"Late For the Sky" as written by and Jackson Browne....
Now, the words had all been spoken
And somehow the feeling still wasn't right.
And still we continued on through the night.
Tracing our steps from the beginning
Until they vanished into the air
Trying to understand how our lives had led us there

Looking hard into your eyes
There was nobody I'd ever known
Such an empty surprise to feel so alone.

Now for me some words come easy
But I know that they don't mean that much
Compared with the things that are said when lovers touch
You never knew what I loved in you
I don't know what you loved in me
Maybe the picture of somebody you were hoping I might be

Awake again I can't pretend that I know I'm alone
And close to the end of the feeling we've known

How long have I been sleeping
How long have I been drifting alone through the night
How long have I been dreaming I could make it right
If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might
To be the one you'll need

Awake again I can't pretend and I know I'm alone
And close to the end of the feeling we've known

How long have I been sleeping
How long have I been drifting alone through the night
How long have I been running for that morning flight
Through the whispered promises and the changing light
Of the bed where we both lie
Late for the sky

Lyrics submitted by Irishred516, edited by DavidPintilie

Late for the Sky song meanings
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  • +8
    General CommentThis is Jackson's masterpiece. It is one of the most beautifully and touchingly heartbroken songs ever written by anyone. This is an exquisitely crafted song.

    I love the juxtapositions of

    - night / morning
    - awake / sleeping
    - closed eyes / dreaming
    - drifting / running
    - spoken words / whispered promises
    - steps from the beginning / close to the end
    - hard into your eyes / some words come easy
    - whispered promises / where we both lie
    - still wasn't right / changing light
    - continued through the night / running for that morning flight
    - bed / sky
    - vanished into the air / late for the sky

    and I love the function of this progression:

    And still we continued on . . .
    Awake again . . .
    How long have I been sleeping?
    How long have I been drifting . . .
    How long have I been dreaming . . .
    How long have I been running . . .

    For all of its literary technique, it remains eternally fresh.
    I'll add an additional nod to David's slide guitar which is glorious.
    artmavenon July 02, 2006   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI have always loved the line "Of the bed where we both lie" where the word "lie", of course, has two meanings. That line reminds me of Dylan at his best.
    itjustmeon October 16, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentFor an interesting comparison, listen to the song by Jackson's good friend, the late great Warren Zevon, Hasten Down the Wind. Warren was a little more concise than Jackson was, but no less eloquent a songwriter, and Hasten Down the Wind is a great companion piece about the painful end of a relationship where the parties just drift apart and can't recapture what they had, but can't figure out why it isn't working any more. And if you really want to get the emotion in the song, go to archive.org and go to the Zevon archive and listen to the version in the 1976 WMMR radio show interview where he sits at a piano and plays solo.
    jswjron January 15, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI first heard Late for the Sky in 1974. 33 years and at least 6000 listenings later this piece still kicks my ass. However, despite hours and hours of disection and interpretation and consideration, I still have not gotten my head around the phrase, "Late for the Sky" What the heck? Sky Blue Sky Black Jesus in the Sky.... But Late for the Sky? Any ideas?
    BRUCErulzon February 24, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI really love the title Late For The Sky.

    To me it has two meanings:

    1) Late to take off to the sky (i.e. "for"= destination as in the plane for Rio)

    2) Late FOR the sky- as in, the sky is late in its changing

    Both ways fit for the song. Pure brilliance.
    Detsub1494on June 13, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is such an incredible song, that I agree with the above poster who can't believe nobody else has placed a comment. Staying too long in a relationship, knowing it's essentially over, not knowing why when in your head you have the answers, but just can't bring yourself to leave. The song literally aches with the relaization that it's OVER and all that's left is to admit it out loud and get on with it. Sometimes the pain of ending a relationship is harder that staying in one that isn't working and feeling you failed at something you really tried at and wanted to work. You ask yourself, "how did this happen and how did it come to this" (How long have I been sleeping? - that i didn't notice the disintergration of my relationship...)
    That's what this song has always meant to me. It's a haunting tune as well. Fantastic. Jackson at his best.
    LolaBaton October 19, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Looking hard into your eyes
    There was nobody I'd ever known
    Such an empty suprise
    To feel so alone."

    "Awake again, I can't pretend
    That I know I'm alone,
    And close to the end"

    This is amazing song writing! This song is awe inspiring.
    Adored_Pumpkinheadon June 22, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI too have loved this song since the 70's along with all of the other Jackson Browne offerings from that period, yes even "Lawyers in Love". The title has always conjured up an image of an airplane leaving, so I guess I have to agree with makebusy7 in this.
    What amazes me most is that although I savor Browne's double meanings, I never tumbled the double meaning of "in the bed where we both lie". What a great website this is for introspection.
    gregoriogalleryon January 12, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFirst, one of the best songs ever written from the best songwriter of all time.

    I always took the "Late For The Sky" to mean, if you look at the album cover, it seems to be late in the evening based on the way the house looks. It's dark and you can see the lights are on through the window and the streetlight is on, but the sky seems to be daytime. So, it's late for what the sky looks like. I'm not sure what that means, but that's how I always took it.

    As far as the album cover is concerned, it is my favorite cover of all time or GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), which is why, in 1980, I had my watercolor artist girlfriend (GF at the time) paint me the album cover (It was a birthday present). The painting is quite remarkable. The cover was inspired by the painting by Rene Magritte (1898-1967) called "L'Empire des lumières". Another photo from nature photographer David Muench called "I think it's Ohio." was used for the sky. All of these can be seen here on my snapfish album page. There is an obvious resemblance in the photos and paintings.


    Gregavion April 20, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't believe no one has written anything about this song. For that matter, I can't believe Jackson Browne's entire song list doesn't have more than 9 or 10 comments. I also can't believe it doesn't include some of his best songs ("Looking Into You", for instance).
    *sigh* - it can be pretty lonely as a Jackson Browne fan...
    Anyway, this is a great song about desperation in love (like so many of his other songs), and trying to stay in a relationship even after it's really too late to save it. Sometimes the rest of our lives can drive a wedge between us and the ones we love, and before we know it, it's like living with a stranger. If it's never happened to you, consider yourself very lucky.
    Jackson's voice really gets a chance to shine here, combined with David Lindley's slide guitar. The lyrics are fairly self-explanatory.
    This song was also in the movie "Taxi Driver", when Deniro is sitting alone in his apartment, going slowly insane. In that movie, the song applies more to his relationship with the world in general, but in a similar way. A great song in a great scene in a great movie.
    Kafzielon June 18, 2003   Link

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