Song of the Day #558: ‘A Martyr For My Love For You’ – The White Stripes

The White Stripes’ most recent album, Icky Thump, came out a little over two years ago. After that release, Jack White went off and started about two dozen bands, none of which have excited me very much (at least not the bits and pieces I’ve heard). I wish he’d get back with Meg and release another White Stripes record because the last few have been excellent.

Today’s song is one of my favorites from Icky Thump. It’s about being so insecure about a new romance that you call it quits before things even get started… or at least that’s what it’s mostly about.

A detail early in the song give the song a creepy twist, unless I’m reading too much into it. He mentions that the girl is sixteen. It’s certainly possible that the narrator of the song is also a teenager, in which case you can ignore this and go back to your regularly scheduled programming. But I don’t think so. I think he’s a 20- or 30-something guy lusting after a teenage girl and convincing himself (and her) that their relationship is wrong for other reasons.

What do you think?

She was sixteen and six feet tall
In a crowd of teenagers comin’ out of the zoo
She stumbled, started to slip and fall
Teeter-tottered on the top of patent leather shoes
I happened to catch her and said,
“Maybe these ruby shoes are a little cumbersome for you”

Maybe for you, now

But not as shaky as I must have seemed
Talkin’ junk through her giggle — little teenage dream
And on the phone I could not compete
My dumb-love fake competence was getting weak
For a sec’ I thought I sounded sweet
But sure ‘nough in a gruff, faint voice
I heard myself speak

I could stay a while
But sooner or later I’ll break your smile
And I can tell a joke
But one of these days I’m bound to choke
And we could share a kiss
But I feel like I can’t go through with this
And I bet we could build a home
But I know the right thing for me to do
Is to leave you alone

Leave you alone, now

I’m beginning to like you
So you probably won’t get what I’m going to do
I’m walkin’ away from you
It probably don’t make much sense to you
But I’m trying to save you
From all of the things that I’ll probably say or do

Probably do

I could stay a while
But sooner or later I’ll break your smile
And I can tell a joke
But one of these days I’m bound to choke
And we might share a kiss
But I feel like I can’t go through with this
And I bet we could build a home
But I know the right thing for me to do
Is to leave you alone

Leave you alone, now

You probably call me a fool
And say I’m doin’ exactly what a coward would do
And I’m beginning to like you
It’s a shame; what a lame way to live
But what can I co
I hope you appreciate what I do

I’m a martyr for my love for you
A martyr for my love for you, now
A martyr for my love for you
A martyr for my love for you

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #558: ‘A Martyr For My Love For You’ – The White Stripes

  1. Amy says:

    I think he’s definitely older, and I’m betting closer to 40 than 20. When you’re a teenager, you don’t refer to a “crowd of teenagers comin’ out of the zoo.” You might call them kids, but you certainly don’t refer to a group to which you belong as teenagers. The detail about her tottering on patent leather shoes also makes it unmistakable, as in that instance she seems even closer to 10 or 11.

    I’m surprised you know this band well enough to compare their albums. Other than noticing him on an odd talk show and hearing a song or two here, I have never sought out music by White Stripes or Jack White. The whole are they married? are they sister and brother? vibe had me skeptical from the start. Plus, I’ve just never been all that intrigued, creepy lyrics aside, by anything I’ve ever heard by them.

  2. Dana says:

    I agree with Amy. This guy is older and is cutting off an arguably inappropriate relationship before it starts, knowing that if he doesn’t, she won’t because she is too young to know better.

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