The wheelbarrow's fallen
Look at my hands
They've found some surplus cheaper hands
Rubbing palms and pick and choose
Who will they choose?
Here is the news

Look at that building
Look at this man
Haloed and whitewashed
Gone to find a cheaper hand
He'll offer a pound
Offer a pound

Green grow the rushes go
Green grow the rushes go
Green grow the rushes go
The compass points the workers home

Pay for your freedom
Or find another gate
Guilt by associate
The rushes wilted a long time ago
Guilty as you go

Stay off that highway
Word is, it's not so safe
The grasses that hide the greenback
The amber waves of gain again
The amber waves of grain

Green grow the rushes go
Green grow the rushes go
Green grow the rushes go
The compass points the workers home

La-la-la la la lye
La-la-la la la lye (green grow the rushes go)
La-la-la la la lye (green grow the rushes go)
La-la-la la la lye (green grow the rushes go)
La-la-la la la lye (green grow the rushes go)
La-la-la la la lye (green grow the rushes go)
La-la-la la la lye (green grow the rushes go)


Lyrics submitted by rieve

Green Grow The Rushes Lyrics as written by Peter Buck Bill Berry

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Green Grow The Rushes song meanings
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14 Comments

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  • 0
    General Comment

    very simply, this song is about American foreign policy back in the 1980's, particularly in Latin America. Exploitation colonialism, in the name of corporate capitalism, has always been the nom du jour for stated American foreign policy. But no one ever calls it that. Today, of course, it's easily understood (why do you think every call you make to a help desk is answered by some one in India??) But back at the time this song was written (1984) this wasn't so self-evident. It was to Michael (stipe) though.

    Stay off that highway word is it's not so safe grasses that hide the greenback the amber waves of gain again

    the amber waves of gaaaaaain.

    Lastly, this song - or at least its main theme - was re-written on REM's last album as "I Wanted To Be Wrong."

    peacefrogxon February 05, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Green Grow The Rushes. The Texan soldiers would sing green grow the rushes when marchimg along the border. The mexicans interpreted it as Gringo-- hence the Mexican term for Americans. Likely stipes word play.

    Davekooon May 08, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Definitely a song about the plight of migrant farm workers (surplus cheaper hands) how merchants take advantage of the cheap labor and screw the American farm worker (the wheelbarrow's fallen) reaping in huge profits (amber waves of gain).

    Never before or since has a protest song been so jangly, melodic, and beautiful, yet at the same time, so very sad. They duplicated this same feat in Lifes Rich Pageant with "Flowers of Guatemala".

    REM's albums with IRS were incredible.

    marcoamedranoon August 02, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i like the way this song lyric deals with the complete tariff charge on plantains from Central/Southern America. Most of the people in the USA couldn't care about such overwrought sentiments albeit the 'college' crowd seemed to. Of all REMs pointed and obscure political songs this one seems most substantiative of the times.

    As Stipe said at the time in an interview about the lyrical meaning of this song:

                                "PLEASE EXPLAIN"
    exobscuraon April 02, 2019   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Nice song ... even though REM 'wilted long ago'

    exobscuraon January 17, 2020   Link
  • -1
    General Comment

    I think this means that even though something tempts you to go away and leave the good stuff behind, you should be happy with the stuff you ahve already.

    rockmanon January 27, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General Comment

    I believe the song describes some sort of farm,and the workers being selected for harvesting work,like picking cotton for example.

    local_151_fellaon May 10, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General Comment

    I think it has to do with unionization and being shut out of work (cheaper hands, guilt by associate)

    silasbrockon December 15, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General Comment

    silasbrock,I agree -I always thought about migrant workers being taken advantage of,"haloed in whitewash"is pretty harsh (but great) depiction of what I thought could be the "religious" farm boss.

    indierodon September 15, 2007   Link
  • -1
    General Comment

    silasbrock,I agree -I always thought about migrant workers being taken advantage of,"haloed in whitewash"is pretty harsh (but great) depiction of what I thought could be the "religious" farm boss.

    indierodon September 15, 2007   Link

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