Harry made a bareback rider proud and free upon a horse
And a fine coal miner for the NCB that was
A fallen angel and Jesus on the cross
A skating ballerina you should have seen her do the skater's waltz
Some people have got to paint and draw
Harry had to work in clay and stone
Like the waves coming to the shore
It was in his blood and in his bones

Ignored by all the trendy boys in London and in Leeds
He might as well have been making toys or strings of beads
He could not be in the gallery
And then you get an artist says he doesn't want to paint at all
He takes an empty canvas and sticks it on the wall
The birds of a feather all the phonies and all of the fakes

While the dealers they get together
And they decide who gets the breaks
And who's going to be in the gallery
No lies he wouldn't compromise
No junk no bits of string

And all the lies we subsidize
That just don't mean a thing
I've got to say he passed away in obscurity
And now all the vultures are coming down from the tree
So he's going to be in the gallery.

Lyrics submitted by Dasch

In the Gallery Lyrics as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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In The Gallery song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI don't know what song jacket you read, but the song says Harry died in OBSCURITY! It's obviously a song about a sculptor, who, when dead, was acclaimed by the same people who denied him access to "the gallery".
    gianchi66on October 04, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI was revisiting sme Dire Straits earlier today, music that I have not heard since my youth and I wondered what the take on this song was.
    I agree with gianchi66. Harry is a sculptor from a working class background. Mark Knopfler is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (to our American friends, a city in the industrial north of England that grew from coal mining, steel and ship building) so Harry is probably from there. He sculpts in clay and stone but is ignored by the art illiterati in London (and Leeds which is another northern city but south of Newcastle. An in-joke there!). He's not considered a good artist until he dies but is obviously not around to see his success.
    I see the song as a depiction of snobbery in art, or more widely as an illustration of the English "North/South divide. Northern artists are often overlooked by the "trendy boys" until they're dead and then fawned over as being "gritty" and "ignored in their own time". Basically it's about the hyposcrasy of art.
    Ghostlighton August 24, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with the above comments.

    Knopfler uses some cynical lyrics:-

    eg. "While the dealers they get together
    And they decide who gets the breaks"

    This could also be applied to the music industry where the most-talented musicians will not necessarily make it because they don't get the breaks and simultaneously talentless twats make millions.

    Thank god Dire Straits eventually "got the breaks".
    chrisb1on March 20, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationMK is very inspired my his background, so I would think this has something to do with the coal miners and also criticism of people labeling art. He said in an interview on a Hungarian radio station about the Privateering album he did like to label his songs or albums. He didn't sit down and write a blues album or jazz album. The album just has songs that are recorded at the same time.
    ivarkrion December 07, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's a song criticising modern art. Harry is a hard-working and skilled sculptor whose work gets ignored in the commercialised world of modern art. On the other hand, a trendy artist rakes in money by putting up a blank canvas. This doesn't even sound far-fetched - the 2001 Turner prize went to an exhibit featuring an empty room with a light that turned on and off. The song ends with Harry finally received the fame and recognition he deserves - after his death.
    JohnAPrestwickon January 27, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThey're talking about a guy, Harry, who had a job where he helped change the lives of people, therefore people were his masterpieces, and he became artistic with them. since his masterpieces were people and not paintings, he never was in "the Gallery", or otherwise got the respect he deserved. In the lyric booklet from the CD jacket, it says he passed away in security, which means he was happy and fine when he died, and then once he was gone, he was hailed as a genius. in a more general perspective, it means we dont get the respect we deserve until its too late.
    Rodan2000on October 17, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment'the gallery' is an actual gallery (i forget exactly where) that was set up to put the work of coal miners in- i think it's now part of a memorial/remembrance museum for the miners- as all coal mines are now closed in the north
    caramboleon June 13, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe only thing I think about when i hear this is my dad. It's his favourite track off this album, and has become my favourite too. Great stuff.
    mirandajuneon August 12, 2008   Link

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