One Headlight

Album: Bringing Down The Horse (1996)
Charted: 54


  • Jakob Dylan: "I tend to write with a lot of metaphors and images, so people take them literally. The song's meaning is all in the first verse. It's about the death of ideas. The first verse says, 'The death of the long broken arm of human law.' At times, it seems like there should be a code among human beings that is about respect and appreciation. I wasn't feeling like there was much support outside the group putting together the record. In the chorus, it says, 'C'mon try a little.' I didn't need everything to get through, I could still get through - meaning 'one headlight." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Shirl - Bay Area, CA
  • This song wasn't released as a single in America, so it was not eligible for the Hot 100 (Billboard changed this rule a few years later). It did, however, make #2 on the Airplay chart.
  • This won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 1998 ceremony.

Comments: 58

  • Tanner from Here And ThereMatt from Central Alabama. I don’t even know you. But I love you. And I know she was a beautiful person. It happens way too often. Mental health awareness isn’t as open as it should be and this is the reason that this happens so often. Keep your head high. Remember the best. Remember you did everything you could. I’m only 24. But I’ve lost many to addiction. Most of them had depression and anxiety. I’ve suffered from the same. I battle daily. But I know I’m the end that I’m living and that means I can make my life as good as I possibly can every day. And daily. I become better. Stronger. Don’t forget that for yourself.
  • Matt from Central AlabamaI've heard this song probably a million times and never really paid too much attention to the lyrics just thought it was a great song. Well, today I listen to it for the first time since my wife passed away from alcoholism, and when I listen to it this time it was like the lyrics were just shouting at me. To me, it's talkin about a man who's soulmate has passed away even though she was looking for a path through the ugliness and greed. Unfortunately she never found "the opening here in front of me", or the path to defeating her disease. She was such a kind, compassionate, and beautiful person, and a lot of times people who struggle with addiction get labeled a bad person because of the stigma attached to addiction. But I just want to let people know that there are a lot of really good people who struggle with addiction, being an addict does not make you a bad person. So try not to judge someone prematurely just because they struggle with addiction.
  • Kevin Roy From Nj from South AmboyI thought this song was about a man who was in love with a woman. The woman being "way out of his league". She being gorgeous, materialistic, extremely smart bu t the man was just a very average guy. Wouldn't be able to take her to the nicest restaurants or buy her furs, top of the line jewelry, designer clothes, shoes & bags. And drove around in a cheap car but could give her things that money couldn't buy. Things like unconditional love, honesty, loyalty & communication. Knowing she wouldn't stay with him but he just wanted to know her and still date her even if just for a little while... Now that I know the truth behind the song, it kinda killed it for me. Hopefully in time I'll forget and be able to listen to it with less disappointment
  • Joe from Somewhere FlFor me this song reminds me of a lady I used to know in late 70’s early 80s. I was 17-18 and she was 22 and a true blond knockout. A few years later a friend told me that she died of cancer. I said something stupid which I regret. This song always reminds me of her and I never got to say goodbye
  • Kelly from Stouffville OntJust found out my bf fell in love with a bartender/ waitress , who apparently o/d. This was there song. Not to happy about it. He even paid for her headstone. He lied to me about it all- not a fan
  • Daveh from VirginiaTyler, I shall your pain. My wife have stage 4 liver cancer, don't know when the end is coming, but I tear up every time I hear this song. Thanks for your comments, almost like you are talking to me.
  • Telephonebill51 from IndianapolisSo, the song is sort of about the making of the song itself?
    Wow. that puts it in a group of two; the other being Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4"
  • Giovanni from San Diego, CaI was in a really crappy relationship when this song came out & all I ever wanted was to get on my bike (motorcycle) and ride...somewhere (home?) ...with one headlight as that's all my bike had.
  • Tyler from UsaI seldom ever believe artists when they share publicly their interpretations of their art. It's against their interests to be honest in that case. Anyways, after losing my wife in the past year I can now see no other interpretation other than this: Cinderella is the girl and she is dead. He feels she will always be with him and they will continue their journey together through life, observing the surrounding world of decay...the same decay that led to her eventual death. They journey on through life together, one alive and one headlight is out. For me, it's a sad yet powerful sentiment.
  • Bob from ArizonaI realize I’m way off after reading other comments, but here’s the way I understood it years ago. The song is about unrequited love. The girl is a fan of his who hung around his shows but never got the courage to approach him. Eventually after getting more and more depressed and hopeless she jumps off the bridge. He is oblivious to her feelings all along and only finds out too late. He wishes she had the guts to “try a little” and break out of her shell. He might have driven her home one night with his one headlight (motorcycle) and changed their future. I’ll admit the later verses don’t really jive with this interpretation.
  • Jazzy from New Hampshire This song ment so much to me and my mom back when it came out my aunt/best friendhad just passed away sudenly and it felt like the whole world didn't understand what was happening (I was 13) this song hit the mail right on the head for us with everything it was crazy how much it felt like it was written for us.
  • Doug from Buffalo, NyI guess I was sort of correct in my interpretation that the song isn't literally about death, but the "death of ideas." But perhaps I was astray as this song connected with me in my youth. I felt like it was about the bar I used to go to and often played this song. Like the place was "beat up" and "smelled like cheap wine (beer) and cigarettes. I also felt that it was the "Cinderella" was pursuing then who also hung around that place.
  • Valentina from Tampa, FlI do believe it is about each individual's interpretation as well though. Struggle I think of any sort..
  • Valentina from Tampa, FlAddiction. Struggle. Done.
  • Jake from Pensacola, FlI feel like this is through the perspective of an aquaintence of the dead girl, like he feels the same way she did that caused her to die but through her death he finds his "one headlight" to make it through, cinderella is a fictional charactor maybe by saying "me and cinderella" he was saying the spirit of this girl would remain with him as a reminder, a story that had an end.
  • Andrew from Gold Canyon, AzJakob mentioned it had to do with ideas dying and dealing with it. To me, the chorus means you should not let this get you down. As long as you try, you can be happy with even the most inadequate amount resources, assets, money, or "One Headlight".

