chemo, or pay for a limo so she can spend a last farewell with her children. I don't know about the kids representing herself. I think this was simply a beautifully sad song, and it is the picture of a woman making her dying wish come true.
    Sliptheflitchon August 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe last part always makes me tear up a little
    "oh my god, barbara. she looks so much just like my mom"
    she's looking at her children for what may be the last time, trying to see what they'll be like grown up, because she won't be there to watch them.
    I love this song.
    mollypocketson November 30, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love how it's all melancholy and then breaks into the staccato and wonderfully Regina, "No thank you, no thank you, no thank you. I ain't about to pay for this shit..." Only she could make obscenities so cute and dainty.

    P.S. I think the song is pretty straightforward lyrically. A mother with cancer dreams that she rejects taking her chemotherapy (it's the "shit" that is "making [her] tired) and instead chooses to "go out in style" and spend the little money she has (that would have paid for the chemo) on a limo ride with her and her four children. It's quite depressing, but a wonderful song.
    thepreppynerdon December 20, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe Mom is staggering between denial, hopes, pride, fears and reality.

    - denial (she doesn't bother further with digging into details - behind closed doors/eyes she couldn't hear or see the bargains on what her bet will be; and this line: "I knew it was a dream right away" as if this nightmare can't be true),

    - hopes (cuz she knew it all the while that she'll be ok anyway),
    - pride (she needs to resist, she needs to believe that she still runs the show - that it is HER who planned to retire SOME day, she planned to go out in style, no matter what),
    - fears (she goes emotional about her kids, as she fears for their future and strenght to cope with reality)
    - reality (she has to make real choices - "The doctor he asked which way we were headed" and she chooses not to do it, she heads west to the sunset of her life).

    The death bed is her limo, where all of her kids are having a moment with her. Even though she's tripping (...when she woke up of THE dream, she called the limo company and the DOCTOR asked which way to drive), the reality blends with her hallucinations: this shit is really making her tired, she'd rather hallucinate she is going out in style, while her "kids were being quiet" watching her in her bed getting ready for her last trip. She captures image of each of them for eternity (Sophie with her eager to learn; Michael with his loving innocent heart; Jaqueline with her strenght and independence; and Barbara who took after the previous generation and will probably have a kid herself that will be just like her mom); she dies but she'll live in and through them.
    Both, chimo and a limo are expensive - unluckly, the Benjamin-Frlanklins can't do much for her now, but ironically the ones from her insurance will be there to babysit all four of her kids now ...
    brumbarcheon April 03, 2007   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain