"All the Rowboats" as written by Regina Spektor and produced by Regina Spektor and Mike Elizondo....
All the rowboats in the paintings
They keep trying to row away
And the captains' worried faces
Stay contorted and staring at the waves
They'll keep hanging in their gold frames
For forever, forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away

Hear them whispering French and German
Dutch, Italian, and Latin
When no one's looking I catch a sculpture marble,
Cold, and soft as satin
But the most special are the most lonely
God, I pity the violins
In glass coffins they keep coughing
They've forgotten, forgotten how to sing, how to sing

First there's lights out, then there's lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It's their own fault for being timeless
There's a price you pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
Here's your ticket, welcome to the tombs
They're just public mausoleums
The living dead fill every room
But the most special are the most lonely
God, I pity the violins
In glass coffins they keep coughing
They've forgotten, forgotten how to sing

They will stay there in their gold frames
For forever, forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away

First there's lights out, then there's lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It's their own fault for being timeless
There's a price you pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
They will stay there forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away


Lyrics submitted by adamanteve, edited by Joanie2012, SunnyPee, tobeornot, ReSpektFan, NinjaKittinz

"All the Rowboats" as written by Regina Spektor

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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All the Rowboats song meanings
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32 Comments

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  • +8
    General CommentA damn amazing song (but then, which Regina song isn't?).

    On a superficial level, in "All the Rowboats", Regina seems to be lamenting for the timeless masterpieces that are serving maximum sentences in galleries which are likened to tombs and mausoleums in the song's chorus. It's definitely an interesting perspective.

    However, I feel that she's also talking about artists who do not want to be ogled at and celebrated the way these masterpieces are. They want to share their art with the world but they don't want special treatment nor the celebrity status. They don't want to be cut off from the world. Their art is formed from their life experiences - from their connection with the rest of the world - and if they are placed in a metaphorical glass coffin, they'll forget how to live and therefore, they'll forget how to sing.

    Another undertone that keeps hitting me is how those attending these galleries - the people speaking various languages - aren't there to experience the art but to merely view them, whisper their judgment and pass on to the next item on display, almost cheapening the works of the artists who put their heart and soul into their work not to have them be judged but to be "experienced". The result is a sterile environment in which these masterpieces are trapped to the judgmental of the casual onlookers.

    I feel like I'm only scratching the surface here, though. There's much more to it that I can't quite articulate (the words just aren't coming) but I hope I can just click "like" on a comment where someone does articulate what I feel like I'm unable to say (not to discredit the various interesting views we have on here already, 'course).
    nuclearheadache89on May 31, 2012   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI think there’s a message here deeper than our tactless treatment of great art. She’s lamenting our inability to understand/interpret it. That’s why she writes, “Hear them whispering, French and German/ Dutch, Italian and Latin.” It’s especially significant that she mentions Latin, which is considered a “dead language.” She later proceeds to say, “But the most special are the most lonely”: the deepest, most complicated artwork are the most misunderstood. Then, “God, I pity the violins/ In the glass ocffins, they keep coughin’/ They’ve forgotten, forgotten how to sing, how to sing.” Here she presents a picture of death. People’s failure to understand great art is causing its detrioration…we’ve reached the point where we can no longer produce anything artistic (“singing” is a metaphor for the creation of art).
    BEAUTIFUL song. I’ve just discovered Regina Spektor and have been listening to her songs all day in addition to hanging around songmeanings.net (because I don’t understand a lot of them, ha). I should really get back to doing my humanities paper on Dostoevsky…Ugh, procrastination. But Regina’s music is a worthwhile distraction!
    martianeclipseon April 02, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think this song is about more than just artwork, and things that you find in museums. It's about our tendency to keep beautiful or interesting things locked up, when they should be open and free for everyone to enjoy.

    However, the tragic part is, while we admire and enjoy beautiful things, we also destroy them (the forests, nature, pieces of art, etc), sometimes purposely, sometimes not. So, it's probably best that those things are kept locked up so they can be preserved for future generations.
    incurable_humaniston April 26, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentlove this song,reminds me of the d.h lawrence quote:
    "museums, object-lessons rigged out to illustrate the unsound theories of archaeologists, crazy attempts to co-ordinate and get into a fixed order that which has no fixed order and will not be co-coordinated! It is sickening! Why must all experience be systematized? A museum is not a first-hand contact: it is an illustrated lecture. And what one wants is the actual vital touch."

    I don't agree with the sentiment either,I love museums.
    kaatrienon July 26, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Lyric CorrectionIt's actually "hear them whisper, French and German", not whispering. :)
    respekt121on June 11, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationAs far as a deeper interpretation, I feel like there might be a subtle observation on celebrity. Being a celebrity forces you to live in a glass case. The more special you are the less you are free to engage with others randomly in society and the more entombed you become. To an extreme, a person might forget how to sing\forget how to live because they are so far disengaged because their existence is one of preservation, not freedom.
    Seikeon March 01, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis song strikes me as a lamentation that creation is a finite process and that when a piece is complete, it dies in a way. When a painter makes his last stroke, no matter how great the painting, the picture is simply behind him. Nothing to add, nothing to change, its fate is simply to exist.
    Superstingon April 17, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commentlike regina said herself, this is about someone who wants liberate all of the artwork in a museum because they thought it was trapped, and in pain. she does not agree.
    looizon September 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthaha that's my favorite part of the recording, when she pauses and says, "...I do not agree." very matter-of-factly.
    adamanteveon October 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is very straight forward...and i love the imagery.....its so clear....
    the artwork is imprisoned for being great....it is paraded and chained..... and the meaning of art is to be free and art should be a release

    but i stilll wonder if there is a deeper meaning??
    envirohodgeson February 07, 2007   Link

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