"The Devil Never Sleeps" as written by and Samuel Ervin Beam....
Dreamin' again of a train track ending at the edge of the sea
Big black cloud was low and rolling our way
Dog at the barbed wire barkin' at my buzz-cut friends
Friend with a switch blade shinin' in the summer rain
No one on the corner had a quarter for the telephone
Everybody bitchin' there's nothing on the radio

Dreamin' again of a city full of fathers and their white clothes
Chatterin' boys and a chicken at the choppin' block
All of us lost at the crosswalk waitin' for the other to go
Didn't find the field but boy you're really waterlogged
Someone bet a dollar that their daddy wasn't comin' home
Everybody bitchin' there's nothing on the radio

Dreamin' again that it's freezin' and my mother's in a flower bed
Long dead rows of daffodils and marigolds
Changin' her face like a shadow on the ground

No one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone
Everybody bitchin' there's nothing on the radio


Lyrics submitted by Mellow_Harsher

"The Devil Never Sleeps" as written by Samuel Ervin Beam

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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The Devil Never Sleeps song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI think it's meant to conjure up images about war (specifically Iraq). He's basically saying how there are all these bad things going on because of it but nobody cares. Instead they complain about mundane issues like how the radio sucks.

    The first line is about impending doom (train going into the sea, black cloud). The buzz cut friends are presumably people in the military. But they might not be, since the "me" in the song seems to be at home. "No one on the corner had a quarter for the telephone." That is, none of the people overseas have a way of telling the people back home about what's really going on. I'm assuming the mother is dead in her "flowerbed." Her line is some sort of condolence for her kid.

    Of course, the song might not be about the war or it might have a double meaning (which is probably most likely). A second meaning could be the way our society is now and where it is heading (i.e. doom). The "fathers in their army clothes" could be businessmen neglecting their children. The first stanza, then, could be about kids getting into trouble (dog, switchblade) and having no help (no quarter).
    egyptianeskimoon May 21, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWow all the iron and wine lyrics are amazing.

    I interpreted this song to be about how there is so much going on in our world, but "everyone bitching theres nothing on the radio" Like we are all focusing on the wrong things. There is a war, and kids saying things like "you're dad's not coming home" the mom in the flowerbed, and she seems very upset and distracted and I didn't think she was dead, i think it was more about how she is in her flowerbed while the kids are out and possibly getting into trouble because she has kind of lost all hope.

    I think the "No one on the corner had a quarter for the telephone" thing is about how no one helps each other out anymore, and then it kind of continues to paint a picture of a family that is falling apart with the father away, the mother distracted in the flowerbed and the kid out getting into trouble and no one doing anything just giving up with because “No one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone”
    marleny09on January 07, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commentegyptianeskimo, I think you're very close. I'm not sure that this isn't supposed to be written mostly literally - as in, really from the perspective of a child. You can sort of see him trying to step into shoes that are too big for him, getting the military haircut and playing with switchblades and butchering livestock. The warning at the end of the song - "no one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone" - comes across like the advice of a Cassandra figure, accurate and yet useless until it's too late. It seems to me to have two applications in this song: first and most obviously the people who started this war that's taking people away never to return; but also, and ironically, those of us who remain who are so caught up in our own tragedies that we lose sight of the fact that other people need help (trying to garden in freezing weather, refusing even to lend someone a quarter to make a call).

    There is, similar to the rest of the album, a feeling of frustrated escapist longings: train tracks that run into the sea, a telephone you can't use, a bunch of people too afraid to cross the street, and, of course, nothing on the radio to take one's mind off of what's going on. There's clearly something rudderless about the person talking in this song, and I think it's relatively obvious that, as people have been saying, the radio isn't the real problem. Rather, the problem is our weird belief that radio and other pop media can serve as legitimate substitutes for things like parents. The radio, then, is playing the same stuff it always has been and always will be, but situations like this demonstrate how little that stuff is needed.
    larrynivenon April 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSounds like a dancing song, only darker than one might expect.

    I love the irony, the dichotomy, being two sides of the same coin.

    This is why I love great music.
    OpinionHeadon October 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentperfection!!!!!!!!!
    manuelturcioson February 09, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis one is hard to pick apart, but i see imagery of both war (as in "the" war -- Iraq), and heaven/death.

    This whole record seems to carry a lot of political imagery, so the idea that he is alluding to the war seems plausible.

    Damn would I love to have a beer with this man and pick his brain for an evening. Embrace this one, he's a treasure.
    colonieson February 18, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow all the iron and wine lyrics are amazing.

    I interpreted this song to be about how there is so much going on in our world, but "everyone bitching theres nothing on the radio" Like we are all focusing on the wrong things. There is a war, and kids saying things like "you're dad's not coming home" the mom in the flowerbed, and she seems very upset and distracted and I didn't think she was dead, i think it was more about how she is in her flowerbed while the kids are out and possibly getting into trouble because she has kind of lost all hope.

    I think the "No one on the corner had a quarter for the telephone" thing is about how no one helps each other out anymore, and then it kind of continues to paint a picture of a family that is falling apart with the father away, the mother distracted in the flowerbed and the kid out getting into trouble and no one doing anything just giving up with because “No one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone”
    marleny09on January 07, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow all the iron and wine lyrics are amazing.

    I interpreted this song to be about how there is so much going on in our world, but "everyone bitching theres nothing on the radio" Like we are all focusing on the wrong things. There is a war, and kids saying things like "you're dad's not coming home" the mom in the flowerbed, and she seems very upset and distracted and I didn't think she was dead, i think it was more about how she is in her flowerbed while the kids are out and possibly getting into trouble because she has kind of lost all hope.

    I think the "No one on the corner had a quarter for the telephone" thing is about how no one helps each other out anymore, and then it kind of continues to paint a picture of a family that is falling apart with the father away, the mother distracted in the flowerbed and the kid out getting into trouble and no one doing anything just giving up with because “No one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone”
    marleny09on January 07, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow all the iron and wine lyrics are amazing.

    I interpreted this song to be about how there is so much going on in our world, but "everyone bitching theres nothing on the radio" Like we are all focusing on the wrong things. There is a war, and kids saying things like "you're dad's not coming home" the mom in the flowerbed, and she seems very upset and distracted and I didn't think she was dead, i think it was more about how she is in her flowerbed while the kids are out and possibly getting into trouble because she has kind of lost all hope.

    I think the "No one on the corner had a quarter for the telephone" thing is about how no one helps each other out anymore, and then it kind of continues to paint a picture of a family that is falling apart with the father away, the mother distracted in the flowerbed and the kid out getting into trouble and no one doing anything just giving up with because “No one lives forever and the devil never sleeps alone”
    marleny09on January 07, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThe first stanza is about a boy going to war.

    The second stanza is about the same boy reminiscing about his own father being off at war, and wondering whether he would come home or not.

    The third stanza is the boy's mother telling him that his dad is dead, and reveals her extreme bitterness at the world.

    Overall, I think the song is about two generations of soldiers, more likely WWI and WWII than the Iraq War.

    krackerdogon June 04, 2009   Link

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