King Crimson: The Great Deceiver Meaning
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The Great Deceiver Lyrics
Likes to comb his hair, tip a ride
Once had a friend with a cloven foot
Once he called the tune in a chequered suit
In the door on the floor in a paper bag
There's a shoe-shine boy with...
The individual verses are hard to understand, but the overall portrait is clear: the Great Deceiver is Satan, the Devil. (Robert Fripp has always claimed that the Crimson King, whom the band was named for, as also the Devil.)
But in this song, the Devil is not a monstrous being with horns and a tail. No, in this song, the devil is a smooth talker in a checkered suit. This Devil doesn't have a sinister laugh, and doesn't pompously intone, "Worship me, my minions." On the contrary, Richard Palmer-James lyrics present the Devil as a smiling con artist, much like the msuic industry executives the band was familiar with.
The Devil is dangeous precisely because he SEEMS so nice! He doesn't HAVE to tempt us- he just offers us everything he knows we we want.
The line about "cigarettes, ice cream figurines of the Virgin Mary" was a rare lyric written by King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. Those lines reflect Fripp's first impressions when he visited Vatican City. He had gone there hoping to see great religious art and to get a sense of Christian spirituality. He was disappointed to find that Vatican City was a rather small, dirty place filled with tourists, who were smoking, eating overpriced gelato at snack bars, and buying cheesy souvenirs shaped like Mary.
The Devil is always at work, trivializing and undermining Christianity, while encouraging us to indulge or every passion and whim.
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