There are songs that have a certain feeling to them that capture a particular mood or sentiment perfectly. It's almost as though you don't even need to hear the lyrics to know what the song is about. For me, this song by Suzanne Vega is a case in point. 'Tired of Sleeping' (Days of Open Hand, 1990) is a brilliant song - there's no two ways about it. Brilliant because everything just comes together magnificently - backing, lyrics and vocals - in a way that gives the song a real edge and a deep, dark mood.
What Vega creates with this song is slightly sinister. She relates it to 'dream images' - certain things that came to her in dreams. And it's interesting to me because there is something supernatural about dreams. Most of us have had dreams about something that's gone on to take place or dreams that seem to have a lucidity to them that we don't have in waking life. Biblically speaking dreams seem to be a major way in which God communicates with people.
About the line in the song: 'The kids are playing in pennies / They're up to their knees in money / In the dirt of the churchyard steps' Vega says:
'That's an image I saw in a dream. For a long time when I sang that song, I would feel like crying. It took about a year to be able to sing it and not want to cry... I think the line in the dream was "the children are begging for God." And there's a double meaning to that. One is that they're begging for money for God. Like alms for the church. And I'm not Catholic or Christian. I don't go to church. So I don't understand why I would have that dream. But on the other hand "the children are begging for God" is asking for salvation.'
So does God really speak to us in dreams? And what is it about sleep that somehow seems to bridge the earthly and heavenly dimension? Somehow this song seems to do that, too - it's a strange song, a spiritual song but an unsettling one, too.