"Upward Over the Mountain" as written by and Samuel Ervin Beam....
Mother don't worry, I killed the last snake that lived in the creek bed
Mother don't worry, I've got some money I saved for the weekend
Mother remember being so stern with that girl who was with me?
Mother remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body?

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds, flying upward over the mountain

Mother I made it up from the bruise on the floor of this prison
Mother I lost it, all of the fear of the Lord I was given
Mother forget me now that the creek drank the cradle you sang to
Mother forgive me, I sold your car for the shoes that I gave you

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons could be birds, taken broken up to the mountain

Mother don't worry, I've got a coat and some friends on the corner
Mother don't worry, she's got a garden we're planting together
Mother remember the night that the dog got her pups in the pantry?
Blood on the floor, fleas on their paws,
And you cried 'til the morning

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds, flying always over the mountain


Lyrics submitted by slickboot, edited by manhattan01, Mellow_Harsher

"Upward Over the Mountain" as written by Samuel Ervin Beam

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Upward Over the Mountain song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentAm I the only one who sees this as a sad song? Its obvious its about a mother/son relationship. This is a person who is trying to break free from his mother, but at the same time is asking for some forgiveness. "Sons are like birds flying upward over teh mountain." Thinking of birds in real life, once they leave their nest thats it. I think flying over the mountain implies that he has the potential for great things...unlike his possible past involving lack of faith, "I lost all the fear of the lord i was given," and possible law trouble. There may have been a point in this sons life where he was stealing from his mother for his needs. However, once he got things situated hes telling her she has nothing to worry about.

    All i'm curious about is the, "remember the night that the dog had her pups in the pantry? blood on the floor & the fleas on their paws and you cried 'til the morning." Is this just a random memory? Or is this the point where things finally "broke down" in their relationship? Such strong words to just be a random memory...has to have some sort of significance.
    katkilladon May 27, 2005   Link
  • +5
    General CommentThis is an absolutely amazing song. Such profound lyrics rarely seen in popular music. To me its about the mother/child relationship. The son as a monologue to the mother seeks to reassure her that he is grown and capable of being independent as it seems that the mother is overprotective to possibly a damaging degree. Here is my take on a few of the lines:

    "sons are like birds flying upward over the mountain"
    He's leaving the protective nest of the mother and is capable of great things on his own. essentially the point of the song.

    "mother forgive me, i sold your car for the shoes that i gave you"
    I don't see this as literal at all, I think its symbolic that the son feels responsible for sacrifices the mother had to make to raise her child. His presence in her life limited the possibilities for her life. Slowed her down, i.e. trading a car for shoes.

    "mother don't worry, she's got a garden we're planting together"
    Symbolic of the cycle of life. The son is grown and is capable of starting his own family. That devastating line "mother remember the blink of an eye when i breathed through your body?" also is part of that cylce of life that is often fleeting.


    "mother remember the night that the dog had her pups in the pantry?
    blood on the floor and the fleas on their paws
    and you cried 'til the morning"
    This is pure genius, and never fails to bring a tear to my eye. I love the way his voice gets quiet when singing these lines. The image of the pups being born in a painful (blood) and imperfect (fleas) way is again symbolic of the mother/son relationship as a necessary part of the cycle of life. A moment that is both beautiful and painful summarizes the mother son relationship that is both loving and difficult at the same time.
    juchmuon October 13, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI tend to think this song is maybe a little darker than most comments here--largely because of the lyric "mother I made it up from the bruise of a floor of this prison". To me this always seemed like a son who has done something terrible and is now paying the price for it. He asks two things from his mother: one, to remember all these good and bittersweet times together, and two, to forget him "now that the creek drank the cradle you sang to", which I envision as literally throwing the cradle in the creek, as is common practice is some rural places to throw old furniture into creeks, but obviously also a metaphor for growing up. All the rememberances seem unconnected. This remindes me of (and I have no justification for this, it just reminds me of it) the scene in the movie "dead man walking" where Sean Penn is reminiscing with his family before he is executed; there is a need for your mother to remember you and a horrible need for her to forget you to lessen the pain. "sons are like birds, flying upwards over the mountain" is a metaphor for how sons find it necessary to constantly struggle and do everything the hardest way possible. I can imagine a mother saying that to herself, for the umpteeth time her son gets into trouble. That particular phrase I find just beautiful and heartbreaking. This song is just ridiculously gorgeous in every way. The guitar work is perfect. As a son I find it very moving as well.
    jadyon July 19, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI'm relieved to see a fair number of people actually interpreted this song correctly, that's encouraging. I believe the general premise of the song is a son addresses his mother in various situations over the years in a fashion that, removed from the context of the moment and alligned in the order they have been, creates a near perfect metaphor for the universal relationship of a mother to her son. The mark of true brilliance, in my mind, is to fully accomplish a grand ambition in as simple and basic a fashion as possible. Sam Beam, somehow as a man, encapsulated the bittersweet, ageless sentiment billions of mothers have felt watching their sons grow up. This, along with the innocent love, thankfullness, distance and guilt felt for them by their sons through their lives in just a few short measures. He uses simple, succinct metaphors that contain volumes of profundity that echo so loudly within the human experience. I have my own issues with my mother, but even if only for the sheer beauty of this song, I choke back tears every time I hear it. I can't name one other song I've ever heard that evokes that much emotion from me, years after first hearing it and every time at that. Simple metaphors, simple chord progression, and all the richer for that. Lyrically, this is probably the most brilliant song I've ever heard. Better than anything the beatles, zepplin, or pink floyd could ever write in a million years. I honestly consider this song to be unparalleled in terms of it's lyrical content.