    The Outlook may be bleak whenever a plan fails, but as long as you implore optimism, you can make ultimately be happy in life.
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlThis is a gorgeous song! I love this sooo much! Jakob's voice is so sexy!:)
  • Carol from Moriarty, NmOne Headlight, my favorite song. Deep and poetic, not a love song but a song about life and the dealings with ugliness and greed, his inner thoughts at a funeral about a pretty girl who chose to stick around a place that had nothing to offer, only to die and never of experienced more out of life. (perhaps her choices in life were more sadder than her death). It seemed such a shame or waste. It's about suppressive situations we can find ourselves in, whether it's financial or mental. It can relate to both because the song is so deep. The opportunity to just leave and the thought to simply stay."she can't break away from the parade" ..It's warm not cold in July, Independence Day...but it means "the day" to just do it and break away and leave.To make the decision. She feels that it is independence day for her. Where 'home' is---is the future and whatever it may have to offer. To get out of the place or condition you are allowing yourself to be in. The decision lies in "the middle"..................
  • Jim from Venice, FlTo me this song is about a man who loses his wife and has to raise his daughter by himself. Me and Cinderella we can drive it home with one headlight.
  • Michelle from Memphis, TnNever listened to much wallflowers music. I can just see him now with pen to paper in a cotton tee writing this beautiful song. Plan on purchasing even if it is 15 smackers. BTW if you wear glasses does this count as 4 headlights? On a serious note, I agree with the idea that you can make it even with just one dim headlight.

