I Alone
by Live

Album: Throwing Copper (1994)
Charted: 48 38
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • In this early Live hit, lead singer Ed Kowalczyk uses religious imagery to represent his quest for knowledge. The lyrics reference the biblical Garden of Eden, where Eve was tempted by Satan to eat from the forbidden tree that would bestow the knowledge of good and evil but also get her and Adam banished from the garden.

    "It's hard to write about spirituality without it being corny," Kowalczyk told Louder Sound in 2021. "But that was a period in my life when I was questioning all the big issues. The lyric was like a montage of all these meaningful little phrases. I was creating a sense of intimacy, in this mystical environment, like a church, a temple, or even a secret garden. Everything built up to this sort of fever in the chorus, which was about the idea that there's a singularity to love. It became known as this obsessive love song, but I was actually between relationships."
  • The lyrics also loosely reference another story in the Bible, Luke 8:22-25, in which Jesus calms a storm while he and his disciples are at sea. This is just one of many Live songs that contains religious imagery - both Christian and Eastern.
  • One of Live's first important singles, "I Alone" was their first hit and led the way for "Lightning Crashes."
  • Live played "I Alone" at Woodstock '94 and again at Woodstock '99. The 1994 set was a watershed for the band, which had recently released the Throwing Copper album and were one of the exciting new acts at the festival (Green Day was another). By 1999, their sound was out of favor and fans at Woodstock were there for Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit.
  • The Pennsylvania alt-rock band released their debut album, The Death Of A Dictionary, under the name Public Affection in 1989. Adopting the name Live, they released a follow-up, Mental Jewelry, two years later and earned moderate success but little money. By the time they started work on Throwing Copper, Kowalczyk was living in an old barn that's only heat source was a coal stove. That's where he got the idea for "I Alone." He recalled: "I remember exactly what it felt like sitting by that stove with an acoustic guitar, slipping into that chorus."
  • With Throwing Copper, Kowalczyk says the band was discovering a new level of guitar sound and wanted to push for more sonic experimentation "as a means to communicate the big ideas that I was coming up with lyrically… something to encapsulate that." He told Songwriting Magazine in 2019: "It was a really exciting time, because sitting there in that barn apartment was an acoustic guitar on which I started to write the chords to 'I Alone.' Knowing that it was going to go into this big open E chorus, I knew what the band could do. Even though I was sitting there with an acoustic guitar, I knew once the band got hold of it they would make the sound as big as the idea. That was a really exciting time for me as a writer because I had this incredible arsenal of a band that was really finding its way."
  • Kowalczyk credited his then-novice songwriting skills for giving the song a sense of spontaneity he had trouble recapturing as a mature artist. "I was still a fledgling as a songwriter, I was still learning, so there's a spontaneity to what happened between the verse and chorus in that change," he explained to Songwriting Magazine. "It still surprises me that I went for that chord progression. It almost sounds like two songs that are married together by just that transition chord between the verse and chorus. It's what is so unique about it."

    He added: "As we matured and the band got more sophisticated, there comes a desire to want to rediscover the innocence of that period when you were just learning. But you can never get there again - it's the most frustrating thing."
  • Kowalczyk told Songwriting Magazine the meaning behind the song's opening lyrics. He said, "The opening line, 'It's easier not to be wise,' was based on me always having had an interest in spiritual traditions and philosophy and finding answers to the big questions in life. That initial lyric is a surrender to the obviousness that it's easier not to be a wise man. It's easier to be what we are: fledgling beings trying to find our way through life. It's a pretty obvious statement but it's also a kind of surrender, an acknowledgement of our weakness. Then the verses are setting up this meditative place – they even mention a church – just trying to put together an image of a man in contemplation about these bigger ideas. Then it was really a matter of putting these little pieces of meaning together, in almost a montage. Rather than thinking, 'I'm going to start with this, end here and this is what I mean,' it's a piece that comes from a lot of little pieces. I love to work like that and listen to other music that I think is made in that way, because it leaves it wide open to whatever you want to make it."
  • It's no use arguing over the meaning of this tune because Kowalczyk thinks all of the various interpretations are valid. "It's impossible to misinterpret that song," he told Louder Sound. "People make it their own. I grew up as a fan of U2, REM, Peter Gabriel, and artists where I could sink my teeth into the lyric. When I hear 'Where The Streets Have No Name,' I don't really know what the song means, but I don't care. It takes me somewhere and just makes spiritual sense to me. And that's what I think 'I Alone' does."
  • Throwing Copper went to #1 in the US, where it sold 8 million copies. It got plenty of exposure thanks to the video for "I Alone," which was on heavy rotation on MTV. Directed by Tim Pope, the mastermind behind a series of offbeat clips from The Cure, the video featured a shirtless Kowalczyk mugging for the camera with the band rocking out in the background next to a dead tree.

