What Am I Without You

Album: Flying Dream 1 (2021)
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Songfacts®:

  • Elbow frontman Guy Garvey's mother-in-law, Diana Rigg, passed away from lung cancer on September 10, 2020. His wife, Rachael Stirling, nursed her actress mum during her terminal illness and she died in their London home. During this uplifting song, Garvey pays tribute to the way Rachael looked after her mother while continuing to run the home. He sings of "watching you walk on water lately" as his wife worked miracles keeping the family together and everything ticking over.
  • While Rachel cared for her mother, Garvey took on the role of supporting his wife and looking after their little son, Jack.

    What am I on the earth for
    If not to put you to bed?
    If not to remind you to eat sometimes?
    If not to cradle your head?


    "What Am I Without You" celebrates the centrality of family to the joy of human existence.
  • "What Am I Without You" is "about a beautiful acceptance that death is as much a part of life as much as birth," said Garvey. "The idea that the world keeps turning without us."

    Elbow's Giants Of All Sizes track "Weightless" has a similar circle-of-life message. In that instance, Garvey sings of Jack's birth and his father's death a few months later in March 2018.
  • Elbow recorded "What Am I Without You" for Flying Dream 1. They laid down the song along with the other tracks at Brighton's closed Theatre Royal during the pandemic. "We decided the place for it was at the end of the record, to lift the spirits, because we were in an empty theater," Garvey told The Sun. "It's bruised, it's wistful and full of soul."

    "Flying Dream 1 is a happy record by great big striving yards," he added. "There's nothing remorseful or dull about it. But it's still very mellow. And then right at the end, there's a huge anthem of love."

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