What does How to Save a Life mean?

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The Fray: How to Save a Life Meaning

Song Released: 2006

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How to Save a Life Lyrics

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Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear...


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    Oct 9th, 2007 10:33am report

    I think Slade is writing about an honest attempt to try and help a friend (or a teen at a camp, as it turns out to be) out of a downwards slide towards suicide, but which unfortunately wasn't as supportive as he meant it to be. He highlights areas he could have done better, but did not realise at the time, such as "Try to slip past his defense/Without granting innocence". He wishes he could have done better, have known more what was best to say. "Lay down a list of what is wrong" He expresses his fervent wish that he could have said enough to have prevented his friend (the teen) from taking his own life, declaring he would have taken every effort "I would have stayed up with you all night".

    He also attempts to convey how awful it was for the friend (or teen) to have gone up the path that has led him to where he is now "You stare politely right on through". He describes the "bitterness" of the affair, his frustration at a mind which is set upon destroying itself, until you allow exasperation to overcome you and "grant him one last choice".

    Personally it reminds me of how I felt when I was trying to pull my boyfriend out of a depressed and somewhat self-destructive period of his life. Fortunately he was not as despondent as the subject of this song, and is fine now. My interpretation of the song may be quite influenced by this, but that is the point of songs, isn't it?


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    Sep 20th, 2007 9:53pm report

    My opinion is that this song is about a broken relationship. The "life" that could be saved represents the relationship.

    But I like drugs too. I wanna puff puff, some of that Dutch stuff...


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    Aug 21st, 2007 8:00am report

    My brother thought it was about like marriage counseling but I heard it was about like a councilor who was counseling this teenager with problems and they couldn't get through to them. That's my theory.


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    Jul 18th, 2007 7:56pm report

    This song deals with a father and his son who is currently doing drugs. The first few lines contain the steps to follow to save his son's precious young life so he wouldn't lose it to something so trivial and fixable.

    "Step one, you say, "We need to talk"
    He walks, you say, "Sit down, it's just a talk"
    He smiles politely back at you
    You stare politely right on through"

    All he wants is the best for his son and he realizes that if he can get hmi through this tough time, he will be able to live his life and have a chance to make something with himself.


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    Jul 15th, 2007 7:17pm report

    How to Save a Life is about the friend of the lead singer that was addicted to drugs. I'm pretty sure she died from them to, but I'm not sure. It's a tribute to her.


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    Jul 13th, 2007 7:49pm report

    I think it's about a guy, who was too late helping his friends with drug problems, so the guy died, and they sing "If I stayed up with you all night then id know how to save a life" so maybe if he talked to him longer then he did he would've saved him, and "step 1 I say we need to talk you walk I say sit down its just a talk" that part, the guy who's on drugs doesn't want to talk about it because he doesn't want to face his problems, and there's this part "he will say one of two things or he will admit to everything" that might mean he'll say things that aren't true or he will admit to it, (I think this is what the songs about)

    xo. me


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    Jul 10th, 2007 7:17pm report

    I think the song is that the singer and a loved one got in a head on collision and he regretted it because he survived and the other did not.


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    Jul 4th, 2007 7:18am report

    Hmm..I didn't get the drug interpretation at all. But that's just me. Here's what I got after I actually started to listen to the song for a bit:

    "Step one you say we need to talk
    He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
    He smiles politely back at you
    You stare politely right on through
    Some sort of window to your right
    As he goes left and you stay right
    Between the lines of fear and blame
    And you begin to wonder why you came "

    Clearly it's about trying to talk to someone and having a difficult time in this stanza. I think it's a girl trying to tell a guy she got an abortion an abortion and is trying to tell him that but knows he 1) Was of a certain mind set or religion that values life; that he is against abortion and is pro-life 2) Wanted kids and wouldn't have approved of killing of a human being, technically human or not.

    Anyhow, you (the person that is being told she needs to talk to you) start to "wonder why you came" or "what did I do this time".

    "Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
    Somewhere along in the bitterness
    And I would have stayed up with you all night
    Had I known how to save a life "

    I think this is what she is thinking to herself when trying to form the words. During the relationship she lost her friend: her mate. She doesn't know what happened but she senses that it isn't the same as when they first met. There was some fighting which caused the friendship in their relationship (that is what you start with, after all, in a relationship) to die while still holding on to their love relationship.

    Either that or the guy is thinking to himself the same thing yet wishes he had stayed up the night he got her pregnant and had been more passionate to her instead of just having sex and going to sleep. He thinks maybe she would have changed her mind about kids if he had.

