Natalie Merchant

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Such as take lodgings in a head that's to be let unfurnished.
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I know that it will hurt
I know that it will break your heart
the way things are
and the way they've been...

Natalie Merchant (born 26 October 1963) American singer, song-writer, musician and poet who first gained fame in the group 10,000 Maniacs which she co-founded in 1981.


There is one tradition in America I am proud to inherit. It is our first freedom and the truest expression of our Americanism: the ability to dissent without fear.
  • There is one tradition in America I am proud to inherit. It is our first freedom and the truest expression of our Americanism: the ability to dissent without fear. It is our right to utter the words, "I disagree." We must feel at liberty to speak those words to our neighbors, our clergy, our educators, our news media, our lawmakers and, above all, to the one among us we elect President.
    • The Nation (15 July 1991)
  • I grew up as a TV baby, with my TV babysitter, up until I was about 10. Then my mother just ripped the thing out of the wall and put it in a closet, and we didn't watch it. I have that sort of ability to become addicted to it. And I'm just so fascinated by it once I turn it on, I'm not even that aware what's there. I'm just watching it. So I don't ever turn it on. I get my news from the newspaper. I don't want to watch the Hollywood news product on TV... There's no other piece of furniture in my home I'd stare at for three hours at a time, so I try not to do it to the TV.
    • Orlando Sentinel (6 November 1992)
  • My drug period was between the age of 17 and 18. That was a time when I was experimenting with a lot of things, I was experimenting with sleep deprivation, fasting. The longest fast I ever did was 12 days. You go that long without food and you hallucinate. I would take this powder made out of guarana seed, my friend Mary would bake it up like cocoa in muffins and leave them on my doorstep. My drinking period was when I was 13, 14. Drugs fascinated me for a short period of time but not any more. A glass of wine puts me in a weird enough state.
    • NME (1 July 1995)

The Wishing Chair (1985)

  • if I could calm or restrain you
    for the sake of pity
    save the pistol
    save the cynic's tongue
    save the cool white stare
    treat me to an honest face sometime
    • "Scorpio Rising"

In My Tribe (1987)

What's The Matter Here?

  • I'm tired of the excuses everybody uses
    he's their kid I stay out of it,
    but who gave you the right to do this?
  • threats like, "if you don't mind I will beat on your behind"
    "slap you, slap you silly" made me say,
    "o, what's the matter here?"

City of Angels

  • heaven, is this heaven where we are?
  • see them walking, if you dare
    if you call that walking
    stumble, stagger, fall and drag themselves
    along the streets of heaven
  • where is the halo
    that should glow 'round your face
    and where are the wings that
    should grow from your shoulder blades?
  • these sobering sights I've seen
    in the City of Angels
    have all been one rude awakening
    that was due to me
    in this city of fallen angels

Like The Weather

  • the color of the sky as far as I can see is coal gray
    lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
    with a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
    a quiver in my lips as if I might cry
  • what a cold and rainy day
    where on earth is the sun hid away?

Don't Talk

  • don't talk, I will listen
    don't talk, you keep your distance
    I'd rather hear some truth tonight
    than entertain your lies
  • talk, talk, talk about it
    you talk as if you care
    but when your talk is over
    tilt that bottle in the air
    tossing back more than your share

Hey Jack Kerouac

  • hey Jack Kerouac
    I think of your mother
    and the tears she cried, she cried for none other
    than her little boy lost in our little world that hated
    and that dared to drag him down
    her little boy courageous
    who chose his words from mouths of
    babes got lost in the wood
    hip flask slinging madman, steaming cafe flirts
    they all spoke through you
  • hey Jack
    now for the tricky part
    when you were the brightest star
    who were the shadows?
    of the San Francisco beat boys
    you were the favorite
    now they sit and rattle their bones
    and think of their blood stoned days

Blind Man's Zoo (1989)

trouble me
disturb me with all your cares and you worries...

