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Sovay song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentLike in pnestojko's comment, Andrew Bird has said many times that he doesn't know what the word "sovay" means. This, to me, says that the meaning of the word (which may not even exist anyway) is not really important. Instead of drawing power from the meaning of the words in the song, we should draw it from the feeling of the words.
    "Sovay" is something of a soft word, it sort of rolls off the tongue. Combined with the music, it sort of evokes feelings of peace and calm in me.

    That's what is important. I would agree that this is an anti-war song, except I don't think it's anti- anything at all. Instead, I'd call it pro-peace. This may or may not be what Andrew intended the song to mean, but I think it is contradicting the idea of "waging peace" that so many other anti-war songs exhibit.
    Fighting back, even if it's for good purposes, even if it's nonviolent, is still fighting back. Conflict is what leads to violence and war. After all, fighting fire with fire just causes more burning. If people just stepped back for a minute and looked in on the world we live in, they'd realize that fighting has never gotten us anywhere, and neither has fighting against fighting. Look at Iraq today. We brought violence and warfare to the country in an attempt to stop violence and warfare caused by a dictator. And what has happened? More violence and warfare have spawned in the form of an insurgency. Continuing this way of dealing with the world is only going make the cycle repeat more. If we all just took it easy and accepted that we can't and shouldn't always be in control, people would be at peace, and there would be no more reason to fight.

    I came up with an interesting interpretation for some of the more specific parts of the song: the narrator is at some sort of anti-war protest, perhaps preparing to do some sort of reenactment. All he can think about is how if he were in control, he'd fire all of those war-mongerers that have been in power. They are fighting against an enemy that they created in their minds, like Don Quixote and the windmills.
    Playing Ride of the Valkyries is an interesting reference. Hitler played Ride of the Valkyries to his troops to get their adrenaline pumping in WWII. When people's minds are in a state like that, they act rashly and are less likely to think about what they are doing. I think it is also worth it to mention Valkyries themselves. Valkyries were warrior-women demigods from Norse mythology, who took battle heroes up to Valhalla (where the gods lived.) A doomed soldier would see a Valkyrie just before he died. This brings the whole concept of righteousness and religion into play. We are no longer fighting for material things, we are fighting because of a divine purpose. I think this is relevant because one could easily make the case that the U.S. involvement in the middle east is basically a holy war... the clash of two cultures, one predominantly Muslim and the other predominantly Christian, both feeling that their religion has the moral superiority.
    Anyway, he wants to fight against and fire those who have been pushing the war. Because if he were in power, everything would change, right?
    Next, a thought strikes him... he feels like he's been doing this before. And he has. We've been protesting wars forever, and they still continue to happen. This is something of a revelation for him- we have been doing this forever, why would it change this time?
    So instead of going along with his original battle plan for peace (...ha...), he has a new idea: simply being at peace to promote peace.

    Maybe this works, and maybe it doesn't. I say: it's worth a shot!

    razajac: wow, nice post :) It's hard to sound intelligent in the wake of something like that, hehe
    bobwronskion March 12, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think it's "riding on a pair of sixes in this heavy handed metaphor", because a pair of sixes isn't a very good poker hand, especially in a "heavy handed" metaphor.
    iamianon November 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI chime in with seago; Bird’s “Sovay” is a song which—if you can put these things on a linear scale—rivals Costello’s “Shipbuilding” for antiwar lyric power. Add to this the fact that it possesses an understated musical depth, and you’ve got something very precious.

    There seems to be a little bewilderment among the prior posts, so I’ll undertake a little exegesis.

    First stanza: This one’s relatively vague; later he’ll start to come on strong. At his point we’re in the vestibule of the mansion which is the depth of feeling about what he sees going on. It’s a general statement reflecting the fight against the suicidal attitude of powerlessness in the face of a huge evil. The powers that be would very much prefer that people like Bird would just go ahead and kill themselves. A spiritual death would be just fine, thank you very much; no need to get out the razor blades. If folks like Bird would comply, the crooked path would be a little straighter for them. Bird seems to successfully fight off this impulse, stand back, reflect, observe that history is repeating itself (it is), then is given a precious gift: The gift of “a word;” which washes to the shores of the collective mind. He beach-combs this word, then vouchsafes it to us in the form of a song, which he calls “Sovay.”

    Bridge: Sorry, don’t know what “Sovay” means. I could cheat, and google it, but I won’t.

