How often have you listened to a song and wondered about what the words mean, what the writer was thinking? I heard once that when someone asked John Lennon about the meaning of a song he’d written, he responded something to the effect of “I make up the words, you make up the meaning.” Good thought-provoking answer, but maybe you want more, and sometimes you can have it.

Like many of my songs, “Everyone’s a Suicide” from the Iron Diplomat album came from a dark place. In early 2002, a friend called one morning and told me that a mutual friend and Air Force crewmate had taken his own life. Six months later I found out a close friend, also an Air Force colleague, had died in a plane crash. Six months after that, I learned another Air Force friend, a close one, had committed suicide. A week later, the police called me and told me that my younger brother Alan, after a long and debilitating illness, had also ended his life. A plane crash and three suicides in a year. It all started to hit me hard, to the point where my shock and grief circuits overloaded, and the breaker popped. After going into a major tailspin for a while, then finally pulling out of it, I started the vital processing.

It occurred to me that to some extent, we all choose the manner and timing of our own demise, hence the title. The first verse refers to one friend in particular, I won’t tell you which one, but my comrades from that era can probably figure it out. The rest of the song is about living life to the fullest. I like to end songs triumphantly, even the dark ones, and this one ends in a call for defiance. Here are the words:

Everyone's a Suicide 

eldon tyrell told us 
the light that burns so 
bright burns out fast
some stars fall at night 
and shine by day
unseen too good to last
her final words to him 
come back to me
we all know she tried 
yeah she tried
some people called him 
loser but I know
everyone’s a suicide
the specter of mortality
we all think about it now 
and then
some try to hide from 
death and so they live
fearing how and when
you can drown in mediocrity
leaving blind abandon to decide
or transcend rationality 
and face it
everyone’s a suicide
tired of living half a life
strangled by somebody 
else’s fears
better burn white hot for fifty
than smolder for a 
hundred hopeless years
 better go out laughing
 before the spark 
divine disappears
 burn so very brightly
 burn so very brightly
 burn so very brightly
 burn burn burn  

Everyone's A Suicide

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Everyone’s a Suicide

Rick Gehrke

Rick Gehrke

Rick Gehrke is a technical writer, musician, songwriter, Master of Environmental Science, and author of Fifty Ways to Love Your Liver: A Hard Drinker’s Reflections on Moderation. A veteran in U.S. military airborne intelligence, multi-lingual world traveler, and adventure sports enthusiast, Rick is a life-long student in the school of hard knocks and wild times. Self-critical yet unapologetic, he shows readers his own dark side and theirs, along with blaze marks on a path into the light. Rick lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his beautiful wife and two amazing children.