"Wings" as written by and Josh Ritter....
At night we crossed the border following a Black robe
To the edge of the reservation-to Cataldo Mission
Where the saints and all the martyrs look down on dying converts
What makes the water holy she says is that that it's the closest thing to rain

I stole a mule from Anthony I helped Anne up upon it
And we rode to Coeur d'Alene-through Harrison and Wallace
They were blasting out the tunnels-making way for the light of learning
When Jesus comes a'calling she said he's coming round the mountain on a train

It's my home-last night I dreamt that I grew wings
I found a place where they could hear me when I sing
We floated on to Hanford on a lumber boat up river
Past the fisheries and the mill-towns like a stretch of future graveyards
She was driven to distraction-said I wonder what will happen
When they find out they're mistaken and the land is too changed to ever change

We waded through the marketplace-someone's ship had come in
There was silver and begonias-dynamite and cattle
There were hearts as big as apples and apples in the shape of Mary's heart
I said inside this gilded cage a songbird always looks so plain
It's my home-last night I dreamt that I grew wings
I found a place where they could hear me when I sing.

And so they came with cameras-breaking through the morning mist
Press and businessmen-tycoons-Episcopal philanthropists
Lost in their appraisal of the body of a woman
But all we saw were lowlands-clouds clung to mountains without strings

And at last we saw some people huddled up against
The rain that was descending like railroad spikes and hammers
They were headed for the border-walking and then running
Then they were gone into the fog but Anne said underneath their jackets she saw wings

Lyrics submitted by geekusa

"Wings" as written by Josh Ritter

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, DUCHAMP, INC

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Wings song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentIt's about the historical exploitation of the West and the people who developed it. Set in
    Ritter's home state of Idaho (Anthony, Coeur d'Alene, Harrison, Wallace, and the Cataldo Mission are all in North Idaho) As the protagonist travels from East to West, he also travels in time (to Hanford, on the Columbia River, a nuclear waste site)
    In the end the "people" escape into obscurity - but with the saving grace of wings which they may use to ascend (or transcend) their history. Or not.
    dot50on September 04, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is certainly a song of the American Northwest, and it has always evoked for me the period of the Klondike gold rush, 1897 - 99, when Seattle experienced a boom as the jumping off point for the would-be miners. The journey for Anne and the singer may start on one of the Montana reservations, takes them through the the- bustling silver mining town of Wallace, Idaho, down to Coeur d'Alene and Cataldo Mission, eventually to the Columbia River and Hanford (now a the site of severely polluted nuclear remains) and on the the "market" -- Seattle -- and eventually up to the main access to the gold fields over the Chilkoot/White Pass trail. There are iconic pictures of a line of people -- hundreds, thousands -- snaking up a steep, snow-covered trail, miles long, the further reaches obscured by fog and snow. Perhaps Anne could see, under their coats, wings. As for the song, it is to me a lyrical masterpiece. I suppose it works for me because it sees, even in the most desperate human situations, the opportunity for transcendence. Thank you Josh.
    Vinburdon April 29, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe this is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. The lyric is amazing and it has some of the rolling power of early Leonard Cohen songs. I can offer no higher accolade.
    Breakfaston March 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsadly, I've never been able to really understand this song.
    Little_Earthquakeson May 31, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhat makes the water holy she says is that that it’s the closest thing to rain

    I adore that.

    Am I the only one who see's The Ghost of Tom Joad in this?
    megasaurus44on February 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song. It's used as the opening quote in Dennis Lehane's new book, The Given Day. Free plug.
    Bluemaskon December 20, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIs there a story behind the song?
    keppelon January 18, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is about the trail of tears. They leave the reservation and talk about 'this guided cage' and 'the land is to change forever change.' Not to mention the main chorus about wings. I'm not sure but someone mentioned this and I think it fits.
    amhereston February 11, 2010   Link

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