What does The Man Who Sold the World mean?

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David Bowie: The Man Who Sold the World Meaning

Covered By: Nirvana (1994), Lulu (1974)

The Man Who Sold the World Lyrics

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
I never lost control


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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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    Feb 14th, 2015 2:49pm report

    I guess this song can be about the transformation of himself [David Jones] into David Bowie or David Bowie embracing JESUS or god in some form, or anybody else especially if you ever expierience going through a nervous breakdown of the psycotic force of the brain that can lead you to feel the presence of the entity that is now new to your mind to transform you by leaving your old one behind that can feel like death of your old animal natured friend[ maybe ego] that you left behind, thinking that part of yourself died years ago until one day when you and your new identity crosses paths by the old haunts of the staircase that the old reminds the new identity that it has not lost control, it just wants unity in solidarity with the new for a better balance and a peace of mind to share in the world they are living in for the next day.


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    Jan 2nd, 2015 1:44am report

    Bowie wrote brilliant space oddity when he was 21. In The Man Who Sold the World Bowie talks to Major Tom (space oddity) who never lost control over spaceship, never died alone and sold the world to aliens.

    Bowie is talking to young Bowie (Bowie is a friend of young Bowie although he wasn't there at a time of 21). He searched for millions and lost control over himself


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    Aug 17th, 2014 8:19pm report

    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.


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    Aug 10th, 2014 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


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    Jun 14th, 2014 6:11am report

    "Who knows? Not me.."


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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.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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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.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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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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