Song of the Day #1,124: ‘Fly From Heaven (Live)’ – Toad the Wet Sprocket

It’s funny how you can know, and even love, a song for years and never really grasp what it’s about.

Maybe you just never take the time to really pay attention to the lyrics. Maybe the music works so well that the singer may as well be singing Chinese for all you care. Maybe the words seem too cryptic to bother deciphering.

But one day you pay a little more attention than usual or read something that makes you see the song in a new light, and suddenly its meaning is glaringly obvious. That’s what happened to me recently with Toad the Wet Sprocket’s ‘Fly From Heaven.’

After my epiphany, I immediately thought that I had a great Song of the Day candidate, only to realize that I had featured the song already more than two years ago. But my “no song more than once” rule is restricted to unique versions of each song, so today’s live performance of ‘Fly From Heaven’ is allowed.

So what’s the song about? Well, it’s sung from the perspective of James, the brother of Jesus, who is upset by the perversion of his brother’s message by the Apostle Paul. Paul preached that faith alone would lead to salvation, while James believed that good deeds were necessary (and his brother taught as much). This song is about that struggle.

It’s really quite obvious, too. But for some reason, I never connected Paul and James to the Bible and imagined a much more contemporary setting, perhaps tied to a tragedy within songwriter Glen Phillips’ own family.

I like this song even more now that I appreciate the meaty subject matter.

Paul is making me nervous
Paul is making me scared
Walk into this room and swaggers
Like he’s God’s own messenger
Changed the name of my brother
Changed the things that he said
Says he speaks to him
But he never even knew the man
But I’d give my life for him

Like water through my hands
You’d give him any ending
But if he’s all you say
Would he fly from heaven
To this world again
To this world again

Take whatever you’re needing
Take whatever you can
We are broken from within
Run to another land

Like water through my hands
Or is it just beginning
But if he’s all you say
Would he fly from heaven
To this world again
To this world again

They took my brother
They ripped him from me
To twist his words as they did his body
Denied his family
Denied his beauty
To lay him down at the feet
Of those he couldn’t save
Couldn’t save, couldn’t save

Will it be the end
Or is he still ascending
But if he’s all you say
Would he fly from heaven
To this world again
To this world again

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,124: ‘Fly From Heaven (Live)’ – Toad the Wet Sprocket

  1. Amy says:

    Confession – I think I liked the song better when it was providing an aural time machine to your courtship with Alex than when it provided a theology lesson. Still, I like that I have a new song to use in my lesson on allusion ;)

  2. Dana says:

    GIven my ignorance of most things religious, I suspect I would have never figured out the meaning of this song, though, once you point it out, it is quite obvious I suppose.

    Still like the song, but this live version isn’t all that great (at least not in sound quality)

  3. Clay says:

    Yeah, sorry about the poor quality. It was basically a cheat to get the song out there again.

  4. doug korrow says:

    I’ve loved this song for at least ten years . And Always felt a spiritual quality I just couldn’t unravel. The Paul, James Jesus conection is perfect, perfect. Thank you. Blessings, DK. Gotta go have a listen, a new, brand new listen.

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