    I will say with regard to the specific lyrics, I took a differen't meaning away from a couple of the lines than what I'm seeing from most of the reviewers here. I see the subjects in the song as more realistic people, not lofty metaphorical devices. I think the song is a bit more honest and richer looking at it from that angle.

    1. "Mother, remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body?" I think Sam is implying that, to her son, the nine months she toiled carrying him seemed to be the blink of an eye from his perspective. He's remembering this vague time before his birth, keeping the consistency of the narrative as coming from him as a small child. This actually operates on a grander metaphorical level when you consider it this way, because something as huge as carrying her son to term amounted to less than a second in his perception. He doesn't realize her sacrifice, her love at his young age, he just wants to play and enjoy himself. He doesn't understand she holds him back out of love, wanting to protect him. He steps over her feelings, unaware in his innocence, as we all do as young children.

    2. "Mother, I made it up from the bruise on the floor of this prison." He's gained a bit of independence, he's more sure of himself. This is him resenting his mother, seeking distance and freedom in order to find his own identity. He establishes his own religious beliefs, rebelling against the principles she tried to guide him by. "Mother, forget me now that the creek drank the cradle you sang to." Absoloutely brilliant. He's somewhat guilty for outgrowing her, and asks her to put the burden of her love for him aside now that he feels he's a man. "Mother, I sold your car for the shoes that I gave you." This is a metaphor for having held her back in life. He slowed her life down, he took her independence and gave her something simpler in return. He ends by modifying the end of the chorus from the first, signifying that this is a period of confusion and strife in his life. Looking to the future hopeful that he can be delivered from the chaos into the next chapter of his life, even further from his mother, over the mountain.


    3. The third verse is fairly self explanatory. He leaves her a young man, he doesn't have much, but he has enough, He's even found a girl and they're trying to get established, building their future together. Tending a garden is such a beautiful metaphor for this. "Mother, remember the night the dog had her pups in the pantry?". The mother feels such pity for the dog, bearing puppies she loves with her whole heart into a world where she doesn't have the means to care for them. I imagine she knows that they must give the puppies away, but feels such a great sorrow for the dog, knowing also a mothers love and being forced to take her puppies away.

    Honestly, this is what music should be. Most anything that sets out to be profound comes off as wordy and prentous, and hardly anything sets out to be profound in the first place. A few songs approach what Sam Beam has accomplished with this song, but none match it and I question if I'll find another song in my lifetime that I consider to be it's equal in terms of resonance and vision.
    j19891on July 18, 2012   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI have this thing about interpreting songs. I do them line by line, as I feel this gives me a chance to full explain what I mean. That being said, here we go:

    "Mother don't worry, I killed the last snake that lived in the creek bed"

    I believe Sam Beam has a hidden tendency about his words. Any time he mentions "snake" or "creek", I fully believe he is referencing the male and female anatomy, respectively. Now, when he says "killed" in this line, I have a hard time interpreting it. Part of me thinks he's done trying to have kids. He's had 4 girls, and I think this song is about a silent impatience he has about not having a sun. A form of very...very hard to read irony. Either this, or his mother wishes for him to have a son, and this is him telling her it's not going to happen.

    "Mother don't worry, I've got some money I saved for the weekend"

    This is obviously him referencing his children, assuring his mother that he has enough to provide for them, and then some.

    "Mother, remember being so stern with that girl who was with me?"

