I have a tale to tell
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well
I was not ready for the fall
Too blind to see the writing on the wall

A man can tell a thousand lies
I've learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, 'til then
It will burn inside of me

I know where beauty lives
I've seen it once, I know the warm she gives
The light that you could never see
It shines inside, you can't take that from me

A man can tell a thousand lies
I've learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, 'til then
It will burn inside of me

The truth is never far behind
You kept it hidden well
If I live to tell
The secret I knew then
Will I ever have the chance again

If I ran away, I'd never have the strength
To go very far
How would they hear the beating of my heart
Will it grow cold
The secret that I hide, will I grow old
How will they hear
When will they learn
How will they know

A man can tell a thousand lies
I've learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, 'til then
It will burn inside of me

The truth is never far behind
You kept it hidden well
If I live to tell
The secret I knew then
Will I ever have the chance again

A man can tell a thousand lies
I've learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, 'til then
It will burn inside of me


Lyrics submitted by spliphstar

Live To Tell Lyrics as written by Patrick Leonard Madonna Ciccone

Lyrics © Kanjian Music, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Capitol CMG Publishing, Songtrust Ave, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Live To Tell song meanings
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52 Comments

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  • +9
    General Comment

    "the light that you could never see" - I agree that the song is probably about abuse. I think this line is referring to the inability of a psychopath to see and feel the ways that normal humans can; the warm light. It's basically saying "you can try to take all you can from me, but in the end, I'll still be more human than you."

    benj30a4on February 13, 2012   Link
  • +6
    General Comment

    I think it hints at patterned sexual abuse, particularly inflicted on a child by a male relative or adult figure. She's the only one who knows about it, and can't bear her own feelings of guilt and bitterness and disillusionment. Shes had opportunities to tell others, but is afraid nobody will believe her. She wonders "will I have the chance again?" Shes afraid too that the unspeakable truth will die with her and the child will continue to be hurt. 'The truth is never far behind', because he is an ever present part of their family, and every time she sees him she is confronted with it. What more horrible secret could you know about people you love? Thats just what I think. Read the words and see if you agree

    Ange*Gaucheon May 03, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Ok, for those wondering what this songs about - it was written for a movie with Sean Penn called "At Close Range". The movie is based on a true story about a father who used his sons to commit crimes. Well, there's a disturbing scene in the movie where the father kills his son with a gun at close range. Anyway, see the movie. It's a good one from the 80's. All throughout, these kids just wanted a father who tricked his kids into thinking he cared about them, only to use them and eventually kill them. Whadda dad. Heres a link for the movie: imdb.com/title/tt0090670/

    Necronicon January 16, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    thanks for that necronic...imbd is an awesome site. learned alot from it.

    GoofyGooberon April 03, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I heard this song for the first time when I was about 9 or 10, and I wanted to look the lyrics up again because I thought I was crazy in thinking that it was about sexual abuse. But I guess I'm not the only one, then. The verse about beauty and warmth.. could that possibly be referring to herself, the light within herself that that no one can else take away?

    kittenesson December 05, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    As Necronic states, this song was in the movie At Close Range, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was written with the same meaning as the movie's meaning (but it could & there are a lot of similarities). In the end of the movie, Sean Penn's character does have the chace to tell the secret to the court that is hearing the trial against his father. And he does tell.

    I also think abuse fits in well w/ this song. As far as the "beauty lives" verse, that could be interpretted as the victim's view that although there is abuse going on, and the abuser is taking a lot away, there are some things that cannot be taken away. The beauty is what the victim focuses on at times in order to not be overwhelmed by the abuse.

    In a way, both interpretations are correct because in the movie the father is essentially abusing the kids by bringing them into a world of crime & even worse shooting his son.

    DAS JETSon April 07, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I believe this song was written for the movie "At Close Range". The interpretations for sexual abuse are interesting but the song also follows very closely to the theme of the movie.

    fightingamish00on August 31, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Like any other song, try to interpret the song in a way that suits you the best. Find out for yourself what it means for YOU...

    In every show Madonna does perform this song, it has a religious theme. For me,...it mend that you have to find the divine godness in YOURSELF. Don't let religion fool you (me). Not every thing that the vatican says, has to be true...If the pope says that condems are forbidden, it doesn't mean that Jesus has (had) the same opinion as he does... Because condems are forbidden by the catholics, aids will continue to spread out in Afrika, because they will do anything the pope says... Maybe Madonna want's to say with this song that you have to think for yourself, and say to all the religious people, that YOU know they are wrong about this, and that you want to tell it to the world...

    Tell them about all the children in the world, specially the children in the third world, that are dying unessesary, because they think that their opinion is the only true one... Maybe you realized that the tales you heard in church weren't the true ones, and you hope that you live long enough to tell everyone that it's a little different than they were told...

    Just look at Madonna's version of Live to tell from her "Confessions" tour, and maybe you'll know what I mean...

    But again: interpret ANY song for in a way that is the best for YOU...'cause that what music is all about...

    hurmieon August 16, 2008   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretation

    Again, probably not the intended meaning of the lyrics, but this song always struck such a deep chord with me during my own personal struggle before I came out as gay. It speaks so much of having a huge secret buried inside and the pain that comes with trying to keep it; wanting nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops but scared to death of the consequences.

    This lyric in particular:

    If I ran away, I'd never have the strength To go very far How would they hear the beating of my heart Will it grow cold The secret that I hide, will I grow old How will they hear When will they learn How will they know

    All you want to do is run away, but if you do, they'll never find out who you truly are.

    mikeygoestohollywoodon March 10, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    *no one else

    kittenesson December 05, 2005   Link

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