Trouble Me

  • trouble me
    disturb me with all your cares and you worries
    trouble me
    on the days when you feel spent
  • speak to me
    don't mislead me, the calm I feel means a storm is swelling
    there's no telling where it starts or how it ends
  • let me
    have a look inside these eyes while I'm learning
    please don't hide them just because of tears

Our Time In Eden (1992)

These Are Days

  • these are days you'll remember
  • you'll know it's true, that you are blessed and lucky
    it's true, that you are touched by something
    that will grow and bloom in you
  • these days you might feel a shaft of light
    make its way across your face
    and when you do
    you'll know how it was meant to be
    see the signs and know their meaning

Tigerlily (1995)


  • I've walked these streets
    in the mad house asylum
    they can be
    where a wild eyed misfit prophet
    on a traffic island stopped
    and he raved of saving me
  • have I been blind
    have I been lost
    inside myself and
    my own mind
    by what my eyes have seen?


I'm a challenge to your balance
I'm over your heads
how I confound you and astound you...
  • doctors have come from distant cities
    just to see me
    stand over my bed
    disbelieving what they're seeing
    they say I must be one of the wonders
    of god's own creation
    and as far as they can see they can offer
    no explanation
  • newspapers ask intimate questions
    want confessions
    they reach into my head
    to steal the glory of my story
  • people see me
    I'm a challenge to your balance
    I'm over your heads
    how I confound you and astound you
  • o, I believe
    fate smiled and destiny
    laughed as she came to my cradle
    know this child will be able
    laughed as she came to my mother
    know this child will not suffer
    laughed as my body she lifted
    know this child will be gifted
    with love, with patience and with faith
    she'll make her way

Ophelia (1998)


Ophelia's mind went wandering
you'd wonder where she'd gone
through secret doors
down corridors
she'd wander them alone...
  • Ophelia was a bride of god
    a novice Carmelite
    in sister cells the cloister bells
    tolled on her wedding night
  • Ophelia was a circus queen
    the female cannonball
    projected through five flaming hoops
    to wild and shocked applause...
  • Ophelia was a cyclone, tempest
    a god damned hurricane
    your common sense
    your best defense
    lay wasted and in vain
  • Ophelia's mind went wandering
    you'd wonder where she'd gone
    through secret doors
    down corridors
    she'd wander them alone

Break Your Heart

  • people struggle, people fight
    for the simple pleasures in their lives
    but trouble comes from everywhere
    it's a little more than you can bear
  • I know that it will hurt
    I know that it will break your heart
    the way things are
    and the way they've been
    and the way they've always been
  • people ruthless, people cruel
    see the damage that some people do
    full of hatred, full of pride
    it's enough to make you lose your mind
  • don't spread the discontent
    don't spread the lies
    don't make the same mistakes
    with your own life

My Skin

  • take a look at my body
    look at my hands
    there's so much here
    that I don't understand
  • your face saving promises
    whispered like prayers
    I don't need them
  • contempt loves the silence
    it thrives in the dark
    with fine winding tendrils
    that strangle the heart

    they say that promises
    sweeten the blow
    but I don't need them
    no, I don't need them
  • o, I need
    the darkness
    the sweetness
    the sadness
    the weakness
    I need this
  • I need
    a lullaby
    a kiss goodnight
    angel sweet
    love of my life
    o, I need this

Kind & Generous

  • you've been so kind and generous
    I don't know how you keep on giving
    for your kindness I'm in debt to you
    for your selflessness, my admiration
    and for everything you've done
    you know I'm bound...
    I'm bound to thank you for it
  • I want to thank you
    for so many gifts
    you gave with love and tenderness
    I want to thank you
    I want to thank you
    for your generosity
    the love and the honesty
    that you gave me

Life Is Sweet

I tell you life is sweet
in spite of the misery
there's so much more...
  • they told you life is hard
    it's misery from the start
    it's dull and slow and painful
    I tell you life is sweet
    in spite of the misery
    there's so much more

    be grateful
  • who do you believe?
    who will you listen to
    who will it be?
    it's high time that you decide
    in your own mind

Motherland (2001)


  • where in hell can you go
    far from the things that you know
    far from the sprawl of concrete
    that keeps crawling its way
    about 1,000 miles a day?
  • take one last look behind
    commit this to memory and mind
    don't miss this wasteland, this terrible place
    when you leave
    keep your heart off your sleeve
  • motherland cradle me
    close my eyes
    lullaby me to sleep
    keep me safe
    lie with me
    stay beside me
    don't go, don't you go

