Widely considered to be about a prostitute, Donovan
talked about this song at a 2004 event to promote his album Beat Café
. He explained that "Lalena" is a composite title made up from the name of the German actress Lotte Lenya, who was the wife of the songwriter Bertolt Brecht, who along with Kurt Weill composed the play The Threepenny Opera
, which starred Lenya as the prostitute Jenny Diver. (Listen for Lenya's name in Bobby Darin's version of "Mack The Knife
Said Donovan: "I was fascinated with The Threepenny Opera
as a socially conscious musical, so when I saw the movie version with Lotte Lenya I thought, OK, she's a streetwalker, but in the history of the world, in all nations women have taken on various roles from priestess to whore to mother to maiden to wife. This guise of sexual power is very prominent, and therein I saw the plight of the character: 'That's your lot in life, Lalena/Can't blame ya, Lalena.' Women have roles thrust upon them and make the best they can out of them, so I'm describing the character Lotte Lenya is playing and a few other women I've seen during my life, but it's a composite character of women who are outcasts on the edge of society: Bohemia."