"Uncle Alvarez" as written by and Phair....
There's a portrait of Uncle Alvarez
Hangin' in the hall
Nobody wants to look at it
But Uncle Alvarez sees us all

Oh, oh, oh imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of presidents
Better send a postcard and keep the family quiet

He's not really part-Cherokee Indian
He didn't fight in the Civil War
He's just Eugene Isaac Alvarez
He feels sorry for the wall

Oh, oh, oh imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of presidents
You're gonna make 'em sorry when you die

And it's a long way down
You were hoping for a heart-attack
Running around, investing on this and that
Your beautiful wife keeps your life on a shelf for you
Safe in a better way
There's no dust or mildew and
It's hard to believe you were once a beautiful dancer

Better just to shake it off
As you write your resume
Don't think of Uncle Alvarez
And the price he had to pay

Oh, oh, oh imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of presidents
You're gonna make them sorry when you die

Oh, oh, oh imaginary accomplishments
Hey, hey, hey you visionary guy
You might even shake the hands of presidents
Better send some money to the Alma Mater.


Lyrics submitted by iKickDogs, edited by WritesToLive

"Uncle Alvarez" as written by

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Uncle Alvarez song meanings
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  • 0
    Song MeaningI hate to be "that" person, but you're all terribly mistaken. For Liz's sake - just listen to the chorus! "Oh, oh, oh, IMAGINARY accomplishments..." Liz is mocking a tall tale-teller. Further evidence: "He's NOT really part-Cherokee Indian
    He DIDN'T fight in the Civil War."

    Don't believe me? Take it from Liz. I own a beautiful mp3 of her playing "Uncle Alvarez" live in 1998 in which she states about the song, "...Stems from a lot of dinner tables where a lot of men expounded at great length about anything they wanted to (laughs) and a lot of the women just sat there and smiled."

    Essentially, the song mocks men who fabricate grand tales of their success - rather, the success they would like to have accomplished. Feminist though she may be, Liz doesn't let their wives get away - they are guilty in their deliberate ignorance (perhaps not ignorance, but deliberate submissiveness?) to their husbands' faulty tales.

    By far the cleverest song on Whitechocolatespaceegg - and admittedly cleverer (though not more honest) than anything on Exile.
    WritesToLiveon March 14, 2013   Link
  • -1
    General Commentsounds like uncle alvarez told a lot of lies and went through a lot of trouble to give the family a name, and they don't seem terribly appreciative, being ashamed of having his picture on the wall, and trying not to think about him and all
    dunnomuchon January 07, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThis song has two parts - the first part is very critical of uncle alvarez. A couple of people have said that Liz is saying that the family is ashamed of uncle alvarez because he told lies. I don't think that's why they are ashamed of him. Here is a story of a man who traded his role as a father and a husband for the role of a provider. He travelled the world doing amazing things - but, there is irony in this song, just like there is most liz phair songs - the reason she calls these "imaginary accomplishments" is not because they weren't real, but because how can anyone observe, or experience an accomplishment if they aren't there - i.e. if a tree falls over in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That's why she uses that description. Imaginary because Uncle alvarez was gone, and the accomplishments were always conveyed via phone or post cards.

    Then the song starts becoming sentimental and more understanding of uncle alvarez's plight. She feels bad that he gave up so much to be a good provider. Basically a sweet, talented, hardworking man who made a choice that caused alot of loneliness and pain and this was the price that uncle alvarez had to pay.

    The next part of the song she is addressing someone teetering on the brink of making the same choice as uncle alvarez and so the song becomes cautionary as she sings with the message that any accomplishment is meaningless if you don't have anyone to share it with.

    Its really a sad song - one of my favorites for sure.
    Dogma72on December 05, 2009   Link
  • -1
    General CommentI always got the impression that he was a good man who did a lot for the family, but because of his heritage (obviously with a name like Alvarez he was Mexican or Latino) the family was ashamed of him. All the "imaginary accomplishments" were made up about him BY the family to somewhat justify the fact that he was not a WASP. (Liz Phair's adoptive parents were originally from New Haven, a very WASP area.)
    pete06492on January 09, 2011   Link
  • -2
    General CommentTo me it's about how little of life consists of the 'great accomplishments' that get attached to other people. It seems to say that you shouldn't judge people by that, and also that you shouldn't try to be judged like that. If you try to make a name for yourself, you end up bending the truth, and paying your old college, and glorifying yourself in postcards to your family.

    I think the song is actually quite fond of Uncle Alvarez - but fond of aspects of him that won't be remembered in the family history. He's used to dance, and he's the one whose life has been messed up by the need to do things for the sake of posterity, or family glory, or whatever it is.
    danohuiginnon February 12, 2006   Link

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