Jezebel

Album: Burnt Toast And Offerings (2007)

Songfacts®:

  • Equal parts self-consolation and self-reprimand, singer/songwriter Gretchen Peters wrote this song about herself. The song's Jezebel is an alter ego, an extension of herself that reflects what she felt others thought of her at the time she was ending her 23-year marriage, and falling in love with her band's long-time piano player, Barry Walsh. Not Jezebel in the biblical sense, this Jezebel is "me," Peters says, "That's really me."
  • Peters: "When you are in the situation that I was in, you fall in love with somebody, and it's a complicated situation, you're married to someone else, the marriage is messy and untangling. And people around you... I think one of the things you learn in that situation is that some people are very quick to judge you, and some people aren't. And it's amazing where those lines get drawn. And I think that was probably one of the most painful things for me about the whole situation was realizing that people sort of overlay their own situation onto yours. If they feel threatened or judgmental or whatever, they'll overlay their own burden on your situation. What we all should wish for is that people would say, 'You know there must be more to this than I realize. I'm not going to judge.' Far be it for me to judge. I heard somebody say just the other day - it was a great quote about compassion. It was, 'You learn how to have compassion for other people by desperately needing some yourself.' And some people are incapable of giving it or having it, and feel compelled to judge. And normally it's the people that have been kicked around a little bit that know how to have it and where to find it. And that was just my observation on myself. That song was more purely written just for me than any song on the record. It was sort of my manifesto, in a way. I was very much in love with someone, and I wanted to write from my own point of view, which was life is messy, love is messy, this happens, and because the circumstances are what they are doesn't make anybody guilty or not guilty, it's not black and white. These situations are never black and white. There are so many shades of gray. And that was purely my motivation for that. I think that was the most cathartic thing I wrote on the whole record."
  • Peters uses the name "Jezebel" as a reference for women who, she says, in our culture are viewed as either virtuous or whores; there's no in-between. Steering clear of the Bible's Jezebel, she describes her version as the sort of women who "take what they want and have some power and are willing to talk about sex, or have it, or whatever. They are cast as Jezebels, not as the other type. So I just used the name as a sort of a shorthand for a woman who's mature, and is with who she wants to be with, and is sexually free and all of that. Because it's convenient shorthand. Everybody knows that Jezebel was 'a loose woman' or whatever. And it's the most sort of loaded term that I could come up with. Everybody knows that's a term of denigration. And I guess the thing I wanted to do was take it and make her a three-dimensional human character that you'd have compassion for, because we should." (Check out our interview with Gretchen Peters. Her website is gretchenpeters.com.)

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