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A Western Sun


Source of Lyrics:, edited by Ted Poets

Song Bio

Rick Mitarotonda stated in an interview that he wrote this song about his father, who passed away when he was young.

When Rick discussed this song with Phish lyricist Tom Marshall on Tom's podcast "Under the Scales," Rick mentioned that the musical style of the song had a number of incarnations before settling on its final sound, and had originally started off sounding "reggae-like."

Sing Along

Graphic by: Laura Mertz
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Song Interpretation

Interpreted By: Jason Foley

A deeply personal song for Rick. As explained in the 1/30/20 Undermine podcast, he wrote the lyrics about his deceased father and God (or the “Big One” as Rick says.)

The lyrics start with the author lamenting about his life while gazing upon a setting sun. A reassuring voice suddenly rings out and asks him to reflect upon his youth when he had dreams and felt tall. The author responds that he has lost that dream - the wonder and simplicity of life. Time has stolen his innocence. Life has become complicated. He cries out that I am no longer a child.

The voice consoles and pleads with the author to use life’s precious time to the fullest; to be mindful of every moment; to seize the day (carpe diem as our namesake Dead Poets Society embodied). Henry David Thoreau advised to “live deliberately . . . live deep and suck the marrow out of life . . . and not, when I came to die, discovered that I had not lived.” The voice reassures the author that he should not fret as nothing we experience is ever lost. We each represent a “spark of light” from the “endless fire you hold inside.”
One way to interpret these words is that God (or whatever absolute entity you believe in) is inside each of us and connects us and everything around us. Another interpretation is that there is no Absolute, but rather an endless and ever evolving web of relationships as all of existence is forever evolving or becoming. Assuming either interpretation, the voice states that love is the key. “It grows out like a vine.” Love either resonates from the Absolute or serves as evolution’s ultimate bond. Either way, love is a manifestation of the divine, or of nature, and can be found everywhere and in everything and everyone. However, because we are human, as represented by “time moved slow,” we can’t fully comprehend this love, but the voice reassures us that it is real and we must seek and cherish it.
The author has a hard time understanding. He cannot see in the “long dark night” and weeps, feels insignificant, lost, tired. However, it is at this darkest hour when all seems lost, when we confront our immortally, when we peer into the existential abyss, that we discover life’s meaning and our purpose. This feeling of nothingness is actually a gift. Finally, the voice concludes by asking us to open our minds and hearts to life’s great possibilities and see “what we might find.” The soaring jams that follow represent this hope.