    "I was taking my shirt off a lot in those days," the singer recalled. "And the haircut was my idea – I had a nice little Fu Manchu [braid] going, which I kept for about a year until it became too hard to stop it looking disgusting. These days my daughters are like: 'Dad you look so weird.' But I loved it."
  • This was used in the 2017 movie Kodachrome, starring Jason Sudeikis and Elizabeth Olsen.
  • Live performed this in the January 21, 1995 episode of Saturday Night Live.

Comments: 27

  • Mia from NopeI interpreted this song to people who struggle with anxiety and being doubtful. People who struggle to be honest about their true feelings with others and with themselves. The greatest teachers will leave you to yourself chained to fate basically stating the only person who's going to get you out of your own mind is you. It's easier not to be great. It's easier to be shut off and to pretend than to really be. But this fate is given to all freely. Nobody needs a master. The best teachers have nothing to teach you but to offer you grace instead. To be there for you as you go through whatever it is your going through but the first start is to just be honest.
  • Glen from WhenHow is this song not about Satan?
  • Jordan from CanadaI literally just signed up to post this comment: Ed Kowalczyk wrote Operation Spirit in his late teens/ early twenties before realizing the power and presence of God. Since then, he has wrote a multitude of pro-God-based songs, such as: They Stood Up For Love, The Dolphin's Cry, Run to the Water, Dance with You, Nobody Knows, Bring the People Together, Where Fishes Go, Sparkle, The Distance, (now onto his solo stuff) The One, Angels on a Razor, The Watchman's Lament, The Garden, and most obviously.... Grace. But, I don't believe he is a "Christian", or a "Buddhist" or anything in particular... he has sang so many times about having a vision of some higher power that "changed his vision from hate to faith" (here is a quote from Sparkle: I'm gatherin' up my friends today, and those who recognize the face as the vision that changed my mind from hate to faith- was as simple as grapes to wine and sweet as...).

