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The Meaning Behind The Song: Lady Lazarus by Ned Rorem

The Meaning Behind The Song: Lady Lazarus by Ned Rorem

As a music technician, I am constantly exposed to a wide variety of songs that cover various themes and emotions. However, there are some songs that leave a profound impact on me, and one such song is “Lady Lazarus” by Ned Rorem. I first heard this song on a rainy evening, and it immediately struck a chord with me.

Discovering “Lady Lazarus”

I remember stumbling upon this song at a friend’s house. As soon as the haunting melody started playing, I was captivated. The ethereal music combined with the powerful lyrics drew me in, and I couldn’t help but listen intently. The song is based on a poem of the same name written by Sylvia Plath, and the collaboration between Plath and Rorem resulted in a profound musical masterpiece.

An Exploration of Darkness

“Lady Lazarus” delves deep into the theme of mortality and the struggle with one’s own demons. The lyrics evoke a sense of desperation and defiance, which perfectly capture the essence of Plath’s work. The poem itself speaks of the speaker’s repeated attempts at self-destruction, likening herself to the biblical figure of Lazarus who was brought back to life from the dead.

The opening lines, “I have done it again, One year in every ten, I manage it,” immediately draw attention to the speaker’s recurring cycles of self-destruction. The vivid imagery of her skin being “Bright as a Nazi lampshade” and her face resembling “Jew linen” suggests the haunting effect of the speaker’s experiences.

The speaker questions her own impact on others, asking, “Do I terrify?” The raw vulnerability in these lines reveals the internal struggle and self-doubt that plague the speaker. The mention of her physical appearance, such as the nose, eye pits, and full set of teeth, further accentuates her fears of being judged and rejected.

The Art of Dying

The song also delves into the concept of dying as an art. The lines “Dying is an art, like everything else, I do it exceptionally well” and “I do it so it feels like hell, I do it so it feels real” speak to the speaker’s mastery of her own demise. The song suggests that the speaker finds solace in embracing the pain and darkness, as it gives her a sense of control and purpose.

The repetition of the phrase “I do it so it feels” emphasizes the speaker’s desire for authenticity in her struggles. This line resonated with me personally, as it reminded me of the power of music in expressing and experiencing intense emotions. Like the speaker, we often seek music that mirrors our innermost thoughts and helps us navigate through the complexities of life.

A Message of Empowerment

Despite the heavy themes of destruction and despair, “Lady Lazarus” also carries a message of empowerment. The concluding lines of the song, “Out of the ash, I rise with my red hair, And I eat men like air,” encapsulate the speaker’s transformation from vulnerability to strength. She emerges from the ashes, embracing her individuality and claiming her power.

This powerful message is not only relevant to the struggles depicted in the song but can also be applied to our own lives. It serves as a reminder that we can rise above our challenges and find strength within ourselves.

In Conclusion

“Lady Lazarus” by Ned Rorem is a captivating song that explores themes of mortality, self-destruction, and empowerment. The collaboration between Rorem and Plath brings the haunting words of Plath’s poetry to life and creates a musical masterpiece that resonates with listeners on a deep emotional level. The song’s exploration of darkness and its ultimate message of strength and resilience make it a truly remarkable piece of art that continues to inspire and move people.

So, next time you come across this song, take a moment to embrace its depth and reflect on the journey it takes you on. Allow yourself to be captivated by the haunting melody and the powerful words, and perhaps you’ll find a deeper understanding of the human experience within the music.

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