Well I'm on the Downeaster Alexa
And I'm cruising through Block Island Sound
I have charted a course to the vineyard
But tonight, I am Nantucket bound

We took on diesel back in Montauk, yesterday
Left this morning from the bell in Gardiner's Bay
Like all the locals here, I've had to sell my home
Too proud to leave, I worked my fingers to the bone

So I could own my Downeaster Alexa
And I go where the ocean is deep
There are giants out there in the canyons
And a good captain can't fall asleep

I got bills to pay and children who need clothes
I know there's fish out there, but where? God only knows
They say these waters aren't what they used to be
But I got people back on land who count on me

So if you see my Downeaster Alexa
And if you work with the rod and the reel
Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis
And I still have my hands on the wheel

Now I drive my Downeaster Alexa
More and more miles from shore every year
Since they tell me I can't sell no stripers
And there's no luck in swordfishing here

I was a bay man like my father was before
Can't make a living as a bay man anymore
There ain't much future for a man who works the sea
But there ain't no island left for islanders like me

Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh
Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh
Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh
Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh

Lyrics submitted by kevin

The Downeaster "Alexa" Lyrics as written by Billy Joel

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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The Downeaster 'Alexa' song meanings
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  • +6
    General Comment
    I've lived my entire life on Long Island, and my father has been a commercial fisherman for more than half of his life. I grew up on the water, on my father's clam boat and then his Sea Ox open-bow, for gillnetting. This song pretty much embodies the spirit of men like my father, who fell in love with working on the water, and will never leave it, no matter how tough it gets. I know the Long Island water as well as any - and it makes me sad to think that the knowledge that has been passed down to me serves no good. I'll never make it as a bayman. This song is the scream of my spirit. I'm land bound, hating it.
    bigtequilaon June 06, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General Comment
    A downeaster is a boat made by Down East Yachts. A striper is a nickname for a striped bass.
    kidgenius2on February 20, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment
    "I've got bills to pay and children who need clothes I know there's fish out there but where God only knows They say these waters aren't what they used to be But I've got people back on land who count on me " Isn't this why we all go to work? Even with corporate downsizing, offshoring, trial lawyers, high taxes and whole host of things that have happened, we still get up and work anyway. While Billy Joel chose to write a song about fishermen, we are all fishermen in our own way and we do it for those who count on us.
    Freedom Loveron April 20, 2007   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning
    The song is sung in the persona of an impoverished fisherman off Long Island and the surrounding waters who, like many of his fellow men, is finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet and keep ownership of his boat.[2] The fisherman sings about the depletion of the fish stocks ("I know there's fish out there, but where God only knows") and the environmental regulations ("Since they told me I can't sell no stripers") which make it hard for men like him to survive, especially with the conversion of his home island into an expensive summer colony for the affluent ("There ain't no Island left for Islanders like me"). The lyrics reference Block Island Sound, Montauk, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Gardiners Bay, amongst other locations. While the song is about a fictional person, it decries the plight of the Long Island Baymen (known locally as Bubbies). The Baymen represent a dying breed of people who, like farmers, work the environment to provide for their families. Honorable men and women being forced out of their livelihoods as much by the creep of urban society and government regulation as the decline of fish stocks. Billy was always sympathetic to the hard working men who worked the sea, even getting arrested during a protest supporting the Baymen. At one point Billy had underwritten a plan by his young boat captain to use his boat (Alexa Ray, a 46' custom downeaster) as a commercial operation. As the two developed the plan, it became increasingly clear that the challenges facing a small commercial operation were greater than he had imagined. The idea was scrapped. It was not long after that this song came together. Alexa is the name of Billy Joel's daughter, Alexa Ray Joel. The Alexa was Newman 46 fiberglass hull custom finished by Lee S. Wilbur and Co of Manset Me. [3] The hull was based on the Maine lobster boats known as a "downeaster," which should not be confused with the pleasure craft built by the Downeaster company.[4]
    oofuson October 06, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    I was at a live concert 2 weeks ago...and he said he wrote this song for a fisherman who used to use his dock on Martha's Vineyard. He went out one day in a storm and never came back...
    runningonbrainson March 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    I think this song is deeper then being just about a fisherman. To me it's about determination and destination.. and even when you forget your goal, never forget the people you leave behind.
    AlisonEMon January 26, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    I also like how the rhythm of the song evokes the notion of standing on the deck of a ship out to sea. However, I've always wondered what exactly a "downeaster" is - a type of ship, or just a local designation? And a "striper" is... a fish, I suppose?
    b-rayon February 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    Is the word "trolling" correct? I suspect that "trawling" is the proper term.
    CorrDarklighton June 19, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    troll·ing, trolls v. tr. To fish for by trailing a baited line from behind a slowly moving boat. To fish in by trailing a baited line: troll the lake for bass. To trail (a baited line) in fishing. To sing in succession the parts of (a round, for example). To sing heartily: troll a carol
    123tjdon July 17, 2007   Link
  • +1
    This is such a wonderful song, and unfortunately it speaks so much truth. I first really paid attention to it when I heard the word 'Nantucket' mentioned, since I am a Nantucket native myself and have a blood tie to the island. Nantucket used to be a much bigger fishing community, but now I can count the independent fishermen working here on one hand. It's so sad to see fishing communities like Nantucket slowly lose their character and become just another tourist destination. I love listening to this song, even if it makes me sad... it will always be one of my favorites.
    franquitaon December 31, 2008   Link

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