    He leaves SO MANY hints in his music, but I don't think he presses you to believe in any particular religion or ideology.... Because he is a genuinely awakened individual who realizes that it doesn't MATTER which outer religion you follow, so long as it makes you a more loving person and brings you closer to wholeness, that's all that counts. He has obviously studied all major religions, and has found and understood the universal truths outlined within all of them.... And that is what he bases these lyrics off of. He isn't trying to conform to any specific doctrine... He is a man who has actually found God, and as a result, realizes the impermanence and irrelevance in religion. But, God and religion don't go hand in hand... And you can absolutely find the former without having anything to do with the latter. Ed is a perfect example of this. May your God, whoever that may be, bless you eternally. ~ JLorraine Laflamme
  • Bradley from Lula, GaThis song reminds my of my first love in school, the one that got away, my Susan Glenn, she has moved away now and ill probably never see her again and every time he gets to the "you've been swept away" part i can barely take it. by the end of the song i have to go take a long lonely walk and have a smoke and think about her.
  • Liz from Ontario, Oni believe this song is about discovering GOD...for yourself.religion,whichever one, makes a person lazy and lost. preacher teachers will abandon you if you question them, they want followers. GOD wont abandon you,your questions will be answered but the answers wont be easy, you'll have to suffer through them. that's why many people choose ignorance cuz it hurts less. this song is beautiful and makes me cry deeply when i hear it because i have a long way to go to discovering GOD. i am still quite the coward.
  • Maxwell from Downers Grove, IlThis song is about meditation. Ed himself said it on VH1's 100 best songs of the nineties. I have to agree with criticism of fanatical Christians in this song facts page and other. It seems they want every song they can't understand to be about their god.
  • Ian from Moline, IlGeorge from NJ - sarcasm I'm hoping? You can never tell..
  • Nick from Melbourne, Australiai think Murf has the best grasp on this... altho i belive that the song writer is not anti religion and/or god, i recon he is just a humble man that has had his faith tested, and is putting his pain into words. his pain may sound like he is against god, but it is closer to a wounded man critizing the faith he has followed for so long.
  • George from Jackson, Nji agree, we shouldnt measure things with our brains. thinking only confusses people. the right thing to do is to follow whatever religion your brought up around and follow it without thinking maybe its not real, cause thoughts like that will get you in hell, dont think people, dont use your brain. if you question the existance of god you will go to hell and be poked with horns and pitchforks by little red devils for eternity
  • Judy from Overland Park, KsThe first time that I heard this song, it really freaked me out. It sort of seems like an anti-love song. This guy is obsessed with a woman who he thinks likes him back, but doesn't want to be with him. He can't accept that she doesn't want him, so he says that he alone loves her and tempts her and he will get her, even though she is afraid to be with him. The song is disturbing because this guy is only deluding himself into thinking that he really loves her and a relationship with him is the best thing for her.
  • Ryan from Marion, IaI'm pretty sure it's not about Jesus and his disciples. Rather, it's about people being tempted by the devil. The devil tells them that God has left them alone chained to fate, and he's the only one that loves them. The people gives into temptation, and when they realize what they've done, they say, "Oh, now, we took it back too far, only love can save us now." Jaime's right, the lyrics say "I alone tempt you," but Jesus never tempts anyone, just Satan. And as a user at songmeanings.net pointed out, the music video features a snake coming out of a tree, symbolizing the temptation of Adam and Eve.
  • Carl from Carrum Downs, Australiaone of the best songs live have ever done,
    take what you want from the lyrics.
    as they can mean what ever you want them to mean.
  • Jackie from Virginia Beach, VaLive's lyrics have always had a feeling of finding the spirituality in yourself and the world around you that seems Eastern in some aspect, but is certainly not anti-religious, or anti-christian. The lyrics throughout their albums (all of them, yes, they do have a first album) force you to examine your own spiritual beliefs, no how as they have been "packaged" for you by external forces, but as you find in your life. Follow from "Operation Spirit", to "I Alone", to Heaven, and many other stops in between, and you can find their journey written about. Now if only I could find my old video tape of their MTV Unplugged concert where Ed talks a bit about growing up surrounded by the religious environment that is York, PA.
  • Muff from Siouxer City, IaI think Blake has the closest true understanding of this song. But I think the writer is not only a none believer of religion but of god himself. you fanatical Christians' always read into what ever it is you believe just cause it can make sense for you. He says in the chorus "I alone love you."(not a god)" I alone tempt you"(not the devil) If you don't yet under stand that find and read the lyrics to another Live tune called "Operation spirit(tyranny of tradition)" where the writer states "Heard a lot of talk about this Jesus A man of love, and a man of strength What a man was 2000 years ago Means nothing at all to me today" And if you still don't understand find and read the lyrics to "Selling The Drama" where the writer talks of how he had been there before,"I've willed, I've walked, I've read I've talked, I know, I know,
    hey, now we won't be raped hey, now we won't be scarred like that. another song on the same LP as this called the dam at otter creek the singer screams out "BE HERE NOW" like a cry out to god. I think the writer of theses songs has had his faith tested one too many times. Regardless the lyrics or the beliefs or lack of beliefs of the writer I have always been moved by the songs of Live. All very powerful and emotionally driven,& driving. The songwriter ,& singer really puts himself out there. I mean really without pretension. thanks, Murf
  • Carlo from West Palm Beach, FlI alone, really listen to it.

    The song seems built around the power or force behind Jesus, Budah, Jehova, etc... It' easier to believe what we are told than to be wise, and wise is to measure things, but not only with your brains. This force (to use a word) has sunk into Eden (earth) with us, to be with us side by side.