    -corn nut
  • George from Islamorada, FlNo one has to know what the original meaning of any song or poem is, because what's important is how you interpret it. I've been running on one headlight for five years since my wife died. But both high beams are still working and I can see the road ahead. That's what this song means to me.
  • Brian from Boston, MaListen to the base line it is very similar to Don't you forget about me by simple minds.
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkWhoah Nelly. you all are getting too much out of a simple song about moving on after an unanticipated ending . . . and i ROCKS!
  • Jimmy from Balboa Is., CaThis song reminds me so much of "Boys Of Summer" by Don Henley. It has the same melancholy, metaphors and images. They both include themes a like. Such as the death of ideas, the American Dream and lost Youth. Both make the top 10 on my forever list.
  • Homero from Lewisville, Txi am a child of the 90's, so when i hear this song i think of better times
  • Kimberly from Baton Rouge, LaI feel bad I always thought he was saying Water and Light.... One Headlight ahhhhh makes sense.
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaThis song about having taking on a journey that can still be done even with "one headlight". You can still complete it.
  • Joel from Columbus, OhAnybody notice that in the video that Bruce Springsteen sings along with Jakob Dylan in the video?
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnSuch a popular song from 1997. The Wallflowers never got the respect they deserved.
  • Dave from Cleveland, OhDrive it home with "one headlight" in my opinion means that "yes, you can continue your journey"; just not as easy as two headlights but you can do it. This is encouragement, a healing process one goes through when dealing with grief.
  • Nicky from Scituate, MaI'm going to throw in an entirely different interpretation. I just watched the video, and if you haven't seen it, Jakob is shown against a backdrop of what appears to be an old American flag, which is beat up, and worn out. Jakob says the song is about the death of ideas - I wonder if he also means the death of the ideals of the United States, the death of the "American Dream". American ideals are pretty tough to achieve - freedom, equality - and even though America is far from perfect in achieving its ideals, its dreams, and maybe has settled for something "in the middle", or less than ideal, but Jakob may hold out hope for her, saying that she can drive it home "with one headlight". Maybe she's not perfect, but she can still try.
  • Brett from Toronto, OnI am Just going to Give my opinion on what this song reminds me of but can't really translate it.

    To me when he sings it sounds like like he is singing about a women he loved, and shes past away.Someone who he was really close to. (Broken heart maybe.) (maybe she jumped I don't know). Things are still the same in life, he feels different but he knows he hasn't really changed, everything still runs like it always has. He doens't know how to feel, but hes trying to go on with his life, feeling melon coly. then he kind of breaks out, singing the chorus talking about it and telling her, we can drive it home with one headlight. Meaning to me anyway, i guess it would be like having a family and telling her you built this life with someone and you (meaning him and her) can see it through with only one of you left.
  • Ashley from Spring, TxFor me this song has always been basically what Jakob said the death of ideas. Or even your existance that surrounds you. Cinderella being the fairytale you orginally set out for but realizing that you only have "One headlight" and not that much going for you in the long run. This can be seen especially in the last stance about the comparison of a beat up truck and the place being old. It's realizing that the life you may have set yourself up for isn't all it's cracked up to be. I love the line "Man I ain't changed but I know I ain't the same." You know your the same person you were entering into the situation but you know somehow you've changed because it's not as thrilling and new as it once was. It's a lifestyle (relationship, employment, state of being) that's grown old and you want to seperate youself from.
  • Liz from Someplace, CtOkay, whoever said that it's about a friend with breast cancer - i get the whole i lost a friend thing out of the song.

    but really? Breat cancer? one headlight? Grow. up.
  • Taylor from Ames, IaI think this song is about one of his close friends that gets breast cancer and loses a breast in the process.. "We can drive it home with one headlight"
  • Christy from D.c, MexicoOK, im not saying this is what the song means, its just what it means to me.

    "So long ago, I don't remember when
    That's when they say I lost my only friend
    Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease
    As I listened through the cemetery trees"

    I believe this explains how a close/best friend of his left (not necessarily dieing but far enough away to wear it probably hurt nearly as bad as her dieing) and he was so disoriented that he lost track of time. Although he knew why she left (reasons unstated) the people around didnt and believed she was unhappy and that is why she left.

