Long dinner with some friends
Way out way out in Portmore
Servants of the pharaoh
Slip in through an open door
All business
Bearing knives and zip-guns
So get on the floor now every last one
Every last one

The heat drifts across the land
If I forget you, Israel
Let me forget my right hand

And on the floor Michael James Williams
Feels his fingers start to freeze
And the whole scene is like a movie
Paramedics on their knees

Try try your whole life
To be righteous and be good
Wind up on your own floor
Choking on blood

The heat drifts across the land
If I forget you Israel
Let me forget my right hand

And the house still smells like onions
When the ambulance arrives
Gabriel in postal blue
Loads up the car and drives to Spanish town
About three miles away
Where will the wicked run to on that last day?

The heat drifts across the land
If I forget you Israel
Let me forget my right hand

Lyrics submitted by mdon06, edited by WhiteChalkBaph

Sept. 15, 1983 song meanings
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  • +2
    Song MeaningThe song is indeed about Michael James Williams (a.k.a. Prince Fari I) and the day he was murdered, but like most of the songs on Heretic Pride and in Darnielle's oeuvre, it references some larger concepts in life. It's about Good dwelling in a land of Evil, that is, how good people suffer despite their efforts.

    The verses straightforwardly outline the murder of Prince Fari I, but also include several mentions of the theme (e.g. "Try you whole life to be righteous and good..." and "Where will the wicked run...") emphasizing the tragedy and injustice of the act. The murderers referred to as "servants of the pharaoh" (a well-known enemy of the Israelites) sets up the complex biblical parallel that runs throughout the song.

    The line about "forgetting Israel..." is a reference to Psalms 137:5, written when the Israelites felt they were unjustly in Babylonian captivity, trapped among wickedness. In the psalm, the author swears that if he were to forsake the holy city (i.e. metaphorically forsake his God and his spiritual oaths) then he might as well forget how to play his songs, work the fields, and lose every the ability to do every action that sustains his life. He proclaims his innocence and devotion amidst his and his people's suffering, much like how Darnielle imagines Williams must have felt on his violent deathbed, bleeding and choking on his own blood, slain in a world where good people suffer evil and often get no justice.

    These ideas are further complicated when you consider that the subjects' innocence is only proposed and maintained by the subjects themselves. That is, from another point of view, the Israelites killed as many Babylonians as vice versa and had them captive at different points. And who's to say that Prince Fari I wasn't involved in something that never came to light? Violent deaths like that, after all, are more often than not a result of bad friends, bad vices, and worse decisions.

    In any case, the song is clear in its recognition that the suffering and violence, regardless of origin, is a tragedy. Nobody deserves to die like that, least of all those with passion for something greater than their own hand.
    eljavion February 07, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis seems like a pretty straightforward song about Michael James Williams a.k.a. Prince Far I, a reggae artist who was murdered in Sept 15, 1983. The song definitely has a reggae feel to it regardless of its subject matter.
    mdon06on December 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentjohn darnielle and jeffery lewis made a comic explaining each song on the new album, you can look at it here:

    Sunset Rubdownon March 09, 2008   Link

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