    I don't believe this is him saying his mother disapproved of the woman he chose to be in his life. I believe this is him referencing his mother making (probably half-joking) demands of the woman. Give that this is entirely about "sons", I think it is very well possible that he might talking about a time in which his mother told his wife that she better produce a son. This is what I feel flows with the rest of the song.

    "Mother, remember the blink of an eye, when I breathed through your body?"

    I was happy to see that mostly everyone knew this was referencing when he was still inside the womb. How brief it was compared to raising him, seeing him grow, seeing him evolve. He's his own person now, and he is referencing how brief all memories are. They no longer exist beyond briefly remembering them, quicker than a blink of an eye.

    "So may the sunrise bring hope, Where it once was forgotten
    Sons are like birds, Flying upward over the mountain"

    Believe or not, the chorus is the easiest part of the song to interpret. This is one of my favorite things about Sam Beam. He focuses on content, rather than a catchy sound. The first line is entirely about looking forward to the future. Sunrise obviously meaning "tomorrow" (future). The second line is a reference to a person's desire to be independent. To build their own future.

    "Mother, I made it up from the bruise of a floor of this prison"

    I think this has a double meaning. "Floor of this prison" is a reference to not only life in general, but the poverty he was struck with earlier in life. He didn't have much when he was younger, but instead of pitying himself, he used his background to progress and learn. He made the best of what he had, basically.

    "Mother, I lost it, all of the fear of the Lord I was given"

    Him referencing his segregation from his former, religion-centered life. His mother encourage a god, and this is him explaining further his love and desire for being his own person. I believe this is also him saying that he no longer believes in a self-entitled authority over him, including herself.

    "Mother forget me, Now that the creek drank the cradle you sang to"

    This is what set it for me in believing that he is referencing the feminine side of reproduction when he says "creek". The cradle she sang is clearly a euphamism for himself, and the creek drinking him? Well. I would hate to be crude when talking about such a beautiful song, so I'll just say this is about him and his girlfriend reproducing. He's telling his mother to realize that he has his own family now, and she shouldn't express her "motherly" worry for him.

    "Mother forgive me, I sold your car for the shoes that I gave you"

    This is the part that has my brain thinking, as I'm not sure how to interpret it. If it's literal, I think he's saying "You gave me something, and I want you to finally forgive me for trading that in to return the favor." However, if it's not literal, the only thing I can possibly think it means is something immensely abstract. The car he's referencing his her raising him. Bringing him up to speed. Teaching him everything and shaping him into the person he is. The shoes he's referencing is his regret that he taught her next to nothing. He slowed her down. She did all this for him as a parent, and he had nothing to return in her favor except a slow walk while she watches him raise his own family.

    "Mother, don't worry, I've got a coat and some friends on the corner"

    This is the only line that I really can't understand. If I had to guess, I'd say he is saying "I have the necessities I need" and maybe trying to make a subtle pass that he can always ask the sketchy people he knows to help in case things turn out for the worse. That can't be right. I just don't know about this line.

    "Mother, don't worry, She's got a garden we're planting together
    Mother, remember the night that the dog had her pups in the pantry?
    Blood on the floor and the fleas on their paws and you cried 'til the morning."

    The reason I included all of these at the same time is because I believe it is all part of the same euphemism. The same story, I guess.

    When he speaks about the garden they're planting together, this is also another reference to his children. Him and his wife have their own family. They're raising them, helping them grow, helping them learn, protecting them. Their own little garden. And he's...*ahem*...planting them.

    And he is comparing this to a dog having her pups. They start off scrounging, down, in poverty. Blood on the floor, fleas in their paws, is a homage to the earlier lyrics "bruise of the floor". The blood became a bruise. It slowly got better.

    And again, he made the best of the situation.
    HandForTenderon July 19, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthe last line of the verse changes each time its repeated. its written correctly the first time, but the second time its "sons can be birds, taken broken up to the mountain" and the last time its "sons are like birds, flying always over the mountain"
    Mattc867on March 31, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbeautiful song. beautiful harmony. beautiful lyrics. wow.
    slickbooton November 10, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbeautiful song, i love my mom too.
    drowningnoahon November 22, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love the guitar solo in this song. It's such a sad sounding song though, i kind of wonder if maybe something happened to his mom? It'd be cool if he wrote a song about his dad too. hehe.
    kellenwrighton February 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentit makes me love my mom.
    i listen to it in the fall when the leaves turn brown.
    lemon_n_wineon March 05, 2005   Link

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