Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature
While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other's hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge

Some of them knew pleasure
And some of them knew pain
And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered
And on the brave and crazy wings of youth
They went flying around in the rain
And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered
And in the end they traded their tired wings
For the resignation that living brings
And exchanged love's bright and fragile glow
For the glitter and the rouge
And in a moment they were swept before the deluge

Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky

Some of them were angry
At the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them
Only to be confused
By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour
And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge

Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal it's secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky

Lyrics submitted by Howard55, edited by teekaye

Before the Deluge Lyrics as written by Jackson Browne

Lyrics © Jackson Browne/Swallow Turn Music/Night Kitchen Music/Open Window Music

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Before The Deluge song meanings
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  • +11
    My Interpretation
    I saw Jackson Browne at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium last night, and he closed with this song as the second encore. First, I agree with the comment that what a song means is whatever it means to you. That being said, here's what this song means to me. I'm the same age as Jackson Browne, and I've followed his music since I was in my twenties. When he says, "Some of them were dreamers, some of them were fools...," "Some of them knew pleasure, some of them knew pain...," and "Some of them were angry at the way the earth was abused..." he is talking about the generation who came of age in the '60s. We thought we could make big changes by embracing the natural world and protecting the earth from the corporate abusers who learned " forge her beauty into power." But our wings became tarnished by live-for-moment hedonism (shallow sexuality and drug use), and we either burned out or gave in to the need to compromise our ideals to survive in the material world. And though we may have continued to struggle to protect the fragile environment, in his chilling pre-apocalyptic vision, the artist realized that it was too late--the tipping point had been reached. We were "..confused by the magnitude of her fury in the final hour." This song is more relevant today than ever, as we begin to understand that it is the abuse of the earth rather than nuclear Armageddon that is likely to seal our fate. As it says in Ecclesiastes, "Men go and come, but the earth abides." those of us with children can only hope that they might be among the ones who are spared in the "naked dawn" when "only a few survived." We are blessed by the beauty and artistry we are capable of creating; cursed by the greed and short-sightedness that have lead us to the brink of the seemingly inevitable massive die-off of our species. "Let creation reveal its secrets by and by."
    Bortinon February 03, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    I think that line "And exchanged love's bright and fragile glow, For the glitter and the rouge" sums this song up to a large extent. In a general sense it's a song about the coming of a modern culture which lacks substance, is filled with pointlessness and a decent fulfilling life of learning and inquisitiveness is replaced with artificially created wants of glitter and rouge. "And in the moment they were swept before the deluge" - the moment they traded the fulfillment of life for the artificial version thats only a mediocre temptation, you will lose it all, and that has turned out to be true today. This is the first time in history we have in front of us the possibility of destroying most species on the planet. There are in fact two ways - nuclear devastation as well. "Some of them were angry, At the way the earth was abused" - It's as true today as it was 200 years ago with Native Americans and of course further back. I recently heard a Native American say "If we'd have lived the way Native Americans lived, today we would still be able to drink out of Rivers." So many activists and concerned people who are trying to simply get people to listen to them are still being labeled as extremists, crack-pots, tree-huggers etc. Unfortunately these people harm profits and growth. Pretty selfish of them to want to save our very existence. "By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power" - In another version I have heard the line is slightly changed by the removal of "her" so the line becomes "...forged beauty into power" which to me has connotations of wealthy men in society understanding that as a vulnerable and scared mass of people we are easily subjected to artificial contrivances like vanity and beauty and while we are strutting about comparing ourselves, competing on the most ridiculous basis, they are carrying out the objectives that protect themselves from "the rascal multitude" as we are distracted. Although this version of that line is slightly different it's still a point I'd like to make, because it's blatantly obvious in our developed societies but it miraculously evades discussion in most forms. The "..the magnitude of.." natures "..fury" is one of the most important points to make in this song. People who tried to protect the earth from the men who wanted to exploit her for their sole personal gain found it difficult to understand how destructive nature could be when we pushed her too much towards the edge. In all, I think it's a song about two groups of people that encapsulate true respectfulness, dignity, decency and thought as there principles and another much smaller but more powerful group that see individual gain, self-interest and plundering as unchangeable aspects of our human nature. If that's true then we were doomed to begin with.