    "I seen the sun comin' up at the funeral at dawn
    The long broken arm of human law
    Now it always seemed such a waste
    She always had a pretty face
    So I wondered how she hung around this place"

    The day he woke up after she had left (the day of the -funeral-) he thought how even though she left was against the unspoken law of humanity (for whatever reason, whether it be leaving her family or simply leaving him) she had been able to do it and then he realizes how messed up where they were really was and he wondered how she had stayed there as long as she had

    "Hey, come on try a little
    Nothing is forever
    There's got to be something better than
    In the middle
    But me & Cinderella
    We put it all together
    We can drive it home
    With one headlight"

    When he thought about the situation he didnt know what he should do, be with her or stay, he was stuck in the middle. But he decided he wanted to be with her (not nessarily saying they are romantically involved, just generally close) and they went to find a new home not knowing what to expect, running half blind into the dark (one headlight)

    "She said it's cold
    It feels like Independence Day
    And I can't break away from this parade
    But there's got to be an opening
    Somewhere here in front of me
    Through this maze of ugliness and greed
    And I seen the sun up ahead
    At the county line bridge
    Sayin' all there's good and nothingness is dead
    We'll run until she's out of breath
    She ran until there's nothin' left
    She hit the end-it's just her window ledge"

    As they try to find there way to were they believe they belong (unknowing where that is) she starts to get down after going far believing that they will never find it and never escape the -parade- of people in this world, consumed by greed and generally bad people made ugly by -ugly- personality's and hearts. But he promised they would find somewhere. In the end she finally gave up and killed herself believing death would be less painful than looking for answers and never finding any the rest of her life (or so she believed it would be and was)

    "Well this place is old
    It feels just like a beat up truck
    I turn the engine, but the engine doesn't turn
    Well it smells of cheap wine & cigarettes
    This place is always such a mess
    Sometimes I think I'd like to watch it burn
    I'm so alone, and I feel just like somebody else
    Man, I ain't changed, but I know I ain't the same
    But somewhere here in between the city walls of dyin' dreams
    I think her death it must be killin' me"

    He generally sees life dull, unimportant, and depressing. Cheap wine and cigarettes is indicating the drunks and cigarette smokers in the world and is a metaphor symbolizing how disgusted he is with the state the world is in and he feels trapped within it. He generally believes that the death of the girl is making him realize how much he hates the world and wants out, and how she was quite possibly the only thing he has worth living for (not necessarily saying they were romantically involved, just generally very close -best friends- so close that no other relationship/friendship seemed to matter and simply wasnt as deep and meaningful as the one they had shared.

