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The Way

by

Fastball



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is based on the true story of Lela and Raymond Howard, an elderly couple from Salado, Texas who drove to a nearby festival and kept going. She had Alzheimer's disease and he was recovering from brain surgery. When they disappeared, a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman wrote a series of articles about the missing couple. Fastball bassist Tony Scalzo came up with the idea for the song after reading the articles (the band is from Austin). He says, "It's a romanticized take on what happened" - he "pictured them taking off to have fun, like they did when they first met." However, he found out after writing the song that the couple had died. They were found at the bottom of a canyon in Buffalo Gap,Texas (near Abilene), about a 3 hour drive from their destination. (thanks, Crystal - Springfield, MO)
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Comments (46):

Full intro (may not be accurate)

Director of... [I think Vogue is here in the background of "director of..."]
Public rel...
Can you feel it? [Not sure what's really being sung here, but it's apparently from Roy Orbison's You Got It]
or at $2.99...
...service available only at the [garbled]
...failed to notice... [Jewel]
Sir, there's no obligation
[talk that I can't decifer/possibly some music also]
- Harold, University Park, PA
Yes, Alexandra, I concur with you that I can hear "faaaailed to notice" in the beginning (around 6 or 7 seconds)

I have a question though...I'm almost positive that I hear "You Got It" around the 2 second mark, but I can't really make out the words...does anyone know what part of the song that is? I'm assuming it's not the chorus (if I was guessing blindly I can kinda hear "can you feel it" but I'm sure that's not a lyric in You Got It)
- Harold, University Park, PA
For me this song bring up a double suicide. But instead of being sad, it's full of happy expectations of an afterlife based on the beliefs of the participants. "Packing" is metaphorical for the commission of the "act" after they made up their minds to "go" Imagine pulling the plug on all your cares and burdens. Death is stripping away all that is not self. To live you must die first.
- Rob, Wilmington, DE
Having worked with the elderly, I encountered many greedy adult children. To me, this song is about an elderly couple sick of their adult children fighting over their inheritance before their parents have even died. The parents basically say, "screw it - we're outta here" and they disappear, living their lives as they see fit - spending their children's inheritance like they were rock stars. :D
- Robin, Lansing, MI
They were not found at Buffalo Gap outside of Abilene. That was Dr. Edward Martin and his wife Elsie Lou in 1998. They were found dead after they wandered from their abandoned car.
The Howards were found in Arkansas. She had driven off a cliff. He died in the car, but she managed to get out and walk a few feet before collapsing.
- Gayle, Austin, TX
I remember hearing this song when it first came out. I was about 5 years old. When I was very little, it used to make me cry because, to me, it sounded like a young couple ditching a whole mess of kids to go running off to do god knows what god knows where. I always assumed the bits about not getting old and grey, hungry, cold, et cetera, were the young couples' assumptions about how much better their lives would be without the kids and their attachments. Now that I'm older though, I can better understand that feeling of just wanting to leave life, ditch responsibility, and just drift until you die. It is a beautiful song. Very melancholy. I hadn't known the back story on this song before I looked it up on a whim. The real story is very sad as well.
- Cocoa, LV, NV
It does have a heavenly meaning to it. You just got to listen a little closer.
- nancy, baltimore, MD
jeff- i went to your sons page. wow, im so sorry for your loss. his story will forever be with me
- Liv, Long Island, NY
The Howards were traveling from Saledo Texas (south of Temple) and ate at a Luby's per credit card records. He drove through a barb wire fence- wandered from his car and was found 100 yard away. She fell down a cliff and was found as well. Song is good. It has good interpretation, creativity and structure.
- John, Dallas, TX
I had forgotten the name of the song so I typed it in Google and found it. After listening, I thought of a couple who was just fed up with the world and decided to leave all the cruel and judgemental people behind, and all the material things. I felt like they found something better, and decided to pursue it, just dropped everything and left it all behind.
- Rebecca, Brielle, NJ
I love how everyone's interpretation of a song is colored by their own experiences in life. This song always reminded me of my mother who had me at 16 and left me with her parents. She was always seeking happiness in all the wrong places. She died this year at 54 of cancer. Hope the road she walks on is paved in gold, it's always summer and she never grows old.
- Angela, Baton Rouge, LA
I thought it was a play on the Peter Pan story
- Chris, Astoria, OR
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the elderly.

