"Independence Day" as written by Elliott Smith....
A future butterfly, gonna spend the day
Higher than high
You'll be a beautiful confusion, ooh
Once I was you

Ah, ah...

I saw you caught between all the people out
Making a scene
In a bright, ideal tomorrow, ooh
Don't go too far, stay who you are

Ah, ah...

Everybody knows
Everybody knows
Everybody knows
You only live a day
But it's brilliant anyway

I saw you out
A perfect place
It's gonna happen soon
But not today
So go to sleep
Amid the change
I'll meet you here tomorrow
Independence day
Independence day
Independence day

Lyrics submitted by EnjOy IncUbus, edited by ESophile, peachpit, Jate

"Independence Day" as written by Steven P. Smith

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Independence Day song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentI heard an interview with Elliott Smith about this song. He said it was about a friend of his and that he was telling him to be patient, things were going to happen for him, he just had to wait a bit. Thats practically a direct quote- it was with Richard Kingsmill on JJJ. Beautiful song as you would expect from elliott RIP
    luna13on April 29, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is, to me, about someone who is having a hard time coping with struggles in their life, and the narrator is reassuring them that someday they'll be so much better off for fighting, instead of giving up... as evidenced in the line "you'll be beautiful confusion, once i was you" its sort of the narrator's attempt to relate to the troubles of the subject and reassure him or her that it will be okay, that he's been there, and that it's just an evolutionary process of sorts (future butterfly)...
    schizorageon August 11, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIt's definately written to bolster up a friend or someone you care deeply about. Resonates as a love song in my eyes and heart.
    The future butterfly is just that, the protaginist of the song is still a catepiller, and Elliott's telling them not to worry, one day you will be flying high, just like a real butterfly, which are hard to see as they fly so high and fast, just a "beautiful confusion" of color and fluttery happiness.
    In "once I was you" Elliott is empathizing, he's been the lowly catepillar, he feels his friend's pain of not being able to reach his/her dreams yet. When Elliott perhaps first saw this person, he noticed something special about them, in their own unique way, different from all the phoney people trying too hard to be part of "the scene" (in my mind the in crowd)
    And when he saw him/her, he saw what a beautiful future was in store for them, invidually and on a broader level of all the happiness they'll bring to the world, possibly together.
    Since Elliott already sees all the beauty and potential of this person, he warns them not to try to be too different from who they already are (very easy to do when you have the "in crowd" or "the scene" all around you....)
    Butterflies don't live very long, neither is youth or almost anything good in life, hence everyone knows you only live a day but Elliott encourages the transformation into a butterfly b/c that's what catepillars need to do to be fullfilled.

    In the last stanza, Elliott is a little more direct saying, look I saw you in a perfect place, ie your true, transformed, fully grown and emotionally mature state, but your not there yet. All real growth takes time, so just like a catepillar, you have to go away for a little while, into your cocoon, work on yourself and when you come out, I'll be waiting for you, with open, loving arms on your Independence Day. And yes, this song does sound like a beautiful, clear day that you'd see a butterfly meandering about. I'm sure he did that on purpose.
    Stranger On a Trainon October 11, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe main guitar riff for this song is one of the best things I've ever heard on guitar. Elliott was a melodic genius, and I think the words really take a backseat to the melody in this one. Although the words are great, I always found them to be some of his most vague, which is still great because it leaves lots of room for interpretation. Very fun song to play, if you can figure out the right tuning. I'm not even sure if I have yet. Thanks...
    facedownowlson May 17, 2004   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think this is a song is about someone who doesn't realize how beautiful they really are. The narrator is the only person who sees this and wants to prove to them how much he higher he views them compared to the other people out 'making a scene'; but he can't find the words to express his feelings. He wants to tell him/her that they have a bright future ahead of them and that their time is going to come but he realizes that he can't say this and becomes guilty because when he sees that the person is going down the same wrong path that he did, and is going to end up alone and unloved, and there's nothing he can do but watch. I'm basing this off personal experience, but it seems appropriate.
    Aaron342on April 13, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBeautiful song, it's a song of giving faith to someone. in the form of seeing how beautiful your perspective can be. definatly gave me hope and made me wonder of everyday magical things that can be there if you look in the right place.
    ScottyMac19on July 15, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song is about drug abuse, and trying to quit unsuccessfully.
    He's writing about Independence from drug dependence.

    He is trying to quit drugs, but he opts to use another time and spend the day "higher than high". He's hanging around the wrong people--hence "I saw you caught between all the people out making a scene"--He's out with people who also are using drugs.

    He knows that he has to quit and so does everyone else around him
    "Everybody knows, you only live a day, but it's brilliant any way."
    This could be a double meaning. It could be that you only feel like you are living when you are high and thus it feels brilliant. Or it could be that you only will live a day if you don't quit, but you feel better getting high.

    "I saw you out, A perfect place, it's going to happen soon but not today". This means you're in a position where you are ready to quit, you're "in a perfect place" and quitting is going to happen soon, but not today. "So go to sleep, amid the change I'll meet you here tomorrow, Independence day". The change is internal--he wants to quit. This is his voice telling him that he's ready to make the change, tomorrow is the day that he becomes independent from drug dependence (independence day).
    Maazaon April 30, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti really love elliot smith...i wanna marry him
    Emanual200on August 19, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthat interview is great.
    i listened to the three-hour program while doing a project on the beatles. ;) thanks for the link.

    this is my favorite of elliott's songs. it's so...pretty. i can't think of any other words. it's just a lovely song, and both the words and the music leave that impression. it reminds me of a sunny day.
    juicycladon May 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfacedownowls, if you still want the proper way to play this song, go to sweetadeline.net click on music on the top, then tabs on the left and you should find how to play it.
    JMULVon January 09, 2005   Link

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