The Secret of Life

by Gretchen Peters

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credits

released June 4, 1996

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Gretchen Peters Nashville, Tennessee

Gretchen Peters’ new album, 'Blackbirds,' features a who's who of American roots music: Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Jimmy LaFave and more. But it's not the guests that make 'Blackbirds' the most poignant and moving album of Peters' storied career; it’s her ability to capture the kind of complex emotional moments we might otherwise try to hide and instead shine a light onto them. ... more

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Track Name: Waiting For the Light to Turn Green
It's raining in my coffee cup
Comin' down since I got up today - cold and gray
And lookin' in my rearview mirror
I could be anywhere but here I am - traffic jam

All these people without names
Every day we face the same routine
Waiting for the light to turn green

The lady in the blue sedan
Combs her hair and steals a glance at me - who is she?
Does anybody hold her tight
Or does she spend her days and nights at home all alone

And over in the passing zone
All wrapped up inside their own daydreams
They're waiting for the light to turn green
Do they wonder who I am
Do they know I'm not some damn machine
Waiting for the light to turn green

What about the love I long for
What about the child I want someday - where are they?
What about my heart's desire
What about these four bald tires I'm on - how long?

I've been goin' nowhere fast
Runnin' out of time and gasoline
Waiting for the light to turn green
I'll be damned if I'll grow old
Waitin' for these wheels to roll, not me
Waitin' for the light to turn green
Track Name: Border Town
Carmelita was a street angel but she kept her halo hid
Never learned to read or write so well, she was just a farmer's kid
She took communion at the age of twelve, she wore a cross of wood
She heard the clanging of the mission bell and she vowed that she’d be good

But the world goes round
And it’s hard enough to stand your ground
There’s always someone tryin’ to keep you down
In a border town

Mamacita said you can’t go down, stay away from the white man's world
She drew the line at the edge of town for her little dark-haired girl
But Carmelita she had other plans and her life had just begun
She ran away with a black-eyed man and he left her with a black-eyed son

But the world goes round
And it’s hard enough to stand your ground
There’s always someone tryin’ to keep you down
In a border town

Carmelita now she’s settlin' down, she’s not so free and wild
She rides a bus all the way across town to love somebody else’s child
Shows up each morning right on time and at six o’clock she’s gone
She keeps her distance and she toes the line cause she knows where it’s been drawn

But the world goes round
And it’s hard enough to stand your ground
There’s always someone tryin’ to keep you down
In a border town
Track Name: I Ain't Ever Satisfied
I was born by the railroad tracks
The train whistle wailed and i wailed right back
Daddy left Mama when i was quite young
He said "one of these days you're gonna follow me on"

Woh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
I ain't ever satisfied
Woh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
I ain't ever satisfied

Now i had me a man and he was my world
But i ran off like a back street girl
Back street woman can not be true
Now I’m standin' on the boulevard thinkin' bout you

I got an empty feeling deep inside
I'm going over to the other side

Last night i dreamed i made it to the promise land
I was standin' at the gate and i had the key in my hand
Saint Peter said "come in child, you're finally home"
I said "no thank you Peter, i'll just move along"
Track Name: I Was Looking For You
I was born with a hunger nobody could name
Mama said I was restless, just made that way
But I was looking for you, I was looking for you
I'd wake up crying and she'd hold me tight
But something about it just didn't feel right
Cause I was looking for you, I was looking for you

I was looking for you all this time
I was looking for you, hoping I'd find
A little light in the darkness
A little shelter at sea
A little sign from above, now
That you were looking for me

I used to ride down Main Street in the middle of the night
I was looking for trouble and I found it alright
It was easy to do - I was looking for you
And I thought it was a miracle when you looked my way
And I felt my heart beat when I heard you say
I was looking for you, girl, I was looking for you

Chorus

One day it's rapture, the next despair
I pulled up at a stoplight and I saw you there
And I saw her too - I was looking for you
Last night I met someone and I looked in his eyes
Took me a minute 'fore I realized
That I was looking for you, I was looking for you

Chorus
Track Name: On A Bus To St. Cloud
On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer
And once on a street in New York City
With the jazz and the sin in the air
And once on a cold L.A. freeway
Going nowhere

And it's strange, but it's true
I was sure it was you
Just a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud

In a church in downtown New Orleans
I got down on my knees and prayed
And I wept in the arms of Jesus
For the choice you made
We were just gettin' to the good part
Just gettin' past the mystery
Oh, and it's just like you, just like you
To disagree

And it's strange but it's true
You just slipped out of view
Like a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud

And you chase me like a shadow
And you haunt me like a ghost
And I hate you some, and I love you some
But I miss you most...

