What does The Man Who Sold The World mean?

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Nirvana: The Man Who Sold The World Meaning

Song Released: 1994

The Man Who Sold The World Lyrics

We passed upon the stair, we'd spoken was and when
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...


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    Jul 6th, 2012 7:11pm report

    A man meets death, again. He is incarnate.

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    Jun 22nd, 2012 6:54pm report

    You guys are all wrong. It's a story about a particular historic person. My friend told me the whole story. The character was a Nazi.

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    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)


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    Aug 8th, 2011 8:55am report

    about the singers mind and heart and remembering 'it'[whatever 'it' is]

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    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.


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    Feb 25th, 2011 2:44pm report

    It seems a dead man speaking with this spirit.......hence the line" The Man Who Sold The World"


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    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 .


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    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?


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    Feb 25th, 2010 2:49pm report

    In response to the person who said it was a meat puppets song, thats not true. The original was made by david bowie, but a lot of people don't like the original as much as the other versions because its a bit odd sounding.


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    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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