"I Dream A Highway" as written by Gillian Howard Welch and David Todd Rawlings....
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Lyrics submitted by HagbardCeline, edited by chuxvom, Dawne

I Dream A Highway song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentThis song definitely has some of my favorite lyrics ever, particularly the title and the verse:

    "Sunday morning at the diner
    Hollywood trembles on the verge of tears
    I watched the waitress for a thousand years
    Saw a wheel inside a wheel, heard a call within a call
    I dreamed a highway back to you"

    Absolutely perfect
    b0sendorferon April 07, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is the greatest, most narcotic, hypnotic song I've ever heard. I know what bits of it are about, but overall it has me stumped. The first verse is about Johnny Cash getting thrown out of the Grand Ole Opry for kicking out the footlights during a show, but some of the other references have me bewildered. I've been listening to this song for two eyars over and over again and still it catches me by the heart.
    bearhunteron March 21, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAlright, after much discussion, I believe I figured out what this song really is about.

    The whole song is about a car-ride. She's driving somewhere & all these things are running through her head-johnny cash, moving to memphis, this mystery man "jack of diamonds" etc...

    "a winding ribbon with a band of gold" is the road.
    "silver vision come bless my soul" silver vision is sleep.

    This is probably one of the most amazing songs I have ever heard in my entire life & I hope what I just posted will make some sense out of it.
    road to joyon April 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHypnotic describes the song well, it has a woozy recurrent feeling about it as though the song is itself a dream. I think the song's about mourning a dead lover who appears to her as a ghost (a silver vision) that comes in turns to 'rest' (soothe), 'arrest' (capture), 'molest' (turn on), 'convalesce' (heal) and finally [twice] to 'bless' (protect? sanction?) her soul.

    The song describes her despair, getting wasted on whiskey, contemplating suicide, sitting long into the night in front of a TV displaying white noise.

    Then waking hung over with the soft (porcelain) glow of the morning light she heads to the diner. She feels comforted by the ghost and given permission (blessed) to continue her life.
    Paegaon June 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYear-late response to bearhunter: I think the "John" of line 5 has a double meaning -- the verse is definitley a reference to John Henry, the legendary railroad spike driver who pit his own strength with a hammer against the newfangled steam-powered spike driving machine that was going to put him out of work. John Henry won the spike-driving race, but died of exhaustion in the process. I have heard 1940s-era Black work songs about John Henry that have him declaring, "before I let your steam driver beat me down / would die with my hammer in my hand". So the line "Lord let me die with a hammer in my hand" is basically a prayer for the strength to never give up.

    Also there's a verse about John Henry in Elvis Presley Blues, which is on the same album.
    tweedwolfscreamon March 31, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAlso, an unrelated note about the lyrics: "My sails in rags with the staggers and the jags" is borrowed from Stan Roger's 1976 east-coast canadian folk song Barrett's Privateers. The sloop on which the narrator enlists to sail as a privateer is described "she'd a list to the port and her sails in rags/and the cook in the scuppers with his staggers and jags".
    tweedwolfscreamon March 31, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThanks for the background info tweedwolfscream :)
    Paegaon June 05, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdoes this song, in its entirety really having meaning? i mean, its 10 minutes long. isn't is quite possible that its a personal experience that she has, maybe a long road she's been traveling on? it may have references to things within and without, but that doesn't give the entire song meaning. i just really love the verse:
    "saw a wheel within a wheel, heard a call within a call." and the phrase "i dream a highway back to you." is so romantic, i could leave it in a love note to my ex-boyfriend.
    anyway, i love this song. i still have no idea what it means in its entirety. but i'm ok with that.
    missraspon August 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyou be Emmylou and I'll be Gram
    Whit0685on April 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh my god, I don't even really care what this is about....he lyrics are perfect even if they mean nothing. I like the idea that this is all during a car-ride, but part of me also thinks that this is just free association. A lot of times when i write poetry I'll end up with a few pages of stanzas that are completely unrelated to each other. Maybe she did something like this but then connected them with the "I dream a highway" chorus. Either way this song is hauntingly beautiful and I feel lucky to know about it.
    musicISmytrueloveon August 21, 2009   Link

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