Well they call me William the Pleaser
I sold opium, fireworks and lead
Now I'm telling my troubles to strangers
When the shadows get long I be dead

Now her hair was as black as a bucket of tar
Her skin as white as a cuttlefish bone
I left Texas to follow Lucinda
Now I'll never see heaven or home

I made a wish on a sliver of moonlight
A sly grin and a bowl full of stars
Like a kid who captures a firefly
And leaves it only to die in the jar

As I kick at the clowns at my hanging
As I swing out over the crowd
I will search every face for Lucinda's
And she will go off with me down to hell

I thought I'd broke loose of Lucinda
Rain returned and so did the wind
I cast this burden on the God that's within me
And I'll leave this old world and go free

The devil dances inside empty pockets
But she didn't want money or pearls
Boy that wasn't enought for Lucinda
She wasn't that kind of girl

Now I've fallen from grace for Lucinda
Whoever thought that Hell'd be so cold?
I did well for an old tin can sailor
But she wanted the bell in my soul

I've spoken to God on the mountain
And I've swam in the irish sea
I ate fire and drank from the Ganges
And I'll beg there for mercy for me

I thought I'd broke loose of Lucinda
Rain returned and so did the wind
I was standing outside the white house
And then I was afraid to go in

I heard someone pull the trigger
Her breasts heaved in the moonlight again
There was a smear of gold in the window
And then I was the jewel of her sin

They call me William the Pleaser
I sold opium, fireworks and lead
Now I'm telling my troubles to strangers
When the shadows get long I be dead

Now her hair was as black as a bucket of tar
Her skin as white as a cuttlefish bone
I left Texas to follow Lucinda
I know I'll never see heaven or home
No I'll never see heaven or home
No I'll never see heaven or home

Lyrics submitted by xdvr, edited by djjd, andatche

Lucinda song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentNo, I don't think the Lucinda : Lucifer suggested analogy quite accounts for what's sung. I have a variation on what iwalkwithzombies wrote and it's very close in meaning, so just bear with me, here. I think it's a narration at the moment between life and death-- by suicide hanging. It condemns William to hell for his own sin, rather than any act Lucinda might have done, without the conspiratorial glitz of devil-worship & devotion.

    William "the Pleaser" clearly shows that he cared greatly for Lucinda. His knowing her--whether it's intimate or stalkerish is something to note, but not relevent--is likened to a child's secret and a secret "wish in the moonlight" He even associates his connection to her with children's story prop "bowl full of stars". He's childish enough to kill something beautiful by neglect (3.3-4). And at her death scene he doesn't ascribe any passionate or murderous descriptions. It focuses on the stormy night and is nothing more than snippets of the scene. There's a gunshot -- a golden glint -- her body -- and his guilt on the backdrop of the storm. It's hardly murderous!

    What I can't account for is why he'd say "and she will go off with me down to hell" (4.4) or why "she wanted the bell in [William's] soul" (7.4). That leads me to think of iwalkwithzombie's suggestion. For all we know, he watched Lucinda be murdered (hence the reflection in the window: a gold glint) and blames himself. Mixing anger and guilt with the memory of her death? And, hells' bells, it may be that Lucinda was the one who committed suicide and he witnessed it-- after all, William isn't saying he saw or heard someone run out of the house. It's only him and her corpse. Besides, this woman is an exception to the ascribed notion that "the devil dances in empty pockets" -- that the poor are thieves, beggars and cunts, or that "poverty tempts one to do evil".*. If she DID ANYTHING she'd be a saint. As it is, Lucinda ("light", as Google & the Latin language tells me, so that's another pretty reference for her) is a romantic doll for all she does in this romantic song.

    All that I can say for her "wanting the bell in his soul" is that maybe I don't know what it means. Really, did she demand this pretty little thing from him literally, or is it a little death knell her death set a-ringing in him? Whatever it is, he's singing this forlorn tale to us when he'll be soon be dead.

    *Courtesy of the Tom Waits Library. Mr. Waits also says that it's just "an American backwoods a cappella about a hanging." Just that. Very formal. Very official and brusk.

    And the footnotes: I suspect William is quite poor, hence why Lucinda isn't described by image the upper class would coo for. It's tar and cuttlefish bone for the poor, it is. He's also a small-time peddler who's strangely familiar with worshipful practices in India. Where the hell did he follow Lucinda to, from Texas? India? The joy of this song is that we have a departure location and not the bloody arrival destination.
    SallySpadeson August 06, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthe's written some great lyrics in the past (Who are you, Anywhere I lay my head,... ), but there's an incredible amount of very good lyrics in his last album. it may seem impossible, but I think he's getting even better with age (how many great albums in a row?), the guy'll turn 57 in 2 days and is writing the most modern music these days (not like that post punk-new wave crap)
    any way, this song. my favourite lyrics in the album, together with Road to peace (also in Brawlers)
    Tom and Steve Wynn play the blues like no one else
    PiKueloon December 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDoes anybody have a clue what "I was the jewel of her sin" could mean?
    Who was Lucinda?
    Sophie-Mon May 12, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLucinda = Lucifer, only a female one, I guess.

    By Jewel of her sin, he means that he does her bidding, I think.

    I love this song. And I love Tom Waits, and this song was amazing on Conan.
    Lithelon June 26, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti saw this song on conan as well and it changed my life.
    willywillywillyon July 17, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've just got what this song means. It's a rough recasting of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus; German folklore and also a play by Christopher Marlowe. I won't go into every detail, but take what that other guy said about Lucifer = Lucinda and it all makes sense - the narrator of the song devotes himself to this Lucinda character, does a lot of crazy stuff in his life but ultimately will never see heaven nor home, just as Faustus sold his soul to the devil.
    Publiuson March 02, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think a valid interpretation of this song may be much simpler than it would appear
    Perhaps he killed Lucinda, which might explain why he would see her in the crowd
    perhaps becoming the jewel in her sin might mean killing her in retribution for some sin she committed
    iwalkwithzombieson April 09, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWilliam the Pleaser is probably the craziest character Tom has ever created.
    HatFullaRainon July 09, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti'd always thought this song was about drug addiction/dealing.
    bjjshowdownon October 09, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationPersonally, I just interpret it that William has wallen madly in love with Lucinda, and she controls his life completely, using all his money, which seems to have been an ample enough amount, but that this isn’t enough for her. She really want to control him. He’s been trying to forget about her on his journeys, but he still loves her, and despite the fact that he know he shouldn’t, he keeps coming back (the whole Lucinda character can arguably be interpreted as a drug addiction, but I don’t see it that way).

    I think it’s actually Lucinda who commits murder, and framed Williams, or that she’ll get him to do it. Therefor he becomes the crown heel of her sin.
    HaakonJohansenon May 07, 2018   Link

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