This song to me, in my interpretation, comes across as a story of a couple, younger say around thier twenties or so, who just wanted to go to the edge, get in the car and drive to where ever, then the money ran out, they started to steal, then it kept getting worse, and nobody knows what ever happened to them, they left thier children in the motel, and nobody knows because nobody showed them the way. Or you could interpret that as nobody ever showed them the way to live life as adults or take care of a family so they snapped and ran away.
- Jeff, Toronto, ON
This song should be enjoyed apart from the "true facts" of the story which was the inspiration for the song. The sad ending of the story of the elderly couple is (1) an unknown fact prior to the song's creation, and (2) not relevant to the listener's appreciation of the song. It should instead be appreciated as what it is telling: the story of a woman and a man, very much in love, weary of the rat race and feeling unappreciated at home for their work and sacrifice, deciding to just say "Eff It!" and set off on the path of adventure, just the two of them, with no goal in mind except to enjoy each other and their lives together. Anyone who is a Grown-Up with children and jobs and a mortgage can appreciate the lure of the Open Road and the ideal of chasing "The Endless Summer", the perfect wave, the greatest concert, the prettiest sunset, the most sublime wine, Jack Kerouac's "On The Road", Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", Springsteen's "Hungry Heart", and other works of art created through the millenia in many cultures reflecting the same theme: "There's a feeling I get, when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving".
- Michael, Fuquay-Varina, NC
This song is just great! Even now, when I know the actual story, that lays behind it, it makes me basically think about two things: the first is Tolkien's:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
And the second thing is passing away from this life by the "road paved in gold" to "eternal summer slacking", a bit sad, but still great
- Anton, vrn, Russia Federation
Hi. I'm only thirteen, but I just wanted to say that I always thought that in the lyrics they said
an exit to eternal summer slackng-they were trying to run away from their past and start over.
Anyone could see The road that they walk on is paved in gold - They ddn't care about anyone else. They thought they deserved the best.

It's always summer, they'll never get cold
They'll Never get hungry
They'll never get old and gray - They died because of selfishness and they will never get on with their lives.

You can see their shadows Wandering off somewhere
They won't make it home
But they really don't care
They wanted the highway
They're happy there today They were punished by having to stay in the desert forever.



