"That's the Way" as written by James Patrick (jimmy) Page and Robert Anthony Plant....
I don't know how I'm gonna tell you
I can't play with you no more
I don't know how I'm gonna do what mama told me
My friend the boy next door
I can't believe what people saying
You're gonna let your hair hang down
I'm satisfied to sit here working all day long
You're in the darker side of town
And when I'm out I see you walking
Why don't your eyes see me
Could it be you've found another game to play,
What did mama say to me

That's the way,
Oh, that's the way it ought to be,
Mama say that's the way it ought to stay, yeah, yeah oh oh

And yesterday I saw you standing by the river,
And weren't those tears that filled your eyes,
And all the fish that lay in dirty water dying,
Had they got you hypnotized?
And yesterday I saw you kissing tiny flowers,
But all that lives is born to die
And so I say to you that nothing really matters,
And all you do is stand and cry

I don't know what to say about it,
When all you ears have turned away,
But now's the time to look and look again at what you see,
Is that the way it ought to stay?
That's the way
That's the way it oughtta be
Oh don't you know now
Mama said, mama said, that's the way it's gonna stay, yeah, oh oh

Lyrics submitted by kevin, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"That's the Way" as written by Robert Plant Jimmy Page

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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That's the Way song meanings
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  • +10
    General CommentPossibly my favourite Led Zep song.

    I find it interesting that in the first verse it seems that the protagonist's mother seems to be a bad figure (forbidding her son to be friends with another boy), but then later the story teller seems to understand his mother's words differently ("What did mama say to me").

    I think it shows the boy growing up and seeing that may his mother had reasons for what she said. The other boy seems to be a hippy and a dreamer ("let your hair hang down", "kissing tiny flowers", "tears filled your eyes..."). And as the story teller grows up he realises that you just don't have time to be a dreamer in life, you have to accept that things change - the flowers soon die, the river gets polluted. You can't just cry about it - you have to do something. So that's what the story-teller understands but his childhood friend doesn't.

    It's a very mature sort of message:
    -that although your mother may have had the wrong reasons for doing what she did, she did it because she knew what was best for you.
    -don't be preoccupied by how things are right now, think of the future because these things will all change.
    x0nixon June 03, 2004   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis song is a discussion of things that should be or we wish could be different/changed. The song addresses discrimination( I cant play with you no more), capitalism(all the fish lie in dirty water dying), the sixties movement (hippies and african americans), death (all that lives is born to die)and the helplessness that individuals feel in regards to their own efforts (nothing really matter)
    langdon007on September 24, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIt's not about a black boy. Do black boys let their "hair hang down"? Is that even possible? Is being black a new "game you found to play"? It's about a boy whose color doesn't matter one way or the other. But it's a boy that is being ostracized because people figured out he was gay. "Boy next door" is an interesting choice of words because it implies young love, as in "in love with the boy next door".

    This is a tender love song, possibly the only one they ever did besides "All my Love" and "I'm going to Crawl". The heartfelt vocals are what set this apart from every other Led Zeppelin song, and it's because Robert Plant is singing straight from his heart. And he's not singing about mystical things, or the seasons of love, or the world of hobbitry, or the environmental movement, he's singing what he knows.

    He's asking the boy, why can't you just play along and do what society demands, since being true to yourself only brings you so much sadness? Why can't you go without love? Is it worth the tears and rejection?

    The last lyric shows frustration with people for being so closed minded ("when all your ears have turned away") and also shows what Robert Plant truly believes. "Is that the way it ought to stay?"

