Album cover: Li(f)e

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Sage Francis Bio

"All great truths begin as blasphemies," proclaimed the fiery playwright George Bernard Shaw. It's a sentiment that can be applied exponentially to the works of rapper Sage Francis and his exhilarating new album Li(f)e. Francis has never been afraid to provoke. As a result he is a sometimes polarizing and increasingly important figure in modern music. Adored by many, reviled by a few but never ignored and always essential, Sage Francis has emerged as the reigning agent provocateur of hip hop. Read more



LI(F)E BLOG

“The Best of Times” LYRICS & behind-the-scenes wordage

We are now offering a free MP3 of my “The Best of Times” song! CHECK THE LEFT SIDE OF THIS PAGE AND CLICK THE LINK FOR YOUR FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD! To download the song, right click and save. If you’re interested in reading the lyrics or learning how this song came to be then check the text below the photo. There’s less than a month to scoop up the pre-order deals!

"The End of Times" - photo by Anthony St. James

Background info on the song:

Yann Tiersen is my favorite modern composer. Has been for years. In fact, Amélie (the film he did the soundtrack for) is one of the first movies my girlfriend and I watched together. There’s a lot of synchronicity involved with the making of this song which I won’t bother getting into.  Not right now anyway.

When I heard that Yann was willing to provide music for my album I was as excited as I was nervous. The nerves were mainly a result of me receiving the music just two days before my Chicago recording sessions were scheduled to end. The instrumental piece that Mr. Tiersen sent, as you can now hear, has a slow build that gradually gets more chaotic until it crescendos and finishes around the 6 minute mark. This certainly isn’t the kind of music I could plop backlogged lyrics on top of, and in order to maintain an organic feel I had to write the lyrics to the builds of the music. I don’t enjoy writing on the spot. I like sitting on lyrics for a month or a year to let them marinate while I obsess, but with only one night to write this song I had to pull out all the stops. No time to get too tricky. Time to just…”write what ya know.”

I listened to the instrumental repeatedly waiting for images or words to pop into my head. Nothing came. As a last ditch effort I referenced an old letter I had written to my girlfriend while I was touring Europe a few years back. The first line in that letter was, “It’s been a long and lonely trip but I’m glad I took it.” I borrowed that first line for my song and the rest of the song flowed from there. I didn’t have time to filter much. What resulted was a string of raw and revealing moments from my upbringing that seem to have molded my adulthood. Vulnerable and embarrassing tidbits of info that sit in the back of my head at all times. Fuck it. That was my mentality. Fuck it. When all was said and done I felt very satisfied with the outcome. In fact, the thesis of the song seems to be about how we tend to fool ourselves into thinking that the tough and embarrassing moments of our life are much bigger than they actually are. Especially as kids, when we believe that every obstacle we encounter seems like the end of the world. That’s probably the greatest lie of our lives. It’s a lie that is so convincing that some of us kill ourselves over it. It’s important to remember that when all seems lost it really isn’t. As the old credo goes, “This too shall pass.”

It’s worth noting that the letter I borrowed the first line of this song from went on to explain my desire to rid myself of the grind that has come to own me. It’s time for something new. A new ending and a new beginning. In fact, I haven’t written a new song since I finished this track back in July of 2009. I’ve never gone that long without writing at least a verse, but instead of feeling anxious about it I feel strangely content. “It was the best of times. It was the end of times.”

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Enough of my yapping. Here are the lyrics:
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song: THE BEST OF TIMES
album: LI(F)E
written by: Sage Francis

It’s been a long and lonely trip but I’m glad that I took it because it was well worth it. I got to read a couple books and do some research before I reached my verdict. Never thought that I was perfect. Always thought that I had a purpose. Used to wonder if I’d live to see my first kiss.

The most difficult thing I ever did was recite my own words at a service realizing the person I was addressing probably wasn’t looking down from heaven. Or cooking up something in hell’s kitchen, trying to listen in or eaves drop from some another dimension. It was self serving just like this is.

Conveniently religious on Easter Sunday and on Christmas. The television went from being a babysitter to a mistress. Technology made it easy for us to stay in touch while keeping a distance, ’til we just stayed distant and never touched. Now all we do is text too much.

