"Savannah Smiles" as written by and Will Robinson Sheff....
Midnight late last week, my daughter's diary
Didn't know what it might be 'til it was open
I only read one page and then put it away
Talk about your big mistakes, hey, Shan, nice going

Photos show no tears, in her eyes
All those pretty years gone by
I just cannot believe, could do that to a child
A child, a child

Shannon just flew down, four days back in town
She sleeps and lies around and then she goes up
And then one day she's gone, what should I have done?
Joe turns the TV on with all the lights out

Photos on the wall
She's my baby, she's my baby doll
Is she someone I don't know at all?
Is she someone I betrayed?

It's a great day in the fall
And the radio's singing down the hall
And I rise to turn it off ?cause all I'm seeing is her face
Age eight, eight

Lyrics submitted by smileforthecamera

"Savannah Smiles" as written by Will Robinson Sheff


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Savannah Smiles song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentWill Sheff discussed this in his interview with Pitchfork on August 20th, which is where I assume everyone go this info... Everyone's summed it up, but anyone who wants a direct quote:

    "Pitchfork: With these ideas of personal identity and transformation in mind, I'd like to ask you about "Savannah Smiles," a song that deals with the life and death of Shannon Wilsey, a young woman who took the name Savannah when she entered the adult film industry in the early 1990s. This is a person who became so subsumed by her new identity that she committed suicide after becoming disfigured in a horrendous automobile accident-- with such injuries, she no longer felt that she could be the beautiful adult film star Savannah. What drew you to Shannon's story?

    Will Sheff: I guess I could relate, or something like that. I'm really interested in pornography, because there's all this meaning that gets attached to pornography that has nothing to do with what pornography is. Because pornography is pretty much the simplest art form there is-- there's not a whole lot to it. There's not a lot of meaning there. But there is so much meaning that floats around it. I'm really interested in the way that people talk about actresses and actors-- but more with actresses-- in adult film, they are extremely condescending. Often times you either get that this person is some sort of worthless whore, or you get this "poor girl, she must have been abused" kind of thing.

    The case of Savannah is interesting because-- while not particularly special-- her parents blamed the adult film industry while the adult film industry blamed her parents and nobody really knows what the hell happened. And that's sort of the point of "Savannah Smiles"-- you don't know. There's sadness about her story that you cannot boil down to a TV movie-style explanation ….Ultimately, I also feel that indie rock and hipster culture seem to me to be very phobic of sexuality. There's a fetishizing of childhood-- like you can see it in Wes Anderson movies and in twee music, and the ways in which these grown men dress like children. I feel that there's a fear of sexuality, and one minor goal that I have with Okkervil River is that the songs are sexual. Not to say that they are about sex, but that they have an adult sexuality to them. That's what rock and roll is supposed to be about, right? It's supposed to be about sex….

    Pitchfork: Yet Savannah was impregnated by Gregg Allman before the age of 17, and she went through a series of short-lived relationships with rock stars like Slash and Billy Idol….

    Will Sheff: Yeah, she was a groupie.

    Pitchfork: So is this the relationship between rock and roll and sexuality that you wish to explore in your work? How do you reconcile the obviously exploitative nature of this state of affairs with perhaps a healthier understanding of the place of sex in the world of music?

    Will Sheff: Being a groupie is, in some ways, just an extreme form of fandom. I think that everyone has experienced, on some level, the emotion that motivates you to be a groupie. Groupies are also regularly disrespected, but all it is is somebody who loves something so much that they get involved with it sexually. Or maybe it doesn't even have to do with sex. I have felt a sense of fandom for things that I have loved that is so intense that it starts to bleed into spirituality, bleed into sexuality, and bleed into all kinds of areas of your life that love for a simple rock album should not be occupying. So with the groupie thing-- Savannah was involved with Slash, with Allman, and she's in the Tom Petty video for "Don't Come Around Here No More", as Alice [in Wonderland]. And the ending of that video, it's really beautiful and freaky. She's being eaten as a gigantic birthday cake….

    Pitchfork: Yeah, I was 10 or so when that video came out, and I think it permanently warped my ideas of women and sexuality.

    Will Sheff: When I was writing "Starry Stairs", which was meant to be a sequel to "Savannah Smiles" [The Stage Names was originally conceived as a double album], I kept coming back to that image of her lying on the table-- and she's underneath the stage, as it's obviously a fake birthday cake body-- totally immobilized. She couldn't move if she wanted to in real life. And here is this rock band devouring her body. If there was ever a better image for the tragedy of the groupie-- that's it right there. So I was kind of thinking about that, too. "
    raconteuron August 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentShannon Wilsey loved the movies "Savannah Smiles" and thats why she called her self "Savannah". I dont know anything about the story about the movie so I dont know if Will was inspired by it when he wrote the song
    soCtraon August 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Photos show no tears
    And her eyes"

    I think it's "Photos show no tears in her eyes"
    jeconneron July 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt sounds to me like the song is about a father who doesn't give his daughter any attention. He didn't know he was ignoring her until he read her diary. "Is she someone I don't know at all?" sounds like he is realizing he doesn't really know anything about her and she's already 8.
    electricduckon August 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt sounds to me like the song is about a father who doesn't give his daughter any attention. He didn't know he was ignoring her until he read her diary. "Is she someone I don't know at all?" sounds like he is realizing he doesn't really know anything about her and she's already 8.
    electricduckon August 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it is about a father who turns around one day and realizes his daughter has grown up without his knowing it. It takes reading something startling in her diary entry to remind him that she is no longer a child and that he doesnt really know her anymore after "all those pretty years gone by". He still thought of her in his mind as "age 8" and as his baby doll, but now he has to come to terms with the fact that she is an adult now and that they are relative strangers.
    What i am wondering is who is Shannon and who is Savannah? I feel like Shannon is the daughter, who now comes home to visit (maybe from college) and he barely sees her.
    Just some thoughts. I really like this song a lot, especially the line "She's my baby
    She's my baby doll
    Is she someone I don't know at all?"
    BHippoon August 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is most likely about the porn star Savannah, also known as Shannon Wilsey. She had a lot of media attention in the early 90's surrounding her suicide. So this is probably Will's interpretation of how her father might have taken it when he found out his daughter was doing porn, or perhaps even her suicide.

    The itunes bonus track (Shannon Wilsey on the) Starry Stairs is supposed to be the sequel to this song, and is basically her life from Shannon's POV. The whole album is full of these pop culture references, and it makes for a really interesting listen because nearly every song refers to some real life event.
    utopian.bookmobileon August 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSavannah Smiles is also the title of a movie from 1982. The actress, Bridget Andersen played Savannah when she was around 7 years old. In 1997 she died from an overdose of alcohol & drugs, she was 22.

    I think this could have something to do with the song but I agree with BHippo's interpretation.
    endubon August 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh yeah, I should also mention that in the movie Savannah Smiles, Savannah runs away due to lack of attention on her father's part, that obviously ties in to the song.
    endubon August 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentutopian. Thank you for that insight. I think the song is quite obviously about that. I'm sure the father discovers her diary after learning she's committed suicide on the news or something.

    "And then one day, she's gone What should I have done?"

    "And I rise to turn it off cause all I'm seeing is her face"

    I'm thinking this song is without a doubt about this situation.
    Juggernaut Joeon August 21, 2007   Link

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