"Sweet Jane" as written by and Lou Reed....
Standin' on a corner,
Suitcase in my hand.
Jack's in his car, says to Jane, who's in her vest,
Me, babe, I'm in a rock n' roll band.
Ridin' in a Stutz Bearcat, Jim,
Those were different times.
And the poets studied rows of verse,
And all the ladies rolled their eyes

Sweet Jane, Sweet Jane, Sweet Jane

Now, Jack, he is a banker,
And Jane, she is a clerk.
And the both of them are saving up their money...
Then they come home from work.
Sittin' by the fire...
Radio just played a little classical music for you kids,
The march of the wooden soldiers
And you can hear Jack say

Sweet Jane, Sweet Jane, Sweet Jane

Some people like to go out dancing
And other people, (like us) they gotta work
And there's always some evil mothers
They'll tell you life is full of dirt.
And the women never really faint,
And the villans always blink their eyes.
And the children are the only ones who blush.
'Cause life is just to die.
But, anyone who has a heart
Wouldn't want to turn around and break it
And anyone who ever played the part
He wouldn't want to turn around and fake it

Sweet Jane


Lyrics submitted by capitol76, edited by rosalyre, Mellow_Harsher

"Sweet Jane" as written by Lou Reed

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Sweet Jane song meanings
Add your thoughts

57 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +13
    General CommentLou wrote lots of songs about drugs...and transvestites for that matter...but Sweet Jane is not either. It's about correcting the misplaced notion among the "protest kids" that prior generations were trapped in society's shackles and that only the current generation knows how to live free of them. The singer realizes the falsehood in those premises for both generations -- we all alternate between living honestly and dishonestly, following our heart and playing a part. The song is an appeal for inter-generational understanding, as clearly summed up in the final lines...which he screams to make sure you're hearing them:

    >But anyone who ever had a heart
    >They wouldn't turn around and break it
    >And anyone who ever played a part
    >They wouldn't turn around and hate it

    Narratively, Jack & Jane are an older couple the singer sees on the street. He immediately makes assumptions about them based on their dress. Jack is in a "corset"...a derisive metaphor for restrictive garb, likely a business suit. Jane is likewise dressed for work in a vest. But the singer catches himself in his derision by noting that he's also wearing something "put on"...his rock & roll band...and laughes at his own hypocrisy.

    What follows is a reverie on what he imagines their life to have been...they were young once too and wild in their own right. Then they got older, settled into life, and made a trade-off (working for a living) in order to enjoy the comforts of love (settling down by the fire with their music). In particular, he wants the protest kids to hear that last part...those compromises they deride were all done for the love of Sweet Jane.

    In the final verse, the singer acknowledges that although people make different choices, we're all basically the same...it's only self-deception that makes us intolerant of the other camp. Isn't he working at his band after all ("Just watch me now")? And all of those people who hurl dirt at the other camp -- call them dishonest and affected -- well they're just angry because they haven't found life's purpose yet. Maybe that's art (rock & roll) and maybe that's love (Jane), but without it there is no point. Along the way, we all put on dishonest garb in the morning and strip it off at the end of the day. So we all need to be a little more forgiving, because:

    >But anyone who ever had a heart
    >They wouldn't turn around and break it
    >And anyone who ever played a part
    >They wouldn't turn around and hate it
    ErikDon March 31, 2010   Link
  • +11
    General Commenthave you ever cried because you DIDN'T write the song?
    crashbangboomon April 05, 2003   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationHere's my personal interpretation of this song. First, is a look into the past, describing the youthful and more rebellious days of Jack and Jane. Then, in the present, the narrator (Lou) is in his band, while Jack and Jane work classic 9 to 5 jobs,listening to traditional music and generally being responsible adults. After the chorus, the lyrics broaden from meditation Jack and Jane to a general thoughts about life choices and people. Here, each line should be disected.

    Some people they like to go out dancin
    and other people they have to work.
    These lines are again comparing two competing life styles, the one type being like Jack and Jane's and the other being like Lou's.

    and there's even some evil mothers
    Well there gonna tell you that everthing is just dirt
    These lines perhaps show how others, like parents, will say that every choice is wrong.

    you know that women never really faint
    This gives evidence that women only pretend to be weak but are actually cognizant of their actions - something not being what it seems.

    and that villians always blink their eyes
    Villians are not infalliable, but always blink,ie a second where they cannot see, are still human,

    that children are the only ones who blush
    Children here are the only ones who show their emotions, saying that in adult looks are decieving, making it difficult to discern what they are truly feeling and thinking


    and that life is just to die
    Clearly, Lou doesn't believe that there is not a goal in life, no ergon