That's just what I alwys thought. Also My Uncle by marraige's aunt and uncle are the people that they're talking about on the top of the page.
- Victora, Allen, TX
This is my favourite song. I heard it over and over when i was little and ever since then it's been sitting in the back of my mind, finally i tracked it down and now i love it (and appreciate it) more then ever.
This song kind of reminds me of the term "seachange". I'm referring to the line: "they made up their minds and they started packing, they left before the sun came up that day.." which to me seems like they tried to slip away unnoticed. Then the song continues on with "..an exit to eternal summer slacking", which is an indication that they're happy and can relax forever, doing what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
It's just a thought, feel free to say otherwise,
but it makes me happy to have such a deep connection with this song.
Thank you.
- Hannah, Adelaide, Australia
samething as the guy from italy I don't remember when it came out, but its a great song at first I thought the whole golden road thing was about Heaven, but then I listened and heard the "dont you know" so maybe it means we really have it good in a way and just don't realize it till its gone........... made you think didn't I.
- blake, tahlequah, OK
Even knowing the story behind the song won't change it for me. This song speaks of other, better places, and of moving on. It brings Tolkien's "Straight Road" to mind, which leads me to all sorts of other ideas. Wonderful song!
- Dave, O'Fallon, IL
This is song was released when I was 13 years old, and a heck of a lot freer than I am now. I never realized just how much freedom I had, back then - but you don't, as a child/teenager, do you? I listen to it for the nostalgia of that summer, when I was on the cusp of adolescence/puberty, knowing full well that nothing could ever be the same again and wishing to God it didn't have to be this way.
As a writer also...it sparks my creative side. I always envisioned a group of teenagers (as others have mentioned before me) setting out on a roadtrip, but in essence they were travelling the "highways" of the world, the leylines - secret paths where it's always the warm nostalgic heat of summer and golden sunlight, where they won't feel tiredness or hunger, but will travel on, forever young, never stopping in one place too long. And I've always envied them for it.
I was also reading Gabriel King's "The Wild Road" in that year, so that could have something to do with it ;-)
- Rai, London, United Kingdom
I always thought this song was about a couple leaving while their kids were sleeping because things were too tough and they needed to get away. then they were drunk and began walking and some how ended up dying. I thought the chorous was about Heaven because everything is perfect.
- Kayla, Peterborough, NH
The idea that the song is about college-age kids on a road trip makes no sense because the second verse says in part, "The children woke up / And they couldn't find them". How likely is it that a group of college kids would have children old enough to be aware that they were gone? I always figured the song was about a tragic accident. The line about them walking the street of gold, plus the line about it always being summer and the one about them never getting hungry kind of sealed the deal for me that they had died. And I figured it was an older couple since they had mature children who were looking for them. Before I found this page, I always got choked up when I heard the song. Now at least I know what really happened. I have closure. Weird. You would think they were *my* parents...
- Paul, Bay Area, CA
I always took this song as an indictment of mindless slackers who are too brain addled to understand the responsibilities that come with being an adult. I've known far too many kids who saw no virtue in school or keeping a good job or growing up. So I thought this song was about half-baked plans, fuzzy intentions, avoidable disasters all encountered along the way to finding a carefree life that clearer minds realize doesn't exist. As a black comedy, it would make a pretty nice indie movie. The real story, however, is really heartbreaking. It's so sad that old age can rob you of your common sense and judgement...just when you thought you had it all together.
One other note, does anybody think the chorus with its pretty ascending scale is very Elvis Costello? I 'd love to hear him sing this song.
Al. Baltimore MD
- Al, Baltimore, MD
to Sara who thinks it may be paula cole in the beggining--> im almost positive that its a little piece of the jewel song "foolish Games" the line that goes "in case you failed to notice" but the only part you really heare in The Way is "notice"
- alexandra, South Kingstown, RI
i always thought this song was about a group of young kids (late teens/college age) going out, drinking, then getting into a car accident and dieing. "The road that they walk on is paved in gold" resembles them after the accident, and their spirits all walking down the road towards Heaven.

This song has a deep meaning to me.
My cousin Chad passed away in a tragic car accident - along with 2 of this friends.
When i hear this song, i imagine all of them walking together towards Heaven.
i love this song <3
- Sarah, Guilderland, NY
Good song, but I prefer "Out of My Head"
- Chris, St, Mary's, MD
I always thought this song was about a group of young friends, about 18-20 years. Going on a long road trip to get away from things, like family and personal problems.
This song has a deep meaning to me, I always think of me and my friends when I hear this. Me and my friends have been wanting to do things like this, And have plans of it too. We are very adventurous.
- Cody, Perry, NY
My husband sings this song whenever we get tired of our kids (adult children) who don't want to go away. Kind of an inside joke.
- Kim, Springfield, VA
Is it Paula Cole in the radio static at the beginning of this song?
It sounded like the beginning of her Cowboy song...
Anyone know?
- Anna, West Lafayette, IN
I had not thought about the meaning of this song until a minister in our church gave a sermon titled "The Way" on Dec 28 2002. The sermon is available at this website. I was actually present when this sermon was given and saw it listed as I was on the website. Then I looked up this song and found this website. I thought I would post this sermon in case anyone is interested... I remembered the sermon because they actually played the entire song in the sermon.

http://www.ucg.org/sermons/index2002.htm

"The Way" Dec 28, 2002
- Jason, Houston, TX
Until I read this, I didn't know about the old couple. While they were the inspiration for the song, it still sounds like it is written about a young couple (or maybe a group of kids) that decided to take a road trip without a destination in mind.