    Again, not saying this is the real meaning...but when i heard this song i could relate it to a relationship me and another share and it seemed to make sense...
  • Sherrad from South Bend, InIt's deep.....huh? Great song!
  • Donna from Belleville, IlI like this song because it reminds me of a struggle my husband and i went thru before we married. he had lost his job and failed in a business venture. we literally had one headlight quite a few times.
  • Ted from Boston, MaAs soon as I heard this song, I did think it was about death also, but the last stanza made me think about my place of employment, and how tired i get trying to get people to do the job,the way that I think my company wants me to do it, and then, don't like how I go about doing it.
  • Justin from Georgetown, Ini love the upbeat bass line with a guitar that doesn't seem to me to be as prescent and almost has a gloomy or depressed sounds to it.
  • Mark from Worcester, MiZack, good post. IMO Jakob has his dad's talent for the old saying what you mean without really saying it style. I don't buy his take that the first vs says it all. There's to much here to focus on one vs. Anyway this is a timeless song IMO. It always sounds fresh and great. Just a great effort.
  • Zack from Winder, GaIts definetely meant to be universal. I probably thought he was singing about a specific person at one time or another, but the more i heard it , I felt like it was inspiring because the chorus says it all, try a little , something better , me and cinderella got it figured out. I.E.,when your world sucks and there are depressing things all around you, you can kepp rolling with the punches, even if you only have one headlight left, and maybe even a squeaky fan belt. You got to keep truckin'
  • Tony from Omaha, NeI think the song deals with a friend who's life was ruined by drugs. The reasons are because of: "She always had a pretty face So I wondered how she hung around this place", "Well it smells of cheap wine & cigarettes This place is always such a mess Sometimes I think I'd like to watch it burn". I think the song talks about how his friend was arrested by police and he visited her in prison and she was totally wasted or as he called it "dead". I am guessing that the title means the headlights of a police cruiser. Her purpose in life was ruined by drugs and or drinking.
  • Karl from Portland, OrI think this song is about a friend who died after a drunk driving accident. Thus "We can make it home, with one headlight" is kind of ironic. But it makes sense to me.
  • Jessamyn from San Marcos, TxI think this song describes the suicide of a friend.
  • Jay from Atlanta, Ga"Headlight?" That makes more sense, I thought he was saying "Head lice". ("The teacher sent me hooooooome, cause I got headlice")
  • Djrayne from St.marys, PaI may be totally off, but I just woke up and I think that may be the way the song should be taken...I think the song is all about his dad, Bob Dylan. He was always trying to put his ideas through the rain in the method of song with only one headlight, the only pull he had left in a world barren of opinion and individuality. I think in the song Jakob had awoken to the fact that although his father's affectiveness spanned a generation, it's just that; a generation, and he wishes it's continuation.
  • John from San Antonio, TxI love this song, it reminds me of my first car. I swear one of the headlights was always out. When I first heard it I thought of my 1976 Malibu Classic!!
  • Jim from Troy, NyGreat song....what happened to the Wallflowers? That whole album was good.
  • Doug from Macon, GaTo me the meaning of the song is soley what it means to you. Like a child a song takes on its own existance after its creation. Perhpas Dylan meant it to be about the death of ideas, but to me, it will always remind me of the death of someone very close to me. A couple days later I heard this song and it will always mean what it does.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnI really liked this song. It showed that Jakob Dylan is an outstanding musician and songwriter like his father. This was one of the few death songs of the 90s.
  • Dave from Pittsburg, Pai can definatly see why hes got to get out of this place without ideologies, but not because someone killed themself that makes no sense.
  • Donald from Festus, MoThis song is unbelievable. Its my favorite song. Its writing is some of the best and it captures a certain gloomy mood. However, I dont believe it is about death. Jakob Dylan didnt say that it was death of a person but rather death of an idea. As he said, its heavy on the metaphors and symbolic meanings. So I can see how most think its about the death of someone. But the writer himself said it isnt. And the death of ideas makes more sense if you really look at the lyrics.
  • Jo-c from Lima, PeruThat's some cool organ on the verses.
  • Max from Toronto, CanadaIf Jakob Dylan himself said the song isn't about the death of a person, and he wrote the song, that's enough for me. It's about the death of ideas, like it says in the Song Meanings section.
  • Greg from Paris, MiJakob Dylan has said numerous times that it has nothing to do with death. That the death mentioned in the song is a metaphor for the death of other things.
  • Jolie from Bellwood, IlI did an assignment on this song a long time ago and we broke down this song and we came to the conclusion that this song is about death. It's about a guy talking about a girl going to the end. In one verse it says about the window ledge well that means she went to tried and kill herself but realized that she was at her window ledge and about to jump out and she didn't but by in the end of the song she does kill herself. Because he says that he goes to a funeral in the begin and throughout the song he's saying how she tried so many times and failed until the end and had sucess. And he's saying that there's somewhere better than this place and he's saying that he'll do anything to get out of this place.
  • Morgan from Fort Oglethorpe, GaMaybe it's not meant to be taken literally, after all, but to me it always seemed like someone dealing with depression after a good friend, or possibly lover, had commited suicide.
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