    jwardon April 26, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    This is a truly beautiful song. My take on it is that it describes what happens as we get older and lose are integrity and idealism. By exchanging "love's bright and fragile glow" for "glitter and rouge", we become less true to ourselves and the passion of our youth. Man, I love this song.
    tranquilasadoveon February 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation
    This song has been widely interpreted as being "pre-apocalyptic", the apocalypse meaning, based on the time Jackson wrote it, nuclear war. This is the "naked dawn" he refers to. Those who lived through the cold war know what I mean. I have been listening to these lyrics for some time, and recently, thinking about Japan's recent "apocalypse" I thought about the 1940's, and what they endured then. It "dawned" on me that Mr. Browne was inspired by a 1960 "post-apocalypse" novel by Walter Miller, "A Canticle for Leibowitz". The phrasing parallels Miller's work. This song is relevant at all the levels cited by those who have commented before, but it is such a "rich" lyric that it boggles the mind.
    quayfouron April 02, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    I love this song and every time I hear this song it automatically makes me think of Noah and how it was in his day before the deluge. How all the people continued to doing what they were doing and were stuck in their own little world and when it became too late to get in the ark with Noah and his family and the animals, they were swept away before the deluge. The line in the song basically says it all: "and in the end they traded their tired wings for the resignation that living brings and exchanged love's bright and fragile glow for the glitter and the rouge. And in a moment they were swept before the deluge."
    Jevans24on March 04, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    The song is vague enough to have multiple meanings, but the one thread tying it all together is that of the 'Apocalypse', or in reference to the New Testament, a disclosure of knowledge. The deluge that occurs could very well be the four Horseman of the Apocalypse arriving as foretold in Biblical times, or the second coming of Christ. When Judgement Day finally comes around, only a few will survive, and the rest will be delivered from sin by the fury and wrath of the Universe. Good will triumph over evil, and the present age will end. "Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by" - the world will by then reveal its secrets to us, and.... "When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky" - Our inner spirits finally ascend to the heavens to reconnect with God.
    degree7on May 19, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    I think this song shows amazing insight on JB's part; it's a great dramatization of the disco era putting an end to the 60s revolution, but it was written in 1973, before disco had really begun to take hold. If it is in fact about the fall of hippie culture, it's impressive that he could see it coming so soon.
    Kafzielon May 14, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    i dont know but this song means to me the time of the great flood (Deluge). Basically telling the story of evil people and then the "innocent" people like Noah....But then again its just my view.
    nfg77on February 26, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    And before someone yells at me...yes i know the real meaning of this song is the "anitnuclear" 60s era. Just thought id give another side to it.
    nfg77on April 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    If this is what the song means to you guys, that is fine, but you are all way off. The song - one of my favorites ever - isn't that hard to decipher. It's about a group of people who wanted a simpler life. The first verse reminds me of Lewis and Clark. They went on a journey through the heart of nature. The second verse makes me think of indians. "Their feathers once so fine, grew torn and tattered." The indians were eventually forced to reservations. They were forced to trade their lifestyles for an easier one filled with modern conveniences. As more and more people populated and exploited the wild places of the earth, a new group of people rose up in protest of the degredation of mother earth. But they were swept away by "the men who learned how to forge her beatuy into power". I don't know where Kafziel go the disco references, but I sure don't see them. Parts of the song can be related to war and nuclear bombs, but that isn't the essence of the song's meanings. Before long, the world will wake up and see that we can't continue on the path we are or the world as we know it will be no more. Let's hope that days comes soon, before it's too late.
    Tmo2199on April 02, 2006   Link

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