"Soldier's Things" as written by and Tom Waits....
Davenports and kettle drums
and swallow tail coats
table cloths and patent leather shoes
bathing suits and bowling balls
and clarinets and rings
and all this radio really
needs is a fuse
a tinker, a tailor
a soldier's things
his rifle, his boots full of rocks
and this one is for bravery
and this one is for me
and everything's a dollar
in this box

Cuff links and hub caps
trophies and paperbacks
it's good transportation
but the brakes aren't so hot
neck tie and boxing gloves
this jackknife is rusted
you can pound that dent out
on the hood
a tinker, a tailor
a soldier's things
his rifle, his boots full of rocks
oh and this one is for bravery
and this one is for me
and everything's a dollar
in this box


Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira

Soldier's Things song meanings
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17 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentThis has to be my favorite waits song, mostly because it is written from the perspective of being at a, I think, a yard sale that this old solider is having. I myself am a big fan of yard sailing and at times can get a bit depressed seeing what peoples lives set out on a table for a few quarters an item.
    schickmon October 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA find this song to be very sad for some reason. Maybe this is about how war really makes life cheap?
    gweepson March 19, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe melancholic piano suggests to me that the soldier is decesased, and this is a yard sale with his old belongings. The understated emotion of the narrator in going from describing useless junk like an old radio, to the important stuff like war medals and cufflinks (perhaps from a wedding?) implies that it is somebody who doesn't have any emotional connection to the soldier. Perhaps the landlord he was renting from, or some distant relative, or simply somebody who collected his junk as it was being thrown out, and is now selling it.

    In the bigger sense, the meaning I get out of this song is that all things go in the end. The things that one accumulates over their life are all just things, and in the end will be discarded in one way or another. The events that happen in ones life are where true meaning occurs, but it is meaning that only exists within the memories of the people who experienced and remember them. Life is fleeting.
    Rossmcdon February 28, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song was on the Jarhead soundtrack.
    Great song, I find it really relaxing.
    Eliminationon April 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentextraordinary.. beautiful piano in the background
    lighttheshadeon July 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love how understated the line about "everything's a dollar in this box" is.
    thitheron October 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's pretty obvious, but:

    I envision a war veteran having a kind of yard sale, many years after having left the service. In so doing, he is going back over all of the things that remind him of his life in the military. The line "all this radio really needs is a fuse"; "you can pound that dent out on the hood"; "everything's a dollar in this box"; it's almost as if he's really pitching selling these things, really trying to get them sold, almost as if doing so would be a kind of cathartic experience, a cleansing. That's all I got.
    VismundCygnuson December 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about a yard sale, but to me, waits is really playing on the idea that a soldier is selling all of his things even though they mean the world to him, they are just things. With the lines before he covers the soldier items, what he is talking about is just really junk, an old radio, a crappy car, and without skipping a beat, he continues to apply this unvalued attitude towards his items. The thing that hits the hardest is he is giving away his medals, his medals that signify his bravery and his accomplishments. The reason he is able to do this is that a soldier is not the sum of his items, but the memories that he has the experiences. He is not a soldier because he has these things, he is a soldier because he is.

    So, basically, to me it is a song where although a soldier gives away all of his items, he is still a soldier through his memories and experiences and not the items that he has from it.
    SMUSER17001926on December 24, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI got almost the same thing as lennyfan6. The only difference is that they only mean something to him. To anyone else they are just a piece of medal. It is just a broken radio. It is just a car. But to him they are his and he earned them.
    irnraion May 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThese posts before me are very good, but I think we're missing one thing. I think this tells a story of a mother or wife (any close relative, really) of a deceased soldier, most likely faced with desperate economical and/or emotional times. Something in their world is forcing them to rid themselves of this soldier's things, be it money or grievances, Tom doesn't let us know, but the overall melancholy of the song makes me think it's something a little heavier than just a soldier selling memorabilia.
    KellanKellanon August 29, 2008   Link

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