"The Man's Too Strong" as written by and Mark Knopfler....
I am just an aging drummer boy
And in the wars I used to play
And I've called the tune to many a torture session
Now they say I am a war criminal
And I'm fading away
Father, please hear my confession

I have legalized robbery
And called it relief
I have run with the money
I have hid like a thief
Rewritten histories with armies and my crooks
Invented memories
I did burn all the books
And I can still hear his laughter
And I can still hear his song
The man's too big
The man's too strong

Well, I've tried to be meek
I have tried to be mild
But I spat like a woman
And I sulked like a child
Hid behind walls that have made me alone
Striven for peace
Which I never have known
And I can still hear his laughter
And I can still hear his song
The man's too big
The man's too strong

Well, the sun rose on the courtyard
And we all did hear him say
"You always was a Judas,
But I got you anyway.
You may have got your silver
But I swear upon my life
Your sister gave me diamonds
And I gave 'em to your wife."
Oh father, please help me
For I have done wrong
The man's too big
The man's too strong

Lyrics submitted by kevin

"The Man's Too Strong" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Man's Too Strong song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentThe song seems to reference Germany and Hitler fairly well. I always felt the song was a view back from Rudolf Hess. He helped put Hitler into power and was beside him all the way. He left him to cut a deal with Britain (didnt make much sense to anybody but didnt say he was sane) and was put in jail. After the war he was convicted of war crimes and put in prison. He died in Spandau prison, I believe in the early 80's but not really sure. Of all the high ranking Nazis he was the only one to not get the death penalty at Nurmburg. People did speculate about what Hess know about deals cut between governments (like the deal between Hitler and Stalin that divided up Poland and gave the Baltic States to the USSR). If the story is being told to You (either the UK or the US) then your sister would the the USSR and your wife (either the UK or the US). Haunting song with a lot to build on. Let me know what you think.
    Mephitison October 27, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNo, on hearing it again, I think the song is about a soldier who was just trying to get along, and now he's been captured by the enemy and sentenced to death(last verse is describing his trial). As he sits in jail, forgotten, he is writing is final memoirs.
    sablechatraton January 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"I have legalised robbery
    Called it belief"
    Among other things made me think it was a song about organized religion and all the problems it's caused and that. Though I'm probobly wrong...
    mickal555on October 09, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe main character is the dictator's former right hand man. He is declared a war criminal by the dictator and sentenced to hang. He may have turned on his former boss. He is granted access to a priest to whom he confesses everything he's done. He calls himself a drummer boy because he wasn't gripped with power. For most of his career he was trying to do the right thing through questionable means. And he got caught up in it until is conscience became heavy.

    God doesn't laugh at those He judges. The "man" is the dictator who caught his former supporter when he could no longer be part of his system. On hanging day, the rest the dictator's men call him Judas. The diamonds are really love or at least sex. So he gets in an obscene gesture towards the dictator before the sudden drop.
    lyonsgeekon September 18, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFirst - I think the person singing is like many have noted - a War Criminal - I think some sort of Dictator - but in any case someone with a lot of power to influence (Burn Books, Remake history with propaganda etc...)
    I think it's pretty likely that "The Man" is Satan (I am an agnostic - so I don't usually look to biblical references).
    I think the Singer/Protagonist was finally caught (brought to justice) - and he is giving his final confession to a priest (or God) having been turned in by one a Traitor (Judas) who was paid in Silver for betraying him.
    The Singer/Protagonist when In the courtyard - about to be executed - and having given his final confession - turns to his betrayer (Judas character) - and in one Final act of Sin (In front of the entire onlooking crowd) - tells his Judas that while Judas may have got his Silver for the betrayal - the Protagonist had Already committed a much worse Sin/Betrayal of having "Relationships - Sex" etc...) with Judas' Daughter who gave him Diamonds - Which he then gave to Judas Wife - Probably the most Painful act of betrayal a human could perform - and proving that Satan is to Big and Strong to be resisted even seconds before the singer dies.
    FirstPrincipleon March 10, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm currently using this song with my year 11 students to look at the way texts may be interpreted differently.

    I think the very obvious, dominant, reading is always going to be the idea that this is some sort of underling of some monster from history like Adolf Hitler, making excuses for getting swept up in Fuhrer-mania and being, as a result, partially (or greatly) responsible.

    Someone else suggested the song might be about Rudolf Hess; however, as much as Hess wasn't directly responsible for most Nazi atrocities due to being imprisoned in London for most of the war, he was still a pretty avid Nazi. While his life sentence in Spandau seemed excessive for someone who wasn't actually there when these things were happening, he doesn't strike me as particularly repentant. I view this more along the lines of a lower-level soldier or functionary who either went along blindly or did so out of fear of recriminations.


    Your interpretation is going to depend on who you think "The Man" might be. What if it's not a real person but a metaphor? What if "wars", "torture" and so forth are also metaphors on various levels?

    "The Man" could be the base savagery within the human psyche. I did these things (literal or metaphorical) because I can't control myself.

    "The Man" could be The Devil -- "I can still hear his (beguiling) song", references to Judas Iscariot (silver) and the possibility that "father" here is a priest at a confessional. The devil made me do it!

    "The Man" could be an organisation or group or even an ideology that it is difficult to go against. Could we be talking about some of the negative history of the church? "legalised robbery and called it belief". The confessional vibe could be one of bitter irony. Could the wars and armies refer to the crusades? I think it's quite clear that we're drawing quite heavily on Nazi activities such as rewriting history via book burning; however, these could be symbolic of similar concepts employed elsewhere.

    To some extent, exactly who you view "Father" to be can also influence your reading.

    Is it a priest?
    Is it the speaker's actual father?
    Is it God?
    Is it someone else?

    Now, all that's left for me is to leave a big GRRRRRR here for my class if they are reading this. I told you guys not to Google the answer! :)
    mike105163on February 21, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoi...the last verse fuckin rocks...

    ...commonly misheard lyric: "They masturbate, the man's too strong"
    ZinbobDanon May 10, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnother chapter in the anti-war theme of the Brothers IN Arms album.
    chrisb1on April 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWho is The Man?
    He can still hear his laughter and his song; I think he's talking about the impression his own father made on him as a little boy, a man that was could be cruel and mocking, and yet the boy looked up to him and was influenced by him: he was too big and strong to stand against.
    I think that dictators can also assume that role - "father of the nation" - and people both fear and admire them.
    The burning of books reminds me of Hitler.
    The Father mentioned in the lyrics of course is God.
    When he sings the man's too STRONG, I have to raise my arm in a Heil Hitler salute - I'm not some creepy Nazi. Try it, but not in public!
    jimqukon October 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm trying desperately to figure out who the main character is, the best I can come up with is someone who has orchestrated a war (a president maybe) to try and make the world better, but in doing so has only caused pain and suffering. So he's in a confessional telling how no matter what he does it ends up being the wrong thing in God's eyes (The man). Or maybe the man is the collective influence of everyone he's worked with who made him do evil... not sure.
    sablechatraton January 13, 2007   Link

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