Never thought of Hades
Under the Mississippi
But still I've come to sing for him
So southern furies
Prepare to walk for my harp
I have strung, and I will leave with him
Relax the cogs of rhyme
Over the Memphis sky
Turn back the wheels of time
Under the Memphis skyline
always hated him for the way he looked
In the gaslight of the morning
Then came hallelujah sounding like Ophelia
for me in my room living
So kiss me, my darling stay with me till morning
Turn back and you will stay
Under the Memphis Skyline

Lyrics submitted by anna118k

Memphis Skyline Lyrics as written by Rufus Wainwright

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Memphis Skyline song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentWainwright's weaving the myth of Orpheus's attempt to redeem his bride Eurydice from the Underworld with the tragic drowning of Jeff Buckley is one of the saddest and beautiful moments in contemporary music.

    In the myth, Orpheus's wife dies. However, he could play his lyre so sweetly that it even melted the heart of Hades himself. Hades agreed to release Eurydice back into the living world with her beloved husband on one condition--that Orpheus walks ahead of her and both do not look back until they've reached the world above. In his nervous excitement, Orpheus looks back just as his feet touch the mortal earth, and Eurydice vanishes back into Hades forever. This must be why Rufus sings "turn back" twice during his song. I think it's a song about many things--desire, jealousy, adoration. But I think, on a more elemental level, it's also about letting a person be dead.

    The water imagery flows in from both Greek myth and from Shakespeare's "Hamlet". Orpheus's own death was tragic, being torn apart by Maenads (female servants of Dionysius) while minding his own business at an oracle. They lopped off his head and sent it floating down the river along with his lyre. In "Hamlet", Ophelia drowns herself from apparent madness over the murder of her father by Hamlet, coupled with the denouncement of their relationship ("get thee to a nunnery") by Hamlet himself.

    I think it's one of his best.
    Asterionon October 07, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYes, indeed this song is about Jeff Buckley. Rufus was jealous of Jeff for the longest time because they wouldnt let him play at sin'e. They hung out one night and Rufus realized that Jeff wasnt such a bad guy after all. Jeff died little than a month later, and Rufus wrote this song for him. Read the rolling stones interview with Rufus
    Roland Ripleyon March 07, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a song about Jeff Buckley! Listen to it, read the story of how Jeff died....Hades under the Mississippi....Memphis......the way he looked....Hallelujah...Turn back and you will stay under the Memphis you see it? I do.
    RestingPlaceon January 10, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHe uses the Orpheus myth to great effect. This is such a painful song.
    miasnapeon March 14, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah, Rufus and Jeff Buckley became friends shortly before Buckley's death. I believe Rufus has said of Buckley 'He was lovely' but they did rival each other for a very long time.
    mozza_fanon December 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think i heard a reference to river pheonix in there too. such sad stories...
    ariesstyleon September 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think you are talking about his other song Matinee Idol, aries
    walnut_whaleon February 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think you are talking about his other song Matinee Idol, aries
    walnut_whaleon February 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song flows through itself like water, it's so beautiful. it's less a song with refrains than one long, ethereal moment with rises and falls that break meters and keys, one fluid movement that twinkles, rising cautiously into "so kiss me..." (such a plaintive and beautiful line), then crescendoes to a big rapture of strings and muted horns and rufus's opaque, languid vibrato, and then almost evaporates into the last fading, transparent piano chords. the lyrics hide the story of jeff buckley's death in such thick layers of this modernized, romantic myth of orpheus that it's poetry freed from any connection to time or place. to put it simply, all this blather means that Memphis Skyline is completely entrancing. it took me many listens of want two to catch onto it and then fall in love with it. in my opinion, it's certainly rufus wainwright's best song on want two, if not of all time.
    henpeckingon February 21, 2007   Link

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