10 Great Metaphors from Popular 1960s’ Songs

The relationship of music, song and figurative devices cannot be denied. Especially most songwriters use similes and metaphors in their lyrics. Metaphors are used to color the words and convey the messages in the song ready to relate to the listeners. The similarities, comparisons, and references in the 60s’ songs give a vivid impression to readers/listeners through this figurative language. The underlying themes of the 60s’ songs are very hard to swallow as most songs were a plea for peace. However, metaphors and other literary techniques make them easy to grasp. A metaphor also gives the beauty and scheme to poetry making the words come to life. Here are a few examples of metaphors from the 1960s songs.

Edwin Starr – War

[Verse 2]

(War), It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
(War), Friend only to the undertaker
War is the enemy of all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest, within the younger generation
Induction then destruction. Who wants to die?

Here in this song, the war is used as a sign of destruction. Heartbreaker is a metaphor for war. This song is the protest against the Vietnam War. A war causes mental injuries more than the physical. They never heal and leave family distraught.

The Kinks – Water Loo sunset

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling, rolling into the night
People so busy, make me feel dizzy, taxi light shines so bright
But I don’t, need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise
Every day I look at the world from my window
Chilly chilly is the evening time, Waterloo sunset’s fine

This song is like a celebration of loneliness, watching the whole scene alone from a window. The singer is trying to convince himself and enjoy the beauty of the sunset. The chilly atmosphere goes parallel to the theme of loneliness. Waterloo station is a busy place,it is also a metaphor for loneliness and the hustle and bustle of city life. ‘Dirty old river is a metaphor for the stagnant purposeless life of the singer.

Tina Turner – River Deep Mountain High

When I was a little girl
I had a rag doll
Only doll i’veever owned
Now I love you just the way I loved that rag doll
But only now my love has grown

The lyricist expresses her deep emotions for her beloved doll. Moving forward for youth, she reveals her sentiments a step high towards her friend. The doll is a metaphor for the affection and loyal bonding of love and sincerity. Later in the song, she says that this love becomes more tender and mature with the time. The entire song is a metaphor for an adult loving someone passionately.

Stevie Wonder – For Your Love

All the gold in all the world
Is nothing to possess
If all the things that it can bring
Can’t add up to one ounce of your happiness

And for your love
I would do anything
Just to see the smile upon your face
For your love
I would go anywhere
Just you tell me and I’ll be right there

A diamond that shines
Like a star in the sky
Is nothing to behold
For minuscule is any light
If it can’t like you brighten up my soul

In this song, the gold is compared to the smile or happiness of the singer’s love. As gold is the most precious metal in the world and it shines. The singer uses the metaphors of gold and diamond to describe how the value of happiness. The glow of these metals is useless, and the smile from the soul is brighter than anything in the world.

Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight

I stop to see a weepin’ willow
Cryin’ on his pillow
Maybe he’s cryin’ for me
And as the skies turn gloomy
Night winds whisper to me
I’m lonesome as I can be

The entire song is a metaphor for searching a lost person and hoping for the reunion of past love. The person could be a parent, sibling, partner or child. ‘Weeping Willow’ is personified and is also a metaphor someone sharing the singer’s grief.

Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful world

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

The song is about hope and enjoying nature. The singer uses colors as a metaphorical message. The colors like blue, white and rainbow give a cheerful and positive and bright approach towards life.

Frank Sinatra – Summer Wind

Like painted kites, those days and nights – went flyin by
The world was new, beneath a blue – umbrella sky
Then softer than, a piper man – one day it called to you
And I lost you, to the summer wind

The song, Summer wind is a metaphor for life, changing seasons and passing of time. The wind is an extended metaphor for a positive relationship between two people. Here the sky is compared to an umbrella because it covers the earth. The singer compares his love with seasons and explains that he lost his love when the summer arrives.

Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall
And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call
And call Alice, when she was just small
When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know

The above song is a vivid satire and an extended metaphor for war and politicians. The phrases ‘Make you larger’  and ‘makes you small” refer to the choice to protest or join the war. Men on the chessboard is a metaphor for the military who are directed by the generals and the head of the country.

Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater revival

I see the bad moon arising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see those bad times today

Don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

I hear hurricanes a blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers over flowing
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

In this song, bad moon is an extended metaphor for the Vietnam war and the time of destruction. The trouble and the earthquakes are the beginning of the war. The lightning, hurricanes and overflowing rivers are also extended metaphors to the war, bombings, and destruction. The bad moon is compared to the time of horror brought by the war.

Thunder Ball – Tom Jones

He always runs while others walk;
He acts while other men just talk.
They call him the winner who takes all;
And he strikes like Thunderball

He knows the meaning of success;
His needs are more so he gives less.
He looks at this world and once in all;
Then he strikes like Thunderball

This song was written for the fourth James Bond film. The entire song is a metaphor with a foreshadows for the film. The word Thunderball is a metaphor for James Bond’s valor, plans, ambitions during his missions. The way he attacks and destroys his enemies are beautifully reflected through the song. You can also find the use of ‘Thunderball’ simile.