"What Light" as written by and Jeff Tweedy....
If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Then just sing what you feel
Don't let anyone say it's wrong

And if you're trying to paint a picture
But you're not sure which colors belong
Just paint what you see
Don't let anyone say it's wrong

And if you're strung out like a kite
Or stung awake in the night
It's alright to be frightened

When there's a light
What light
There's a light
What light
There's a light
White light
Inside of you

You think you might need somebody
To pick you up when you drag
Don't lose sight of yourself
Don't let anyone change you back

And if the whole world's singing your songs
And all you're paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone's from now on

And that's not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You'll only get uptight

When there's a light
What light
There's a light
What light
There's a light
White light
There's a light
White light
There's a light
One light
There's a light
White light
There's a light
One light
There's a light
White light
There's a light
One light
There's a light
One light
There's a light
White light
Well, there's a light
White light
Inside of you

There's a light
White light
There's a light
White light
There's a light
White light
There's a light
One light


Lyrics submitted by fishmasta

"What Light" as written by Jeff Tweedy

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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What Light song meanings
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14 Comments

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  • +1
    General Comment"And if the whole world's singing your songs
    And all you're paintings have been hung
    Just remember what was yours is everyone's from now on"

    I think those lines mean this: in the beginning he's saying do what you want don't let anyone tell you what to do or think, the people who are the "naysayers" aren't what it's all about, it's about what you feel. And then, "what was yours is everyones..." is like the pride you feel in what you've accomplished. You started from people saying bad things and now your music (or anything else) has touched so many people. You've given a piece of yourself to the world and there's never shame in that.

    The whole song to me is just about trusting yourself and the good things that come when you believe in what you're doing and don't let anyone take that away from you.
    SugarMagnolia311on August 17, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree that the song tells the listener to do whatever they feel and to follow their bliss but I also think it touches on Wilco's dealings with their record company and fans over the years.

    To me, the lyrics "And if the whole world's singing your songs And all you're paintings have been hung Just remember what was yours is everyone's from now on" has to do with the fact that he's come to terms with how his art (music) is no longer completely his anymore but rather belongs partially to his fans. I think this speaks to the whole DRM and illegal downloading of music and basically says to other artists, if you can't handle not completely owning your work, don't become popular. Sort of a trade off if you will.
    ctank77on November 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Just remember what was yours is everyone's from now on"

    Maybe think about it like this: Art of any sort has to begin as an inkling of a thought inside one person's head. It is, in its conception, entirely personal, entirely self-reflective, and completely dependent on its creator for its meaning. And it can stay this way, so long as no one is ever exposed to it. But the minute you let it out, it gets bigger than that.

    You can't keep your song entirely yours. All of the words and tears and love and joy and heartache that go into every song are only the beginning of what it means. I had an odd experience as a musician where I wrote a song some years ago and discovered that a new friend of mine had it playing on her mySpace, and in that instance, I realized that what I'd written was entirely bigger than my outlook for it. I'd written a song that I thought was too personal to connect to anyone properly, and felt the need to explain it to friends in order that the backstory might complete, but here was this new friend of mine who took this song I'd written completely blind, no back story, no emotional input from me, and connected with it on a level beyond what could've been possible if I'd sat down and explained it to her line by line. That started teaching me a lesson.

    It's incredibly tempting to explain your art away. In some sense, it takes a bit of an edge off of it, makes it a little more comfortable for the listener to hear, because you think they know what to listen for and might offer a little more forgiveness if they see the full scope of everything surrounding.

    But that ruins the experience for them. It's no longer a song waiting to made theirs, it's your song waiting to be heard by them. The connection gets muddied, weighed down, and made soggy by all the extraneous explanation. Yet, either way, they have to run it through their own minds to interpret it, no matter how much explanation you give.

    So why not offer them the entire song? It began as yours, but in order for it to reach its full potential, it has to become someone else's, and in becoming theirs, it loses the intricacies of the personal situation that made it what it was while connecting on an emotional level that runs far deeper than is fully expressible simply through lyrical content. And as frustrating as it can be to reach a point where your band has fans that simply don't ring resonant with what it took for you to create these songs, it can still mean something to them, too.

    The meaning of it, then, doesn't lie solely in your hands, or solely in the hands of the people it's connected to, but somewhere in between-- the fans drawing meaning from your original one, while filling in holes for themselves, offering the artist new ways to understand what they've written through the evolution of this song as it takes on this new meaning.

    And that meaning, that beauty, that purpose for the song, that string that runs resonant deep beneath everything that's been written over top of it to work to express, that's that white light that shines out of it, that connective force buried inside the music, inside the writer before it even finds its way out into an instrument. But once it's there, it can't be put out. It can only be built on.
    eiseyon April 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think it means just do what you want, don't let other people tell you what is wrong or right
    bakagameron March 18, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah, it's a big fuck you to all those who say you cant do whatever. i like how he says if you sing what you feel or paint what you see, then there's no way it can be wrong
    NewLibertineon April 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's not a big fuck you.

    The song basically says to be true to yourself.
    JLC2304on April 10, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis sounds like a bob dylan song,
    like i first heard it and i thought it was bob dylan.
    it's amazing though.
    i cant wait for the new album.
    JACKIE THE HOBOon April 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentalso, the lines:

    "And if the whole world's singing your songs
    And all you're paintings have been hung
    Just remember what was yours is everyone's from now on"

    sounds to me like jeff is trying to deal with wilco's success and popularity. he obviosly does not like it.
    JACKIE THE HOBOon April 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think he does like it, he sounds so positive when he sings "is everyone's from now on," i think he's just acknowledging that as an artist once you release your songs to the public or hang your paintings in museum they dont exclusively be long to you - they belong to whoever is listening to them or seeing them, which is a beautiful thing. And i think a big part of art is in sharing it
    NewLibertineon May 03, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentin my opinion, this isn't a fuck you i can do whatever i want song, its a fuck yeah anyone can do anything they put their mind to.

    i think the placement in the album and the general mood of the album match it nicely, and this rolls into on and on as if to give you two last messages of hope to hold onto.

    i feel this album is very mature, very domestic (songs about doing the dishes), and above all hopeful and optomistic.

    hence, this song just rocks.
    raaaaaaaaghibon May 04, 2007   Link

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