I don’t remember much from my youth. Maybe my memory is repressed. Or I just spent too much time wondering if I’d live to have sex. Fell in love for the first time in 4th grade but I didn’t have the courage to talk to her. In 8th grade I wrote her the note but I slipped it in someone else’s locker.

Considered killing myself ’cause of that. It was a big deal. It was a blown cover. It was over for me. My goose was cooked. Stick a fork it me. The jig is up. I blew my chances, the rest is history, our future was torn asunder. It became abundantly clear that I was only brought here to suffer.

At least I didn’t include my name. Thankfully I wrote the whole note in code and it had 10 layers of scotch tape safety seal making it impossible to open. Plus, it was set to self destruct. Whoever read it probably died…laughing. I wonder if they lived long enough to realize what happened.

A year later, I came to understand that wasn’t love that I was feeling for her. I had someone else to obsess over. I was older. I was very mature. I forged my time signature while practicing my parents autograph ’cause I was failing math. Disconnected the phone when I thought the teacher would call my home.

I checked the mailbox twice a day at the end of a long dirt road. Steamed open a couple envelopes like I was in private detective mode. If you snoop around long enough for something in particular you’re guaranteed to find it. For better or worse that’s how I learned that it’s best to just keep some things private. It was the best of times. It was the end of times.

It was the best of times. It was the end of times. I was always on deck, I was next in line. An only child with a pen and pad writing a list of things that I could never have. The walls in my house were paper thin. Every squabble seemed to get deafening. If my memory serves me correctly I made it a point to void and forget some things. Probably to keep from being embarrassed. Never meant to upset or give grief to my parents. Kept my secrets…hid my talents…in my head, never under the mattress.

Therapy couldn’t break me. Never learned a word that would insure safety. So I spoke softly and I tip toed often. The door to my room was like a big old coffin. The way that it creeked when I closed it shut. Anxieties peaked when it opened up. As if everything that I was thinking would be exposed. I still sleep fully clothed. It was the best of times. It was the end of times.

It was beautiful. It was brutal. It was cruel. It was business as usual.

Heaven. It was hell. Used to wonder if I’d live to see 12.

When I did I figured that I was immortal. Loved to dance but couldn’t make it to the formal. Couldn’t bear watching my imaginary girlfriend bust a move with any other dudes.

Tone Loc was talking bout a “Wild Thang” but I was still caught up in some child thangs. Scared of a God who couldn’t spare the rod. It was clearly a brimstone and fire thang.

Pyromaniac. Kleptomaniac. Couldn’t explain my desire to steal that fire. Now I add it to my rider. Like “Please oh please don’t throw me in that patch of brier!” It was the best of times. It was the end of times.

The school counselor was clueless ’cause I never skipped classes. Perfect attendance. Imperfect accent. Speech impediment they could never really fix and I faked bad eyesight so I could wear glasses.

Considered doing something that would cripple me.I wanted a wheelchair. I wanted the sympathy. I wanted straight teeth so then came braces. 4 years of head gear helped me change faces. It was the best of times. It was the end of times.

Now I wonder if I’ll live to see marriage. Wonder if I’ll live long enough to have kids. Wonder if I’ll live to see my kids have kids. If I do I’m gonna tell ‘em how it is.

“Don’t listen when they tell you that these are your best years. Don’t let anybody protect your ears. It’s best that you hear what they don’t want you to hear. It’s better to have pressure from peers than not have peers. Beer won’t give you chest hair. Spicy food won’t make it curl. When you think you’ve got it all figured out and then your universe collapses…trust me, kid…it’s not the end of the world.”

33 Responses to ““The Best of Times” LYRICS & behind-the-scenes wordage”

  1. Joey says:

    This doesn’t mean you’re done writing songs though…. does it?!

  2. silvano says:

    sage kills your face!

  3. silvano says:

    twice!

  4. silvano says:

    just herd the song.first i had just read the lyrics. now my face is dead.

  5. Carlos says:

    “I wanted a wheelchair. I wanted the sympathy.”

    My jaw is one the floor, I used to want the same thing.

