Like the lantern on a tree
Your burden bright as weary be
Periwig on parakeet
You're God's great paramour and sweet

I'm happy, I'm happy
Your birthday brings a pardoning
I'm happy, I'm happy
You're like a bird that will not be

Yours will number, yours will be
A paragon, a Paraclete
Keep your bed warm, keep your humor
Keep your proverbs short and sweet

I'm sorry, I'm sorry
That life is anxious, life is mean
I'm sorry, I'm sorry
A pair of shoes is what you need

I'm happy, I'm happy
Your birthday brings a pardoning
I'm happy, I'm happy
You're like a bird that will not be


Lyrics submitted by Periodix


Happy Birthday song meanings
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21 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentI think this song may be about his mother, or at least it sounds like the same person he writes about in the song Romulus. I'm not sure if Romulus is about his real mother or is a fictional shortstory song. I don't know much about the circumstances of Sufjans childhood, but I know his parents got divorced when he was really young and he moved away from Detroit with his Father and stepmother.

    This is what I interpret the song to be saying by stanzas:
    Stanza 1: I can see your clearly sad (lines 1 & 2). You look silly (line 3). Your someone I love but don't trust, or your someone i love in spite of all your character flaws and I believe you have a good heart (line 4).

    Stanza 2: I can't stay mad at you its your birthday (lines 1,2). You apear as one thing to everyone but your really something else (like a bird that will not be)(line 4). The line before this (line 3 suggests he's happy about her being like a bird that will not be. I percieve this as sarcasim, but also as him giving up on this person. Its almost like when you know somebody that keeps making distructive decissions but you give them advice that they never take. So you eventually say to yourself fuck it, what can I do.

    Stanza 3: As you grow older you just get more wrapped up in things your not suposed to be doing (lines 1,2). If you keep doing what your doing try not to get sad (line 3), but don't lecture me on my shortcomings (keep your proverbs short and sweet)(line 4).

    Stanza 4: I'm sorry that life can be extreamly difficult and full of anxiousness sometimes. I know how you feel. (lines 1,2) I hope you do something for yourself that makes you feel happy again (lines 3,4).

    Stanza 5 is the same as stanza 2.

    Just my interpretation on this one hope that helps :)
    Dialectic1Hon February 08, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOne last thing. I'm looking at this song from the perspective that the women is involved in some sort of an afair, wheather it be one or many. apocarteresis mentions above the meaning of the word paramore. I think thats an esential word to the meaning of the song.
    Dialectic1Hon February 08, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about Jesus Christ, which is no surprise considering Sufjan constantly uses Christian references in his songwriting.

    Burden: This lyric refers to the great burden/task Jesus Christ had of coming to earth and sacrificing his life to save all mankind. It consists of his suffering in the garden of Gethsamane where he spilled his blood and took about him all the sins of the world, and then the cross where he died a painful death.

    Paramour: Jesus was considered God's greatest and most obedient son in the preexistence (which is spoken of in the old and new testament). Not that God loved him more, only that Jesus loved God more, and was the most qualified to faithfully bring to pass this ultimate and everlasting atonement. For this, Sufjan refers to Jesus and God's great paramour and he is a feat or a great accomplishment of God's. I assume that is how he means it. And when he says sweet, well, if you have read the new testament you would know that Jesus lived a perfect life without sin, and he was indeed "sweet".

    "keep your proverbs short and sweet": Jesus spoke and taught in parables when he was on the earth, it was his way of teaching the people that had "hard hearts" or "hearts of stone". And as you read the gospels of the new testament you definitely see how effective they were. Many people today confuse proverbs with parables, which is understandable. Surely Jesus also taught in Proverbs or a council sort of speak.

    "life is anxious live is mean": Jesus was treated with contempt by the majority of the multitudes and we know how that ended up panning out. They expected a lot out of him, and they did not treat him kindly, on the cross and in the garden were not the first times he experienced physical pain for his goodness. And certainly the betrayal he faced daily and even by those closest to him caused him sorrow. Sufjan is saying he is sorry that life is anxious and mean to someone so good.

    This is my interpretation and I feel fairly confident that it is accurate, but then again, who knows, I definitely feel like all these things just click when I listen to the song being sung, it isn't something I really analyzed, it just made sense.
    Braniganon March 05, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy guess is that it's about Jesus. The most obvious reaosn I think that is the line "your birthday brings a pardoning" but other phrases hint at it as well like "you burden" and "yours will number yours will be a paragon (as perfect example) a Paraclete (another word for the Holy Spirit)" Also, the part about being sorry that life is anxious and mean would make sense if you are talking to someone perfect and holy. But I don't undertand that bird motif. Also, can i just say that I dig the alliteration?
    Miss Miseryon March 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment^^^
    Ummm well I thought he was just singing to a friend or lover but okay.
    dan356on June 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think this is really about Jesus. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry
    That life is anxious, life is mean" gives the impression that Sufjan's sorry for whoever's birthday it is and I don't know why Sufjan would want to give Jesus shoes. I always imagined it as Sufjan at a birthday party when he was little and that he had had a fight with the birthday kid but now he's been forgiven. And I love the line "You're like a bird that will not be." I don't understand it, but it gives me a feeling of a really high-maintenance person, but Sufjan still likes them.
    juliam919on October 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think this is really about Jesus. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry
    That life is anxious, life is mean" gives the impression that Sufjan's sorry for whoever's birthday it is and I don't know why Sufjan would want to give Jesus shoes. I always imagined it as Sufjan at a birthday party when he was little and that he had had a fight with the birthday kid but now he's been forgiven. And I love the line "You're like a bird that will not be." I don't understand it, but it gives me a feeling of a really high-maintenance person, but Sufjan still likes them.
    juliam919on October 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt could be a reference to Jesus as shown here:
    Paraclete (pâr'əklēt) , in the New Testament, title of the Holy Spirit, often translated as “Comforter” or “Advocate.” In First John, Jesus himself is the “Paraclete.”
    latest1999on October 30, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSufjan weives both of those together. It could mean that there was a birthday party where he got angry, but him looking back on it could have made him think about a different pardening due to a different birth.
    zachharrismenton December 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLantern on a tree= christmas?

    also, something through out the song about the bird, the parakeet and its relation to the "Paraclete." There is a connection there.

    A bird who will not be.
    A parakeet who will not be.
    Will not be held, held still, contained.
    A Paraclete who will not be.
    You see where I'm going?
    zachharrismenton December 05, 2006   Link

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