    "Let him know that you know best
    Cause after all you do know best
    Try to slip past his defense
    Without granting innocence
    Lay down a list of what is wrong
    The things you've told him all along
    And pray to God he hears you
    And pray to God he hears you "

    This is the questionable stanza. She is either trying to mend the relationship by telling him what's wrong and that he needs to fix it. She is being nice yet not allowing herself to accept any apologies ("without granting innocence").

    I think this is the part where she tells him the bad news, whatever that may be. To me, that's her telling him about the abortion.

    She prays that he understands and hears her words for what they are.

    "Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
    Somewhere along in the bitterness
    And I would have stayed up with you all night
    Had I known how to save a life "

    This could be a repeat or it could also be us getting inside of the guys head this time. He is having the exact same thoughts as she is.

    "As he begins to raise his voice
    You lower yours and grant him one last choice
    Drive until you lose the road
    Or break with the ones you've followed
    He will do one of two things
    He will admit to everything
    Or he'll say he's just not the same
    And you'll begin to wonder why you came"

    She tells him. He raises his voice in shock or anger. She keeps her calm and tells him that he can either stay with her (break with the ones you follow; break bread with the ones you follow...mending the relationship, perhaps) or get out of her life (drive until you lose the road).

    She then predicts the following things he will say. Basically, what she just said. You can either stay in her life and mend the relationship or leave. She just rewords it a bit. Admitting that there is something wrong is the first step to recovering what they had lost. Or, he will indirectly place the blame on her and say that he has changed and they should break up.

    She then asks herself the same question the guy does (which is why I believe the stanza before this one was just a repeat of what is going on in the guy's head) after getting the answer she didn't want (whichever that may be...probably breaking up).

    Just my thought process! I don't know if this is actually what the song is about or not (because it is pretty vague to begin with) but I'd like to hope so. :P


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    Jun 30th, 2007 6:01pm report

    I think it means what most people are talking about. A friend talking to another about drugs or suicide but it could also mean about being mad or being in denial when someone close to you dies. Its like your wonder how you could of saved that close person from death whether drugs, suicide, disease or other problems.


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    Jun 26th, 2007 6:18am report

    For me, this song is about suicide. Someone knows their friend is in danger of killing themselves and tries to help. Their friend is so hopeless that they tell them its too late and they can't change. The person singing hopes and prays to God that his friend hears what he has to say because then he could've "saved a life" but then the person realizes that the conversation is going no where and "wonders why they came" so they leave. Their friend then takes the opportunity to...commit suicide. Hence "And I would have stayed up with you all night" meaning that when his friend left he killed himself.

    To me that's what this song means, and it always gives me chills.


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    Jun 25th, 2007 6:49am report

    I see that the person who is singing had a friend that committed suicide. His friend tried to confide in him, but his friend didn't see it as serious kept giving him ultimatums. Then when his friend committed suicide, the singer was trying to tell his friend how sorry he was that he wasn't there and hadn't listened.


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    Jun 22nd, 2007 6:15pm report

    I have read all the other interpretations about this song being about some adult efforts to help a drug addicted kid. When I first heard the song, it brought to mind all the struggles and fights that precede a failing relationship. The words 'how to save life' for me cut across as saving a relationship. The protagonist is looking back at the events; i.e the fights, bitterness, that resulted in the loss of his friend(read girl friend) The protagonist looks regretfully back and wishes that he had known more about how to avert the 'bitterness' that precipitated the relationship ending badly.


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    Jun 15th, 2007 6:33am report

    I don't know much about The Fray, but I love this song and think that it could conceal a thousand different meanings; but one stands out clearer than the rest for me.

    The video for this song gives a great insight to the meaning of the song: kids, teenagers and young men letting out things that have been getting them down?

    The title is also relevant: "How To Save A Life"? Says it all for me.

    Basically I think the song is about listening to someone and this in turn leads to them valuing their life once again - in more simple terms, preventing someone from taking their own life by simply listening to them.

    Perhaps the writer of this song felt the need to express this - maybe he is talking from experience; someone listening to his problems and making him feel wanted.

    That's all I can say for now.
    Lily (",)


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    Jun 14th, 2007 6:04pm report

    Ohh! I get it now! Before I thought it was about a docotr and the family of a patient who had died. The doctor was telling the patient's family what had happened and felt very badly about it and the patient's family was very angry. The doctor was praying that the family would understand. But the druggy thing makes more sense.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Jun 2nd, 2007 6:02am report

    I don't know what the right interpretation is, but:

    The song never really spoke to me, until a few days ago I started staying up night after night trying to save someone's life.

    I did, for now, and I'm so glad I don't have to sing this song in the past tense.

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