  6. [...] Francis just dropped “Best of Times,” the second track from his upcoming album Li(f)e. The song is a collaboration with composer Yann [...]

  7. Connor Mac says:

    Followed the link Buck 65 posted on his twitter… Definately glad i did. One of your best, sage (even though I generally prefer your slower songs). Keep it up.

  8. Goose says:

    wow. this song gives me chills. probably my fav sage song.

  9. Trey says:

    Absolutely beautiful!

  10. xKELSEYx says:

    Amazing song. hands down.

  11. Kel says:

    I haven’t heard a song that meant so much and hit home with me the way this did in such a long time. Instantly added to list of favorite songs of all time.

  12. Peter says:

    “slow man” was not really my cup of coffee…but THIS one…BOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. THX for such a good start in my day.

  13. Max says:

    incredible!!

  14. Jon says:

    Dam Sage you hit home, hard.

  15. Matt says:

    Just heard the song on Zane’s Lowe show, I’m blown away…

  16. David says:

    this is the first sage francis song i’ve heard, its amazing. you’ve got a new fan.

  17. ian says:

    Nobody replied-dude, are you not going to be writing anymore??? and does it really take a year to master an album? (not trying to be insulting, i just really don’t know)
    well worth the wait tho-i can’t wait till my album gets here!!

  18. silvano says:

    one day huh..good

  19. Chrystal says:

    You speak for us all. The things we felt but could never put into words. When I first found out about you…I used to think you had been following me around my whole Li(f)e. Now i realize I’m not as different as I thought I was… and I’m not the only one…You are like the VOICE of the Ronald Reagan babies!!

  20. m. says:

    BOOM! <3

  21. Brian says:

    My friend introduced you to me a couple months ago with the Crack Pipes and I was instantly hooked. This song though…was exactly what I needed to hear I’ve always thought I was put here to suffer and have always gone through stages where I didn’t think I could go on but of course Li(f)e goes on. Thanks! Can’t wait for the album to drop

  22. Daniel says:

    Sage- thanks. You have an amazing way to speak for all of us without having to step outside of your own life.

  23. [...] Lyrics (taken from here): [...]

  24. James says:

    So good, i’m forever hooked on this song and all other tracks

  25. Jonesy says:

    Sage, thank you for this song. Yann is amazing and I have been a fan of you both for years. For some reason the two of you are able to win that tug-of-war in your own separate ways when my head’s cramped and seems disconnected – you by dragging words back to my pen and Yann by pulling rhythms back to my fingers. See you in Denver.

  26. Jeanette says:

    Heard it on 101x today, was a Staff Pick. Never heard of this Sage fellow before. I’m with Kel, hit me hard in the best way. Haven’t cried while listening to a song in a long time. Felt great!

  27. gilly says:

    sage,wot a track the best of times is!jus heard u yday 4 the 1st time n u hav blew me away!al defo b buyin the album n cumin 2 c u wen u tour!

  28. Thatguy says:

    This is the first song I heard from you. After listening to it I bought the album.

    After listening to it I have come to the conclusion that it is the best album of 2010 so far, even beating Distant Relatives.

    Can’t wait to see you in D.C.

  29. [...] here to read Sage’s blog on the creation of the song, plus a transcript of the [...]

  30. Giggleloop says:

    I heard this song on the HD2 channel of my local alternative station yesterday and it blew me away, I had to come home & Google the lyrics to try to find out who it was! Amazing stuff, can’t wait to hear more.

  31. ANdy Dandy says:

    i just heard this song first the first time today

    i’m not afraid to say it; this song had me crying like a baby. for the past month i was thinking alot about life and it being pointless, in fact it was all i was thinking about

    when i heard this song i was immediately taking out of that mentality and realized how precious life is

    thanks you so much for writing this song man. i know i’m not the only person you’ve touched with your words, keep doing what you do i’m gonna keep listening

  32. Tyler says:

    You are awesome in so many ways. I learned of you from one of my students and now I share your music with many of my new students. It takes one voice to change the world, and I will never forget the student who pointed you out to me. It’s been a long trip indeed, but I’m just getting started, thanks for the music and bon mots to keep me Sage-like along the way. Peace.