On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer
Track Name: Over Africa
Under Kilimanjaro
She guards her young
And she speaks to the darkness
In the mother tongue
She waits and she watches
All night long
She calls to her lover
And she sings this song:

I will be there for you whatever comes
I am as constant as the beat of drums
My love is stronger than the noonday sun over Africa
Over Africa

It's a force of nature
It's the power of need
Love will heal you, baby
And it'll make you bleed
But I will be patient
I will bide my time
I will be waiting
Like a mama lion

Chorus

Between love and money, between pride and sin
We are just wild things underneath the skin
In the cradle of creation we were made this way
Bound together 'til our dying day

It's the law of the jungle
It's the ancient truth
Live by the senses, baby
Die by the tooth
But I would walk through fire
I would swim the sea
Long as I live and breathe
You belong to me

Chorus
Track Name: This Uncivil War
There's a silence on the front lines
You can cut it with a knife
You can stay and take your chances
Or you can run to save your life
And one side is retreating
And the other's runnin' scared
And the drums of war are beating
Even though it's undeclared

And both sides say they're winning
And both sides know they're losing
And neither one knows what they're fightin' for
And in the quiet little places
You can see the little faces
Huddled right outside the bedroom door
Praying for an end to this uncivil war

Papa needs a new job
So he's swallowing his pride
Oh, but it don't go down easy
And it eats him up inside
And Mama, she don't notice
Little sister's ragged dress
Lately she don't notice
Much of anything I guess

They're just fightin' off the hunger
Tryin' to keep from goin' under
But the wolves just keep on gathering round the door
There's no place to run for cover
And so they're turning on each other
Cause there really ain't no winners anymore
Just victims in this uncivil war
Track Name: The Secret of Life
Couple of guys sittin' around drinkin' down at the Starlight Bar
One of 'em says, you know I been thinkin' - other one says that won't get you too far
He says this is your life and welcome to it - it's just workin' and drinkin' and dreams
Ad on the TV says "Just do it" - hell if I know what that means...

The secret of life is a good cup of coffee
The secret of life is keep your eye on the ball
The secret of life is a beautiful woman
And Marilyn stares down from the barroom wall...

You and me, we're just a couple of zeroes - just a couple of down-and-outs
But movie stars and football heroes - what've they got to be unhappy about?
So they turn to the bartender, "Sam, what do you think - what's the key that unlocks that door?"
Sam don't say nothin', he just wipes down the bar and he pours 'em a couple more

Cause the secret of life is in Sam's martinis
The secret of life is in Marilyn's eyes
The secret of life is in Monday night football
And Rolling Stones records and Mom's apple pies

Sam looks up from his Sunday paper - he says boys you're on the wrong track
The secret of life is there ain't no secret and you don't get your money back

The secret of life is gettin' up early
The secret of life is stayin' up late
The secret of life is try not to hurry
But don't wait, don't wait...
The secret of life is a good cup of coffee
The secret of life is keep your eye on the ball
The secret of life is to find the right woman
The secret of life is nothin' at all

Repeat first verse
Track Name: A Room With A View
I drive a cab in Brooklyn - I like my job okay
Nobody breathin’ down my neck - I just drive around all day
I meet all kinds of people - I’ve got the gift of gab
Been everything from bums to kings in the back seat of my cab

And I got a roof over my head
I got three square meals and a nice warm bed
I got a place I can call my own when the day is through
I got a room with a view

Don’t have much education but I know how people are
You’d be surprised what you can learn from the front seat of a car
I sleep real good most every night and my baby he does too
We ain’t rich but we’re alright just doin’ what we do

And I got a roof over my head
I got three square meals and a nice warm bed
I got a place I can call my own when the day is through
I got a room with a view

Now when this life is over and the angels take me back
I’ll let ‘em drive my yellow cab and I’ll be the one in back
But this world don’t owe me nothin’ - I learned that long ago
Got everything I’ll ever need to get me where I wanna go

And I got a roof over my head
I got three square meals and a nice warm bed
I got a place I can call my own when the day is through
I got a room with a view
Track Name: Circus Girl
I work the high wire in the center ring
Defying gravity, that's my thing
Guess I never wanted no regular life
I couldn't stand to be nobody's wife

Some people tell me that I'm livin' their dream
But things in the circus ain't what they seem
Believe me darlin' it's a lonely world
It ain't easy for a circus girl

Nobody knows you when you come to town
You're somebody's hero or you're somebody's clown
And you hope like hell that it'll be enough
Cause you're nobody's baby when the sun comes up

Bridge: You can dazzle 'em with beauty
Make 'em laugh until they cry
You can give 'em the thrill of a lifetime
But they always say goodbye

It's just that sometimes I get so tired
Of goin' nowhere on that little wire
I'd like to plant my feet on solid ground
But God have mercy it's a long way down

So I climb that ladder right on up to the sky
I don't look down and I don't ask why
And just for a moment I'm on top of the world
Just for a moment I'm a circus girl
Track Name: When You Are Old
When you are old and tired and gray
And wear your overcoat on sunny days
When your brave tales have all been told
I'll ask for them when you are old

When you are old and full of sleep
And death no longer makes you weep
When your body aches with cold
I'll warm your heart when you are old

And you'll still be the same to me
A comfort and a mystery
And I will be old too, you see
I'll need someone to comfort me

When you are old and pale and gaunt
And a gentle hand is all you want
I will give you mine to hold
I'll be here when you are old
Track Name: Independence Day
Well she seemed all right by dawn's early light
Though she looked a little worried and weak
She tried to pretend he wasn't drinkin' again
But Daddy'd left the proof on her cheek
And I was only eight years old that summer
And I always seemed to be in the way
So I took myself down to the fair in town
On Independence Day

Well word gets around in a small, small town
They said he was a dangerous man
Mama was proud and she stood her ground
But she knew she was on the losin' end
Some folks whispered and some just talked
But everybody looked the other way
And when time ran out there was no one about
On Independence Day

Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It's Independence Day

Well she lit up the sky that fourth of July
By the time that the firemen come
They just put out the flames, took down some names
And sent me to the county home
Oh, and I ain't sayin' it's right or it's wrong
But maybe it's the only way
Talk about your revolution
It's Independence Day

Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It's Independence Day