    Second and third stanzas: OK, here’s where he names names: He’s ready for action. The “Board of Trustees” he’s about to sack are, of course, the present-day souls entrusted to oversee our grand American experiment. At the time when Bird wrote this song, it was the Bush II administration. These pricks may be Don Quixotes, but frankly I think they probably see clearer what the stakes are than the average American. It’s the American public that these adventitious parasites (like Carl Rove) are particularly skilled at getting to psychotically tilt at their fabricated windmills; laughable windmills such as, say, Iraqi WMD (while ignoring our own very existent WMD); Iraq as an immanent threat to the U.S.; the notion that Russia’s, Germany’s, and France’s weighings-in on matters of global import are plainly to be scoffed at (“Freedom Fries,” and Rumsfeld’s “Old Europe” comments); etc. “Acting on vagaries,” indeed! All this and more: We can’t laugh it off. These guys have access to the chain of command and the U.S.’s unparalleled coercive power. Bird may be a showing himself a little behind the times with the reference to B17s, but he can be forgiven: We need less omnivorously, anally, preening power-apologetic Clancys and more positively, honestly spiritual Birds. Anyway, half the top dogs in the Bush II admin are dogged, tempered power jackals from the Reagan Era. Their violent proclivities were firmly established from adventures in Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, etc., This crew is quite fit to blow us back to the eighties, although inertia could cause us to overshoot and find ourselves back in the seventies, as Bird asserts: I almost want to ask him if he had the 1470’s in mind. The reference to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries is dark, sinister, and should shake us to our cores: Is this a needed prod to turn and look at something almost impossible to face; that what underlies this rising official will-to-global-dominance is something with a racial tinge; a new and popularly “mandated” Manifest Destiny?; a new kind of White Man’s Burden, where the new “white man” is the one who fully understands the possibilities—nay, the necessities—of power, privilege, and control?

    Well, I guess that sums it up for me. I think I hit all the key expressions. Hope this helps someone!
    razajacon February 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentandrewbird.net/…
    Q: Speaking of titles, what’s the meaning of the word “Sovay”?

    A: Well, I always prefer to misunderstand songs. I think a lot of great things come out of misunderstandings. That’s why I love Charlie Patton. I’d rather not get a lyric sheet. I’d rather misunderstand what he’s saying and have it be a spark for a new song. So anyway, in this case, “Sovay” was from an old English Childe ballad—“Sovay, Sovay, all along the day”…something about some highwayman or something—but I never bothered to research it, and I never knew what it meant; it was mysterious. I was working on this song, and suddenly that word popped out. I was looking for a new word to describe unprecedented circumstances, and that word had not been defined for me, so it fit the bill and it sounded good. It’s a new word.

    Sorry for the double post. Thought that was relevant
    pnestojkoon March 04, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLots of interesting stuff here, bobwronski and razajac particularly; I think another layer to add to the "Ride of the Valkyries" reference is the veritable plethora of Vietnam and other war movies that play that specific Wagnerian piece while helicopters strafe villiages (Think Apocalypse Now) - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    capnbludon November 10, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThese are incredibly intelligent and powerful lyrics.
    The “para-success” may be the capture of Saddam Hussein, (which really did nothing in the fight against “terrorism”), and the line “a feeling like you've been here before” is referring to the Vietnam war, which was another controversial war which many believed to be unnecessary.
    The “board of trustees” is the US government.
    “Blowing us back to the seventies” is again referencing the war in Vietnam, as is “Ride of the Valkyries” which was played in a famous bombing scene in Apocalypse Now (which was an anti-Vietnam war film).
    Comparing the Iraq war to the Vietnam is the major theme of this song, and Andrew Bird’s lyrics are very wry, but at the same time very sad.
    haydimdaion March 18, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentActaully, looking at the lyrics and comments to other songs on this album, it seems to me that there are a number of songs - see the comments to 'Banking on a Myth' - that reference the Vietnam War, Corporatism, and the Record Industry. So I think that my comments are supported. In this context the title 'Mysterious Production of Eggs' would refer to the way that creativity emerges within this unpromising environment, so it may be that many of the songs are connected with that.
    indigocaton June 09, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love the suicide lines. They remind of the almighty Kurt Vonnegut remarking (super cynically, as per usual) that, though damn near every prominent American artist protested the Vietnam War, all of their effort amounted to "A creampie thrown down a hallway," (paraphrasing, don't precisely remember). Sad, but true. Keep trying though, damnit!! By the way, not that I have anything against Jack Johnson, but people constantly comparing these two is really pissing me off. Musically speaking, Andrew's stuff is sooooooo much more intricate.
    LewsTheDragonon March 11, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIncredible.
    Art Shostakon March 13, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn my opinion, this is one of the best anti-war songs of all-time.
    seagoon March 15, 2005   Link

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