By the way, is it just me or does the lead singer sound a lot like Peter Frampton?
- Jason, Florence, KY
Of course it was written too early for this to be the intention, but the song sounds like a commentary on the war in iraq. "where were they going without ever knowing the way". "anyone can see the road that they walked on was paved in gold."
I like they because it reminds me of my sister she was in 50's but she was happy cheerfull person but she hated getting older anyway she she passed in a boating accident in Cabo San Lucus in 2001 . I heard the song around that time and it felt she was talking to me saying she was ok and it always summer there shes happy Eventhough I still miss so so much,this has song gives me so much peace of mind that she is just on the other side and she's just waiting.
- John, Albuquerque, NM
My Dad and I share this song. He lives in the country, and whenever I'm out there he and I just go drive around a lot. Sometimes we joke about wanting to just keep going, to Vegas or Mexico, or idealy, the U. S. Virgin Islands. ;) This song has therefore always made me kind of sad, even before I knew the inspiriation; we always talk about it, we may really want to at times, sure, but we never would.
- Lydia, Yukon, OK
wow, this is all good stuff guys. I enjoy reading everyone's story/take on this song
- Ted, Glenview, IL
To hear the news of what the actual subject of the song was touched me. The words seemed, at first, to be a modern telling of the Hebrew peoples exit from Egpyt. Their disobedience to & complacency at God, they wandered in the wilderness, hence "an exit to eternal summer slacking, but where were they going without ever knowing the way". "The children woke up, and they couldn't find them", I thought, was the dawning on the children Egpyt that the Jews left without hesitation. Of course, not all the words gel with the complete story. Well, that's my two cents worth.
- Scott, Chattanooga, TN
Do you know that you don't automatically go to heaven when you die? I hope Lela and Raymond are there, but you can't take for granted that that's where everyone goes.
- Jay, Atlanta, GA
Sad that someone else could not have driven them - I am sure thay must have had children, grandchildren, etc., who must have known of their condition, especially, and probably also going to the family reunion...how very sad...
- Musicollector, Calgary, Canada
I thought the song was about someone who decided to leave the rat race and just go away somewhere to lead a quiet life. Then, after I found out about the Texan couple, it took on a very sad meaning. I LOVE the song but can't help feeling very sad and thoughtful when I hear it nowadays. Be that as it may, that couple IS in Heaven where there is no disease or suffering. Thank you, Fastball, for that meaningful song.
- Musicollector, Calgary, Canada
I think I have some very hazy memory of when this song was released, but it didn't impress me very much and I must have removed it from my mind for a long time. After some years I chanced to listen to it more carefully and... it suddenly became one of my favourite songs. It gives me a sense of optimism, of freedom. I like the contrast between the verses dominated by minor chords, and thus more melancholic, and the chorus, dominated by major chords that make it open, sunny. And I feel more touched by it since I read the story that inspired it...
- Alberto, Carpi, Italy
Don't ask me why but years after this song's release, and really when it and the band have been out of my mind for quite a while, I had a dream and this song was playing in my head--I guess it must just be stored memory and my brain trying to dump out the junk in my head but anyway--in my dream this song was playing and a feminine voice chirped excitedly, 'Now that's the perfect suicide song!' ...o.k.? Dreams, what can you say?!?! I did enjoy this song; certain that it gave me a sense of mortality, escape from the mundane and the adverse. Death 'cures' all things..."never get hungry", "never get cold", "never get old and grey"...hate to put any more of a melancholy sense to it than it already has...I really like 'the reading a story about the couple who got lost going to a family reunion and sort-of romanticizing it'-spin!
- Alan, london, OH
This song has three meanings for me: it is about my generation ("the hippies") and my son's generation ("generation x"). Both groups have similar ideals and share a love of exploration, both personal and geographical. And this song has a third, personal meaning, for me: my son, Josh died at age 19 (godspeed, Joshua) and is now on a "road of gold" with "eternal summer slacking". http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/zekasfamily/
- Jeff, Susanville, CA
i always loved this song because i always thought that these people died and were happy in heaven walking on a road of gold and always summer slacking
- Jaren, sidney, Canada
When I first heard this song, I thought the lyrics were metaphorical, rather than literal. I thought it was a veiled diatribe against the generation of the '60's who turned their back on their own idealism and embraced Yuppie materialism, to the consternation of succeeding generations of idealists.

"Their children woke up, and they couldn't find them...."

How far out is THAT interpretation?
- Robert, Puyallup, WA
I like The Way. I always thought it was about the Heaven's Gate people. About their gentle decision for suicide.
- Donna, detroit suburb, MI
An excellent tribute.
- Andi, I don't like it here, TX
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