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The Meaning Behind The Song: Candy Says by The Velvet Underground


The Meaning Behind The Song: Candy Says by The Velvet Underground

The song “Candy Says” by The Velvet Underground is a poignant and introspective piece that delves into the struggles of Candy Darling, a transgender actress and muse for the band. Lou Reed, the songwriter, shares a deeply compassionate portrayal of Candy’s internal conflicts and societal pressures. The track, released in 1969 as part of their self-titled third album, showcases Reed’s empathetic storytelling, combined with the band’s unique musicality. Let’s explore the profound meaning behind this thought-provoking song.

Candy Darling, born James Lawrence Slattery, was a prominent figure in the New York City art scene. She faced the challenges and prejudices of being a transgender person during a time when acceptance and understanding were fleeting. “Candy Says” is an ode to her struggles, offering a glimpse into her battle with self-acceptance and the yearning for societal approval. The lyrics encompass themes of identity, gender dysphoria, and the pressure to conform to societal norms.


1. Who was Candy Darling?

Candy Darling, born James Lawrence Slattery, was a transgender actress and one of the prominent figures in Andy Warhol’s inner circle during the 1960s. She gained recognition for her beauty, talent, and charisma in New York City’s art scene.

2. What inspired Lou Reed to write “Candy Says”?

Lou Reed was inspired to write “Candy Says” after meeting Candy Darling, who became a muse for the band. Reed was deeply moved by Darling’s struggles and the challenges she faced as a transgender individual in a society that often rejected and marginalized those outside the norm.

3. What is the significance of the song’s title?

The title “Candy Says” encapsulates the submissive nature of society’s expectations. It reflects the pressure imposed on Candy Darling to conform to societal norms and expectations, forcing her to censor her own thoughts and desires.

4. How does the song express Candy Darling’s struggles with self-acceptance?

The lyrics portray Candy’s internal struggles and the longing for acceptance. It reflects the difficulties she faced in coming to terms with her identity, highlighting the pain and vulnerability associated with being trapped in a body that did not align with her true essence.

5. What emotions does the song evoke?

“Candy Says” evokes a sense of empathy and compassion for Candy Darling. The vulnerability and raw emotions depicted in the lyrics allow listeners to connect with the struggles faced by individuals who do not conform to societal expectations. It invites introspection and contemplation about acceptance and understanding.

6. How did society at that time view individuals like Candy Darling?

During the 1960s, society largely lacked understanding and acceptance of individuals who deviated from the conventional binary gender norms. Transgender individuals faced significant discrimination and marginalization, often leading to emotional turmoil and a constant battle for self-acceptance.

7. What impact did Candy Darling have on the LGBTQ+ community?

Candy Darling served as an inspiration and symbol of strength for the LGBTQ+ community. Her visibility and unapologetic pursuit of her true self helped pave the way for greater acceptance and understanding of transgender individuals.

8. How does the song “Candy Says” contribute to the broader cultural conversation about gender identity?

The song “Candy Says” adds a poignant and humanizing perspective to the broader cultural conversation about gender identity. It shines a light on the struggles faced by transgender individuals, encouraging empathy and understanding for those who do not conform to societal expectations.

9. Did Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground face criticism for addressing transgender issues in their music?

The Velvet Underground received mixed reactions to their exploration of transgender issues in “Candy Says.” While some praised the band’s courage and willingness to address such themes, others responded with criticism and resistance. Nevertheless, the song remains a testament to the band’s commitment to artistic expression and pushing societal boundaries.

10. How does “Candy Says” relate to the broader body of work by The Velvet Underground?

“Candy Says” aligns with The Velvet Underground’s penchant for tackling unconventional themes and pushing the boundaries of rock music. Through their distinctive blend of poetic lyrics and experimental soundscapes, the band crafted a body of work that challenged societal norms and left an indelible mark on the music industry.

11. What is the legacy of “Candy Says”?

“Candy Says” continues to resonate with listeners, offering a poignant and empathetic perspective on the struggles faced by transgender individuals. The song remains an enduring testament to the power of music to provoke thought, inspire empathy, and foster inclusivity.

12. How does “Candy Says” influence contemporary conversations about gender identity?

The enduring relevance of “Candy Says” lies in its ability to spark conversations about gender identity and promote understanding. The song serves as a reminder that acceptance and compassion are vital in creating a more inclusive and empathetic society for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or expression.

By exploring the profound and empathetic meaning behind “Candy Says,” we gain further appreciation for The Velvet Underground’s artistry and their contribution to the cultural conversation surrounding gender identity and acceptance.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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