Nirvana: The Man Who Sold The World Meaning
Song Released: 1994
The Man Who Sold The World Lyrics
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as a surprise, I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, alone a long time ago
Oh no, not me
we'd never lost...
anonymous May 20th, 2010 5:29pm report
It is a Bowie song about meeting the man he used to be (Ziggy Stardust)and seeing how other people saw him, but still convinced he's changed, Bowie saying to Ziggy "I thought you died alone, a long long time ago". "Oh no, not me. We never lost control" is Ziggy saying back, no I'm still here, I'm still in control. The "we" is referencing the fact that the conversation only involves one person. "The Man Who Sold The World" is referencing the way he "sold" his image and personality to the world. "I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home" Bowie thinking, no way is that true, and disregarding what Ziggy has said. "I searched for a foreign land, for years and years I roamed I gazed a gazeless stare, we walked a million hills I must have died alone, a long long time ago" is about him making a sort of inner journey of self-discovery.
The whole song is about looking back at who he (Bowie or Cobain) used to be and how he's changed to who he is. It's not about growing up, it's about understanding yourself.
Hey guys, this is the song about the man who sold the world (the man who has lost all his family ,home and friends and has ultimately died). In the begining of the song, the man is passing by the stair (stairway to heaven) and he comes to find God with whom he talks about all his bad and good deeds and all his past experiences. God says that he was friend of the man which surprises the man and the man says that he had never seen him and how could he be his friend. The man could see eyes of god and he could know whether he was telling truth or not but he really got amazed when god said to him that 'i thought you died alone a long long time ago' and the man replies oh no we never lost control and never felt as if both of them were dead. So he laughed at god and shook his hand and left to go back to his home and roamed and wandered for many years in search of his body and family and his homeland but couldn't find it. All he could see was millions of soul wandering in heaven and he used to gaze and stare at them but he couldn't find someone whom he knows. At last, come to know that, the man he met was god and accepts that the god was right and says that he really had died and accepts death.
anonymous Aug 10th, 8:10pm report
i think of the song as two long-lost friends/warriors who are reunited in a sort of limbo. we passed upon the stair implies one going up the stairs and one coming down. the main character in unaware of his own demise and is marching upwards. perhaps his friend died on another battlefield or died unattended. they spoke of shared experiences. he is surprised by being thought of as a "friend". maybe he felt as though he had abandoned his friend and feels guilty about not being there in the end."i thought you died alone" tells us that he is certain of his friends death and cannot wrap his head around his new reality.i think the title and chorus could be a nod to the man who lost control at the worst time and begged/prayed to survive, only to discover that he was all that survived. during this chorus the man is trying to convince himself that he never lost control but ultimately realizes that he "sold" his world for his life. The second verse speaks of the man wandering this new-found plane of existence, searching for landmarks of home and finding none. And , at last, coming to terms with his own death. whether this is correct or not is of no concern to me nor should it be to you. there are many thoughts about these lyrics; who is to say what is right/wrong? a truly beautiful song/poem can be looked at from many angles and be just as beautiful. i recommend reading the lyrics by itself and forming your own opinion. thanks
anonymous Jun 14th, 6:11am report
"Who knows? Not me.."
anonymous Mar 4th, 2013 3:44pm report
I read up on this, and according to an interview that Bowie had the song is about self-discovery through the comparison of two different personalities w/in the same person (one from the past, one from the present). I originally thought it to be about death and the final acceptance of it, but that seems far fetched.
anonymous Jul 18th, 2012 7:28am report
It is about a man that faked his death and the world bought it. If you listen to it backwards it is about a man that faked his death as well. THE BACKMASKING ON THIS SONG IS INCREDIBLE. Kurt was into reversed lyrics and that explains his interest in ledbelly.
anonymous Nov 18th, 2011 11:50pm report
The song is about a man who does not know he died but come to realize this at the end of the song. We passed upon the stair (stairway to heaven, the man he met is god but does not know it) Spoke of was and when(everything in the past) I thought you died alone a long long time ago oh no not me(meaning I did not die you did) I laughed and shook his shook his hand, made my way back home(he laughed because he did not believe this was god and did not believe he died) I searched for form and land for years and years I roamed(The form he was searching for is his body and he searched for land because he was floating in heaven where there is no ground) I gazed a gazley stare at all the millions here(the millions of souls in heaven) We must have died alone a long long time ago(He accepts his death)
A_Nony_Mous Mar 12th, 2011 3:21pm report
I believe that the song is about addiction. The meating on the stair is having to face the urge to use, and he thought that the addiction had died a long long time ago, but the addiction says, oh no, not me, we never lost control. The "man who sold the world" is the guy in his addiction, he gave up everything, "the world" for a high.
Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm right. Addiction is what this song means to me.
anonymous Jan 7th, 2011 1:55pm report
I would say it has something to do with esoteric teachings.
the man who sold the world is the man who is in control of his own soul.
So you have a man and his soul ( or his god if you will ) talking about their past.
in this interpretation, "we" passed upon the stairs, " we" points to the physical and spiritual selves. the stairs could be a metaphore about going into the heavens.
"although I wasnt there " -- the physical self obviously cannot be in the spiritual realm.
So its a song a man's relation with his spiritual self. Some lost soul
roaming around the earth, over a million hills, not accepting ( oh no! not me! I never lost control) its fate .
anonymous Oct 30th, 2010 10:58am report
"The Man Who Sold the World" was released in 1970. The Ziggy Stardust character was created two years later. How could Bowie be looking back at someone who didn't exist yet?
anonymous Jan 7th, 2010 1:30pm report
I think its about about reuniting with someone who is an awful person and finding out you are just as bad as they are. The world could be something that was very important to the narrator that the second person took away from them. This second person could likely be the first persons father.
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