Nick Cave answers whether he will change old “problematic” lyrics

If you’re like me, you may have spent hours scrolling the feed of Nick Cave‘s Red Hand Files website.

Always one for a clear and well thought out answer, recently Cave took to the site to answer a question regarding some of his potentially less thought out lyrics.

nick cave

In relation to his past problematic lyrics, Nick Cave has commented in a recent post that people should “punish the creators, not the songs”.

Posted by Gavin from Ireland, the question addressed some of Cave’s earlier lyrics from his extensive discography. “Do you ever feel the need to change lyrics, when performing live, which may be problematic in 2020?” Gavin enquired.

As an example, he included a lyric from Cave’s song Papa Won’t Leave You Henry, which describes: “a f** in a whalebone corset dragging his dick across my cheek”. 

In classic Cave fashion, the musician gave a considered and thoroughly precise answer. “These days, some of my songs are feeling a little nervous,” he described. “They are like children that have been playing cheerfully in the schoolyard, only to be told that all along they have had some hideous physical deformity.” 

He continued by focusing the blame on the creators of the lyrics and not the lyrics themselves. “Writers should have been more careful with our words.”

Yet, he also acknowledged the way that social standards inevitably evolve with time. “What songwriter could have predicted thirty years ago that the future would lose its sense of humour, its sense of playfulness, its sense of context, nuance and irony, and fall into the hands of a perpetually pissed off coterie of pearl-clutchers? How were we to know?”

So much of Cave’s career has been grounded in the obscene, grotesque, extraordinary, and other-worldly. His lyrics are the crux of his gift, and his music adds impact in a bulldozer-like fashion. In a memorable final, Cave asserts: “I would rather be remembered for writing something that was discomforting or offensive, than to be forgotten for writing something bloodless and bland.”

The Red Hand Files have been a perfect way for Cave to discuss the more gritty aspects of his life and opinions. From his relationship with PJ Harvey through to his love for Kanye West, Cave will answer practically anything. If you haven’t already, go check out the rest of his answers and get a deeper look at one of the world’s most acclaimed and extraordinary artists.