The Worst Thing

  • once I could love, I could trust, I could not doubt
    but that was just about the worst thing that I could do
    it was just about the worst thing that I could do
  • once I was open, could hope, I had no doubt
    but that was the worst thing that I could do
  • once I came close to that most elusive fire
    burning with hopeless love and desire
    but it was just about the worst thing that I could do
    it was just about the worst thing I could do

Henry Darger

  • who'll save the poor little girl?
    oh, Henry...
    who'll tell the story of her?
    Henry Darger
  • who will draw the calvary in
    risk his very own precious skin
    to make our Angelinia a free and peaceful land again?

    who'll love a poor orphan child?
    Henry Darger

Quotes from

  • It’s pretty obvious to everyone that the revolution has happened. The People can now easily cut out a hoard of middlemen (record companies, radio stations, music press and retail shops). With a series of computer strokes they can find the music they want to hear, become informed about the musicians who make it, find other people who share their interest and ultimately either buy, trade or steal that coveted sound.
  • After spending nearly 20 years contracted to a major label, I have mixed feelings about their demise. These companies have profited immensely from your insatiable desire for listening and helped musicians for several decades to reach you. They grew fat and excessive. They exploited and they monopolized. They edited and censured. They’ve been rapidly loosing their means of production, distribution and promotion to the internet. They have been economizing by dropping artists, cutting staff and folding into one another but they can’t keep up with the pace of disintegration. You might not have ever heard my name if Elektra Records hadn’t made me one of their artists for hire. I’m both grateful and resentful and you probably are too.
  • I don’t listen to anything on the radio but NPR and occasional oldies programs. I can’t comment on the content or format of most commercial radio but I have read the statistics about the step-by-step deregulation of FCC rules that has allowed monopolies like Clear Channel to buy up massive shares of the airwaves. This has damaged our business (music) and our culture (American). The internet is offering bold alternatives but a transistor radio is only $25.00 and not everyone is hooked up through a computer and high speed connection.
  • I don’t want to overdo discussing my experience of motherhood, its too private and profound to parade around. I will say that carrying a child, giving birth to a child and raising that child up has made me feel more engaged and connected to others. I have a greater understanding of people (living past & present). We all begin so pure, so innocent and so hungry for physical and emotional comfort. It’s so important that every baby be generously cherished, fed and comforted. I can see now how withholding these essentials can do irreparable damage. Now (post-baby) when I encounter a sad or aggressive character, I wonder what the first three years of his or her life were like. Imaging them alone, crying in their cribs has given me much more compassion.
  • For the time being I am enjoying my chance to enjoy civilian life off the road. If I combined all the months that I have lived out of a van or tour bus it would amount to twelve solid years. That would be twelve years of driving or flying an average of 100 to 400 miles per day and sleeping in a different city every night. It was a very unique lifestyle that I adapted to and even enjoyed with it’s surreal pace. It’s also a lifestyle that can take a toll on the body and relationships with the people that you are constantly leaving behind.
  • I think many people have been made curious about Henry Darger because of the song on my album Motherland. Henry Darger (1892-1973) was the author and illustrator of what could possibly be the longest unfinished fictional work of all time. His towering hand-bound manuscript of 17,000 pages was found in this obscure retired hospital janitor’s apartment after his death. Henry worked in obsessed isolation for six decades on his saga entitled, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.
  • I saw my first Henry Darger collage/paintings in the early 1980’s when the tale of Henry’s life was just emerging through rumor and scattered fragments of his book. He lived and died a recluse in Chicago where no one knew of his writings or paintings. There was a folk art gallery in New Orleans that had acquired a small pile of Realms of the Unreal illustrations. I was on tour with REM at the time, Michael Stipe and I visited the gallery where we had a first look at these images of seven little horrified girls pursued by a purple and orange winged cats or evil professors on horseback or resting peacefully under giant sunflowers. I was completely captivated and intrigued.


  • Be true to yourself, and don't worry about some large companies' quarterly profit index.
  • I don't want to live in a culture of despair. I'd like to live in a culture of hope.
  • I would say I'd rather dig a ditch, you know, do hard, manual labor than write lyrics.
  • I'm on this search trying to figure out exactly who I am and what I have to say to people.
  • It's funny, I remember doing the Johnny Carson show, and I couldn't afford my rent.
  • I think Earth Day is very powerful: A day completely focused on the destructive tendencies of human beings on the planet.

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