    But anyone who ever had a heart
    they wouldn't turn around and break it
    and anyone who ever played a part
    They wouldn't turn around and hate it
    These last lines are a continuation of the general idea behind this song. The songs seems to be a meditation on life choices that the writer has made, the life of a singer in a band versus the idealized white picket fence life. The lyrics and tone seems to mock Jack and Jane, making them appear boring and stuffy. Yet despite the cynical tone, the writer doesn't actually seem so sure that the life of Jack and Jill is really bad. Others people's opinions, such as the mother, isn't reliable,as they will dislike everything. The next three lines shows how difficult it is to judge other lifestyles, considering how impossible it is to read manipulative adults. The writer than asserts that life has no end goal, thus it is quite open towards what life is the best - here implied that one might as well live it up. Immediately after leaning towards his lifestyle, he is pulled back into uncertainty after thinking about why Jack and Jane choose their boring life- they wouldn't just decide to live a horribly bland life and couldn't just hate their rebellious glory days: there must be something good that made them live the way they live now. In the end, no conclusion has been sufficiently reached, making this song one huge question:whether he or Jack and Jane made better choices and life a more fulfilling life.
    nutmeg388on February 25, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is a great song. Really catchy. Lou Reed is perhaps the only person who knows what all the parts to this song means, and maybe it doesnt matter. This song, on Loaded, shows VU's obvious progression towards complete Lou Reed control. This song could have easily been in his solo career, and many think it is. Thanks Lou
    Gratefateon March 18, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti think this song is about common people. and how they wouldnt mind being jsut common people as long as they got to do what they wanted.
    dieloonyon October 08, 2006   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningI created an account on this silly website, just to say that I think ErikD's interpretation, above, from 03-31-2010, is great stuff. He really nails it.

    This is a song about how our preconceived notions are not always correct. Maybe it's obvious, but it's worth noting (since some other posters seem confused about this): the lines about women, villains and children are a challenge to common stereotypes. In Victorian dramas and classic Hollywood films, the women faint when they're shocked. The song's narrator says that's baloney. Similarly, it's a stereotype of the evil villain that they stare intently and never blink. Baloney. So I guess he's saying that the idea of a blushing adult (e.g. blushing virgins) is just silly, because in real life adults don't blush.

    And it's in that spirit of confronting reality, that we have to see that life inevitably ends in death.

    By the way, I second the opinion: one of the greatest rock songs ever.

    Now I'm going to have to go check out the version on "Fully Loaded" to hear the rest of the song.
    Summers74on October 08, 2011   Link
  • +2
    Song Factobviously a little TOO much of the illegal substances HAVE fried the noodle of the "songwriter"

    andy Warhol silverscreen hang him on my wall
    andy Warhol looks a SCREAM



    *what's your favourite scary movie*
    exobscuraon January 19, 2016   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI like a lot of these interpretations. I like that there are many. Has anyone suggested that the lines

    "and there's even some evil mothers
    Well there gonna tell you that everthing is just dirt
    you know that women never really faint
    and that villians always blink their eyes
    that children are the only ones who blush
    and that life is just to die"

    go together? In other words, the "evil mothers" are destroying fantasy. Everything is MORE than dirt. Life is NOT just for dying. Because the next lines

    "But anyone who ever had a heart
    they wouldn't turn around and break it"

    finish the sentence. Either way, the thing I agree with people the most on is that this song is just great.
    Benfishon November 15, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's an ode to the transcendental. Little moments that we forget or take for granted in our everyday lives, but moments that we live for nonetheless. A connection to the holy that is different for everyone, and everyone experiences, not only reserved for the poets and artists.

    Even Jack the Banker and Jane the Clerk, the two "squarest" people imaginable at the time of the 60s counterculture, when they listen to classical music, "all you protest kids, you can hear Jack say, Sweet Jane." In other words, we're all connected to something divine, so don't think you're better or cooler. Being in the know is irrelevant, it's that moment of bliss we all have within us. The words Sweet Jane merely serve to personify that transcendence.

    The heavenly wine and roses part at the end, describe a woman in love who experiences her Sweet Jane when her lover smiles.

    This song goes with "Rock N Roll" the next track as a sort of diptych, where Lou expresses his Sweet Jane to be the state rocknroll takes him to. It's his holy moment in himself that saves him from himself and the dreariness of this world. And me too for that matter. That is all
    sunfish41on March 02, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSneers and fist shaking. God bless you, Lou Reed.
    evilfishmanon September 03, 2002   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain