Understanding the Lyrics: Highwomen

When you're happy, you hear the music; when you're sad, you understand the lyrics. - frank ocean

I’m back with another song that has been stuck in my head/speaking to me lately.

I first learned about this supergroup from Sarah at Pantsuit Politics. She raved about these ladies and their work when the album was first released. I thought, “Oh, sounds fun – I’ll check it out when I have time.” I listened to a couple songs (Crowded Table and Redesigning Women, specifically), thought, “Well, I see what they are doing here – that’s nice,” but wasn’t as blown away as Sarah was.

Then I listened to this song and I got it:

This historical iconography used and the storytelling used throughout this song gives me chills every time. That may be the History Nerd in me, but that’s okay.

Highwomen –
The Highwomen

I was a Highwoman
And a mother from my youth
For my children I did what I had to do
My family left Honduras when they killed the Sandinistas
We followed a coyote through the dust of Mexico
Every one of them except for me survived
And I am still alive

The Highwoman addresses immigration and
the treacherous journeys to “freedom” and “safety”
Resources: Wikipedia of the Sandanistas |
Article On Refugees from Sandanistas |
WHY people were fleeing the Sandanistas

I was a healer
I was gifted as a girl
I laid hands upon the world
Someone saw me sleeping naked in the noon sun
I heard “witchcraft” in the whispers and I knew my time had come
The bastards hung me at the Salem gallows hill
But I am living still

The Healer addresses the dangers in being different or an “outsider”
Resources: Historical accounts of The Salem Witch Trials |
I also recommend searching “witch trials” in Europe #historymajor

I was a freedom rider
When we thought the South had won
Virginia in the spring of ’61
I sat down on the Greyhound that was bound for Mississippi
My mother asked me if that ride was worth my life
And when the shots rang out I never heard the sound
But I am still around

And I’ll take that ride again
And again
And again
And again
And again

Freedom Riders

The Freedom Rider addresses the dangers in fighting for civil rights
and what you believe in
Resources: NPR article on Freedom Riders

I was a preacher
My heart broke for all the world
But teaching was unrighteous for a girl
In the summer I was baptized in the mighty Colorado
In the winter I heard the hounds and I knew I had been found
And in my Savior’s name, I laid my weapons down
But I am still around

The Preacher addresses the historical misogyny in religion and
the dangers of being seen as “other” in regards to a religion
Resources: Historical accounts of women teaching/leading in religion

We are The Highwomen
Singing stories still untold
We carry the sons you can only hold
We are the daughters of the silent generations
You sent our hearts to die alone in foreign nations
It may return to us as tiny drops of rain
But we will still remain

The Daughters of the Silent Generation addresses the pain of a parent watching their child go off to war (i.e. Vietnam) through choices that weren’t their own (the draft or son’s choice) and facing ultimate grief.
Resources: Learning about the Generation names | A Lament for Vietnam

And we’ll come back again and again and again
And again and again
We’ll come back again and again and again
And again and again

"And we'll come back again and again and again and again." - Highwomen by The Highwomen

Songwriters: Amanda Shires / Brandi Carlile / Jimmy Webb
Highwomen lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

I hope you have a wonderful day!


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