    Open your mind up to this interpretation and, if you love this song already, it will become so much more beautiful because it's such a rare example of Plant opening and sharing his life with his audience.

    bigmike7on September 27, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti heard this song b/c i bought the soundtrack for almost famous b/c i loved the movie so much. it is 1 of the most beautiful led zeppelin songs ever done, and the live version is just as good as the original. it reminds me of being with some1 you love in the summertime-as sappy as that sounds.
    k_rhett112885on August 27, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMy Dad is a BIG Zeppelin fan, and i have to say that some of it has worn off on me. This is one of my favorite songs, it's best listened to in the rain, or in a car-ride. I guess it reminds me of alot of things that i've seen people i've met. It's about impressions, and how you can change the world with them. Kiss the flowers while they are alive.
    chibi_bumblebeeon September 06, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOk....to pick a favorite Zeppelin Song is like trying to pick a favorite child...almost impossible to do.....Butif asked my favorites...this is always up there......It floored me the first time I heard it.....It always stops me dead in my tracks whenever I hear the first few chords.......I love the philosophical side of Zeppelin that comes out in some choice songs...."And yesterday I saw you kissing tiny flowers, But all that lives is born to die. And so I say to you that nothing really matters"....Classic example of the buddhist idea of impermanence....nothing can ever last as it is today...tomorrow it will be different.....that's the way.....That's the way it's gonna stay.......Don't take the flowers for granted....Take the time to kiss them today......If you've never heard any Zeppelin or If your trying to turn someone on to the beauty of this bands music....This would be the first track I'd play.......
    Fool_in_the_rainon June 18, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentxOnix did a great interpretation. It is the song I feel like listening to most at the moment. To me it's just about growing up, growing out of things, coming to realise that everything is different and not as simple, that your 'mama' was right, even though you never believed her because you spent the whole time dreaming
    leonieon October 29, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think most of you hit the nail right on the head about this song's themes, but I think the music is quite amazing in it's own right. The acoustic guitar, mandolin, and steel guitar give this song an amazing feel. It's always been one of those songs that "takes me someplace else".
    BazBearon March 04, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe "gay boy" theme is interesting, but I really think it's way off. You guys are applying current themes to a song that's now 36 years old! Nobody sang about gays back then (even Elton John was still in the closet!). Plant once stated that this song was inspired by the environmental movement which was gaining popularity at the time (1970). Zeppelin wrote this song while vacationing in the wilds of northern Wales. For this reason, I've always interpreted the song thusly: The narrator is a spirit of nature; a sprite, wood nymph or fairy (original meaning!). His "mama" is MOTHER NATURE. The "boy next door" represents modern human society. Humans once lived in harmony with nature. All that's changed now. Air and water pollution, factories, automobiles and urban sprawl have pushed nature away. Nature cannot "play" with us anymore. Nature has been pushed out of sight for the vast majority of urban humanity (not for me: my wife and I actually saw a wild deer in the local park last weekend - no word of a lie! - the area is protected from development by a U.N. charter). Kids hang around malls instead of playing in the woods. We've lost touch with the harmony and cycles of nature. We're even afraid of death now; drug stores are doing a booming business, and check-out the souring costs of medical care! But nature WON'T change. It's eternally the same. "That's the Way" it ought to stay!
    RayManon June 14, 2006   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI see this song with a different spin that most people. I see it as a condemnation of both the parent’s generation, and the speaker’s generation. Most people see the first part, but not the second. The song is a call to action.

    The boy next door (BND) is seen by the mother as a bad influence, but not by the speaker. The mother is content with the status quo, the BND isn’t. The speaker agrees with the BND, but the speaker regrets that while he is willing to work towards an ideal, the BND is headed towards despair (on the darker side of town.)

    The speaker doesn’t understand why the BND doesn’t even look at him any longer, and wonders if his mother’s hopeless point of view that ‘things are the way they are and that is all you can hope for’ can be applied to the BND as well.

    The BND seems to only be able to see the filth in the river and the dead fish, but is incapable of action.

    The BND is hung up on the little concepts, the tiny flowers, but when told by the speaker that such little things aren’t important, implying that there are greater things to worry about, all the BND can do is stand and cry.

    The speaker then issues a warning to both generations, examine the way things are, and truly ask yourself it that is the way they ought to stay? The speaker wants everyone to open their ears and do something, not just accept that nothing is going to change, as the mother accepts, and not fall into despair, as the BND has. Rather, the speaker wants everyone to do something before it’s too late.
    Infinideanon July 29, 2015   Link

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