Bring tea for the Tillerman
Steak for the sun
Wine for the woman who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away
'Cause while the sinners sin, the children play

Oh Lord, how they play and play
For that happy day, for that happy day

Lyrics submitted by BrainDamage

"Tea for the Tillerman" as written by Yusuf Islam Cat Stevens

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Tea for the Tillerman song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentSince this song is the last track on the album "tea for the tillerman", I think it references other tracks

    Like the first line (tea for the tillerman), might reference "Longer Boats" (since a tillerman means a boatman), "steak for the son" (is how I think it is spelled) might mean "Father and Son", "Wine for the woman who made the rain come" I'm assuming might be for the song "Sad Lisa", "while the sinners sin, the children play" might be "Where do the children play".

    Thats what I think the song is about.
    fish_monsteron February 16, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationGreat song, great thread, nice to read some thoughtful comments. Having just recently been introduced to the song through 'Extras', I have some thoughts for your consideration:
    1) Tea for the Tillerman - caffeine for the boatman to stay alert, on course, and get to the destination safely. Steak for the Sun - meat for strength during the work performed (traditional manual labor during daylight) requires protein. Wine for the women who made the rain come - libations are not necessary, but for many make life more enjoyable or even tolerable; 'women' indicating love of significant other, and rain helping crops but hindering production and both necessary and unavoidable. Seagulls singing is nature's beauty, and children playing is blah, blah, blah...:-)
    2) I think Ricky Gervais choice of this 1970 song for his 2005/6/7 series is subversive; Cat Stevens is a British subject of East Asian lineage, now known as Yusef Islam and who refuses to play or discuss his work as 'Cat Stevens'. I think Gervais is acknowledging a great song with a point-of-view, and thumbing a pretentious twat who has turned his back on the values of the country that nurtured him and provided him with the choices he now has.

    Anyway, this song has been in my head for days, and I still don't mind it!:-)
    JayCeezyon January 28, 2008   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationLast track of the album is crucial. The album cover is crucial.

    It is all for the tillerman (the farmer who tills the field all day--a long arduous task). Bring him tea, steak (hearty food: for he worked/will work out in the sun) and finally bring him wine, to drown his sorrows, when he thinks of the women who made the rain come (brought him sadness).

    Although the album art shows among other things, a woman (silhouetted) performing a rain dance that is bringing in the literal clouds, I think it's a double meaning, bringing the rain meaning tears of sadness but also the water of life.

    I think the song is a farewell to the heavy contemplations of the album, a sunset on that hard day's work. It puts all that stuff behind it, even though all that stuff is... Everything! Work. Love. Play. Music. Sinning. It is saying finally that after all this earthliness, even after the sun has set on life itself, there is still spirituality.

    That's why the song is infused with double meaning. The tillerman is not only the ploughman but also the steersman of the vessel. Or God directing the fate of men. The homophone son/sun is obviously referencing 'The Son', while wine is considered the blood of Christ in the same theology. Seagulls (who track boats and ploughs alike) are followers who sing their hearts out: disciples perhaps. Sin and innocence in the last couplet goes without saying. O Lord! For that happy day. The last words of the album are 'that happy day', that is without doubt referring to a rapture or day of salvation.

    The alpha and omega. The song begins with a command. (in the beginning there was the word). And it ends with that happy day. Salvation.

    The song never overtly says it is about spirituality, but it creates a room and fills it with all kinds of life, except for one elephant shaped hole in the middle. That elephant in the room is religion.

    It's nonsense, imo, you get one chance and wasting it toiling away in the field under the hot sun in anticipation of a paradise in the next life is the way to miss out. Nevertheless, that's what the song is about.
    alexbutterfieldon January 13, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Commentappreciate what IS with all you have. appreciate every effort a person makes for another; every song a bird sings; nail a carpenter drives, egg a creature lays. dont waste your breath on the irrelevant, on negativity, on ill feelings, on a quest for money. appreciate that which has real value, that which is important, for it is all there really is and needs to be.

    that is what this song means to me.
    dan fitzon April 12, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDan Fitz, that could be a song in and of itself. I agree with you, that people should be happy with what they have, and only take what they need. BUt why does the sun want steak?
    myeh_manon June 16, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentExtras!
    strider3005on October 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentit definitely does not mean “son” but “sun”. just take a look at the cover of the album, drawn by cat stevens himself: you see a heavy, red-bearded, tired man drinking tea and behind him a (judging by colour and size) setting sun.
    (as well as some children playing in a tree. and a mysterious shadowy figure in the background which seems to be calling lightning from the sky…?)

    “Wine for the women who made the rain come”
    rain being tears, this could mean he brings out a toast to all the women he once knew, who made him sad, probably by leaving him. but there is no bitterness in this song, everything seems fine (it’s a “happy day”), so perhaps they are even there with him (choir!) and they have long since forgiven each other.

    @ fish_monster:
    it’s the last track of the album, so it may well be meant to round off the listening experience. musically it comes with a last big climax, followed by some seconds of piano epilogue, depicting a brilliant sunset after a long and glorious day full of thinking (“where do the children play”, “but I might die tonight”), loving and worrying (“sad lisa”, “wild world”), searching for enlightenment (“miles from nowhere”). then the sun sets, the day is over, the music is over, time to go to bed and rest, for the next day awaits.
    ledaethon January 12, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLedaeth is right, it's definitely 'sun' (says so in the notes along with the cd). Anyway, gorgeous, gorgeous song and such a perfectly conclusive end to the album. I think the line ''cause while the sinners sin, the children play' sums the song up in terms of meaning. It's a nice way to look at things...
    cestmagiqueon May 06, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthat is a very good question myeh_man
    savethetrees890on July 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSurely it's possible that it should read 'son', and thus make more sense.
    theviewfromhereon August 08, 2005   Link

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