    If we are be able to be in touch with IT will read to us from there, "teaching", for you will need your eyes, while your boat is at sea, your anchor up as you are floating, drifting in the sea of life, you've been swept away. On this Eden the greatest of teachers (the ones mentioned above these lines) won't hesitate to leave you there, by yourself chained to fate.

    This power ALONE in us and around us, that makes everything what is, loves you and tempts you all at the same time, when death comes... Fear is not that last thing you'll feel.

    It's easier not to think "above" what this reality and societies have established, it's easier not to be great, again measuring by what we see and what has been mistakenly taught to us. We are stuck in this journey and that is that, but this force is alone with us... in that confusion called Religion and Church, to cradle that innocent soul of ours, that baby in space, while drifting still chained to fate.

    This force has no negatives and positives, it just is, runing through us, it creates and nurtures, it alone loves you and it alone tempts you. Fear is just a a mind reaction facing death, but death is not the end of it.

    We took it back too far, we begun Idolazing and worshiping this force we feel, which makes us feel alive and brings up the question of hope. We created churches and cults around it,... so only LOVE can save us now. All these riddles, scriptures, bibles that burn in your mind, all coming running back to you, confusing you. All these rhytms and tendencies that you hide,.... only LOVE can save us now. All these riddles that you burn...

    This force you are aware of, which makes us unique among other creatures in this reality, loves you and tempts you the way it does an animal, making you not one.
  • Jamie from Boston, MaI agree this is what Jesus might have been feeling - PO'd when his disciples did not trust him. I love the fury of the song. Really makes me think graphically about was going on in that boat. I just don't understand "I alone tempt you." Jesus NEVER would have thought or said that because he doesn't tempt us. (James 1:13) Maybe it should've been "I alone test you."
  • Dominique from Albuquerque, NmThe message of the song is simple, where all of the so called greats in the world will fail you and leave you alone, Jesus will not.
  • Steve from Destin, Florida, Usa, FlMy name is Steve Neese. I found the lyrics to be energizing. I believe in Jesus Christ, but I think we are part of the solution. Mankind has to help itself before we can expect intervention. Belief in Christ and this song is not mutually exclusive.
  • Jordyn from New York, NdI alone!!!Cool song dude!!
  • Hailey from New York, NyThis song is so cool!!i really like it!!
  • Blake from Gold CoastSeems to be anti-religious to me, anti-christian at least. "i alone love you" not god not jesus, only other people such as the singer.
    "we long to be here by his resolve" but are
    "alone in the church" seems fairly explicit; we want to be the beloved children of god but it feels like a vain hope.
    "greatest of teachers won't hesitate
    to leave you there, by yourself, chained to fate" also pretty explicit.

    although i wonder if the last lines recant that position some what
  • Ed's Girl from Syd, Australiai agree its a brillant song, for a different reason. i identify with its cynicism of how every religion will tell you their God alone truely loves you.

    I say Be wise, Be great. Question with you brain, examine with a critical eye, most of all, be Quiet young grasshoppers, and you will find within YOURSELF the only God that matters, your own.
  • Jay from Hell, Txkurt, you need help. you have no sence of good music whatsoever.
  • Caitlyn from Brooklyn And Long Island Ny, United StatesI always saw this song as being about an obsessive love. I agree with the God factor for sure, but the love seems to want some sort of gratitude.

    Its "Easier" to do this or that, but no, I give you everything and expect you return it. Thats the attitude i get
  • Asha from Vacaville, CaIn my opinion, it would take a person lacking deep emotion, passion, spirituality, vivaciousness, and taste to consider this one of Live's worst hits. One of the most captivating songs ever written. Not to mention it scratches the surface that Jesus Christ was in fact, human and had human emotions, as well as the passion and devotion of those in his midst.
  • Kurt from Downers Grove, IlBest song ever written?!! This is one of Live's worst hits.
  • Neese from Perth, AustraliaThis is my all time favourite song and has been since it was released in 1994. For me it's all about true, deep love.It is full of emotion and meaning. In my humble opinion it is the best song ever written.
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