Charlie Freak had but one thing to call his own
Three weight ounce pure golden ring no precious stone
Five nights without a bite
No place to lay his head

And if nobody takes him in
He'll soon be dead
On the street he spied my face I heard him hail
In our plot of frozen space he told his tale

Poor man, he showed his hand
So righteous was his need
And me so wise I bought his prize
For chicken feed

Newfound cash soon begs to smash a state of mind
Close inspection fast revealed his favorite kind
Poor kid, he overdid
Embraced the spreading haze

And while he sighed his body died
In fifteen ways

When I heard I grabbed a cab to where he lay
'Round his arm the plastic tag read D.O.A.
Yes Jack, I gave it back
The ring I could not own

Now come my friend I'll take your hand
And lead you home

Lyrics submitted by montresor, edited by xHenryChinaski

"Charlie Freak" as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Charlie Freak song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI agree with everything except for the idea that the speaker is talking to another homless man. I think "Now come my friend I'll take your hand And lead you home" is addressed to Charlie, and "home" is referencing that he can finally rest.
    hubofhipon June 15, 2005   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationOne of the most artfully crafted "pop" tunes I've ever heard. I believe this song is about the narrator being an angel of death, literally to the "charlie freak" (heroin addict). At first we cringe from the narrator's seemingly callous pride at taking advantage of the homeless guy's dire straits. The gold ring with no precious stone is probably the guy's own wedding ring - he was happy at least once, and now he has no wife for whatever reason. By the end they assault us with the reality that the narrator neither wanted nor needed the ring, nor was he being selfish by liberating it. He enabled the addict to buy just enough dope to O.D., thus ending his misery. The bells that begin at the moment of death sound to me like the "angel earing his wings" bells, especially as they peal, almost joyously, at the end. The music is especially hymn-like. Lots of possible double meanings: "without a bite", "takes him in", "lead you home".
    olegnadon December 30, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentVery very eerie and moving song. Sends a shiver down my spine with the lyric "when he sighed his body died in 15 ways." What could be a great film script is played out in a song lasting 2:45. Was there no end to these guys creativity?
    Danfanon February 19, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIncredible song.

    You're absolutely right, Booyacka. A song about a homeless man is so rare in a pop context, and what's extremely rare, is the way it is told : with so spiritual and deeply moving words, not condescending at all, not filled with conventional pity. Who said that Steely Dan were always cynical ?
    I'm still struck by the tragic double meaning of the line "Five nights without a bite" : the horror of both hunger and drug withdrawal.

    Then, the musical richness of this 2:45 song is just unbelievable : the dramatic crescendo created by the successive additions of an eerie guitar part, then the sleighbells, and those heartbreaking strings in the final, everything led by a wonderful piano melody.
    If one wants to know what "songcraft" means, he must listen to "Charlie Freak"
    The Dog That Ate...on March 29, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI first heard this song when I was about 12, and it was one of the songs out of my dad's tape that really moved me and filled me with a kind of blue. I was going off on a train ride and I sat on the night train and played the song in my head over and over again. It made think about the homeless people I see everyday, and was kinda glad somebody wrote a song about them.
    Booyackaon December 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat just about everyone here said, about a homeless drug addict, but the line, poor KID, leads me to believe that "Charlie" was probably a runaway teenage boy rather than an adult.
    CuteSparkinaon September 03, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song. Very moving. Basically it's one person telling a story to a homeless person about how he met a homeless man (Charlie Freak) and bought his only possession (gold ring) from him for a little money so he could eat. But Charlie was also an addict and bought drugs with it instead and overdosed and died. When he heard about it he couldn't stand the guilt and gave the ring back to him. So he brings this person home with him to try and help him rather than giving him money.
    Gimpy Jimon March 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's so spiritual..."Now come my friend, I'll take your hand and lead you home."

    How final.

    And the sleighbells and ostinato piano (snow falling?) make it seem kind of eerie, as if it was wintertime and Charlie froze to death in the snow obviously in combination with an OD on some drug of choice.

    If the sadness of Charlie's predicament and ultimate demise doesn't move you, then perhaps the fact that the protagonist had a heart after all and realized that there was no one else in Charlie's life to take him to his final resting place. I'm thinking he sold said ring for cash ("Yes Jack, I gave it back") to at least give him a decent burial.

    GreyBlueEyeson August 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCharlie is also another term for coke or heroin. I think in this case, it is heroin. Charlie is not his name, but he is a charlie freak. This song reminds me of walking through the streets of Rome.
    flyingcementon July 19, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSounds like he put the ring back on his finger. Very deep
    kamakiriadon February 15, 2008   Link

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