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Profoundly Horrifying Song Lyrics: "Jack Killed Mom" by Jenny Lewis

December 19, 2013  |  3:00pm
Profoundly Horrifying Song Lyrics: "Jack Killed Mom" by Jenny Lewis

It’s Thursday, and that means another edition of “Profoundly Horrifying Song Lyrics,” the only online feature standing between you and trauma-inducing lyrical content. Today’s entry comes from reader Anita Moore, who sends us “Jack Killed Mom” by Jenny Lewis. Anita offered no other commentary, which, to be honest, terrifies me right off the bat. It’s like something placing you in front of a computer and saying, “watch this YouTube video.” Nothing good comes off it.

So thanks, Anita. If YOU know a profoundly disturbing song that requires immediate analysis, send it in to mailbag@pastemagazine.com. And please check out previous installments at the bottom of this post.

Now let’s move on to Jenny Lewis! As always, I won’t be looking up any backstory or explanation until I’m finished. I want to come to this song fresh and unbiased. Lyrics in bold, my commentary after.

When Jack was born he winked at Mom
Her pretty face was the first he saw
Was Jack wrong because he loved Mom?

I guess…not? I mean, a lot of us love our mothers, right? That’s sort of a hallmark of the human experience, at least if we’re lucky. But something about your tone, Ms. Lewis, suggests that this won’t be quite so simple. Also, I’m not a mother and probably never will be (barring a hilarious Junior-esque turn in my life), but I’m pretty comfortable saying that if I had a child and its first move was to wink at me, I’d be a little creeped out. And all the doctors would think I was crazy when I insisted the baby had winked at me.

“Babies can’t really ‘wink’ in the way that we think of-” they’d begin, but I’d just scream at them that I wasn’t crazy until they had to give me a sedative. Which, let’s face it, is probably what I was after all along.

Where were we?

Things were bad, before they got worse
Mom would pinch Jack until it hurt
Mama thought her boy was cursed

Nice ominous bit of foreshadowing there in the first line, but I’m more concerned about lines two and three. If I read the situation correctly, the mother thought Jack was cursed in some way, which is weird enough on its own. But weirder still? Thinking you can cure the curse by pinching. “If I pinch you enough, the devil will leave your body!” That line was actually in the original script of The Exorcist, but they made William Friedkin cut all of his beloved pinching scenes.

You leave (leave!)
Leave (leave!)
You leave that boy to me

Wait wha- who but huhhhh? Who’s speaking now? I’m confused. Is it the mother? Is it the father, or the mother’s new boyfriend? Is it William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist?

It’s probably William Friedkin.

Oh, Jack, I love him
Well, you leave that boy to me
You leave (leave!)
Leave (leave!)
You leave that boy to me
I know his condition and soon he’ll be set free

I’m just going to assume this is still the mother speaking, and man, we’re getting into some really uncomfortable territory here. The mom—who I will be calling “Mrs. Jack” from now on—is intent on “curing” Jack of something ambiguous, and as we’ve seen above, the cure involves a lot of pinching. And far be it from me to condemn anybody, but thus far I’m not getting the sense that this is the healthiest mother-son relationship in the world. But I grew up in a non-pinching household, so it could just be my liberal bias talking.

Off at school Jack was cruel
He’d become the bully’s bull
Was Jack wrong to mimic Mom?

If nothing else, the questions in this song are easy to answer. Was Jack wrong to love his mother when he was born? Nope. Was he wrong to mimic her pinchin’ ways and become a bully? Yup. Pretty basic stuff.

And after school on the corner stool
Mom was kissing on the Golden Rule
Jack had become the teacher’s fool

Okay, so the golden rule is the classic “treat others as you’d like to be treated” line. A “corner stool” implies a place you go for punishment when you’re bad, and obviously this is a thing that is located within the house, not in the normal school setting. All of that being said, I have no idea what this means beyond some kind of vague sexual misconduct vibe. It gives me the willies, but I can’t put a finger on what any of it means. Which is probably for the best, I think.

You leave (leave!)
Leave (leave!)
Leave that man to me
Oh, Mom, I love you, and soon you will be free
With my will (will!) and my hands (hands!) like old Solomon
And in your honor I’m going to cut that man in half

Oh, hey, there’s another man! I’m getting it now! Before, it was the mom’s boyfriend saying “leave that boy to me,” and now it’s Jack saying, “leave that man to me”! That’s sort of less disturbing, right? Just an old-school jealousy thing going on between a momma’s boy and her new boyfriend. That’s probably who the mom was kissing during that confusing “golden rule” phase this song went through.

Anyway, Solomon was the son of David and a wealthy, powerful king of Israel who eventually turned away from God and doomed his kingdom to a split. But this “cutting in half” business seems to be about the Judgment of Solomon, which is best explained by Newman’s wise bicycle verdict from Seinfeld. Anyway, I don’t know what it means beyond that, and I’m bored. On to the killing!

All the lessons Mama would teach
Books from Rome and ancient Greece
Men push rocks up stony mountains
Turning one fish into five thousand
And a king went blind from his mother’s love

Sisyphus, Jesus, Oedipus. The three main tales all mother’s teach their young children. We can all relate.

A terrible rage came over Jack
His Mama lying on her back

Oh no! Jack caught her in mid-coitus! This is not something that feels likely to be met with a stable, sane reaction!

The one who taught him right from wrong
But knew no better all along
She got ran through when Jack killed his Mom
(Bang bang!)

I know this is supposed to be disturbing, and it is—oh, it is!—but it’s also kind of exhilarating. And that’s the poison of profoundly disturbing song lyrics; the artists lull us to sleep with good music, and then slip deranged messages into our brains. They should all be in jail! Jenny Lewis, you’re hurting this country’s youth!

Don’t leave (leave!)
Don’t leave (leave!)
Don’t leave this world to me
Oh, Mom I love you, I didn’t mean to set you free

LIVE WITH YOUR ACTIONS, JACKY BOY! Also, congrats to Lewis for pinpointing the most horrifying way to talk about killing someone: “setting them free.” My favorite trait of any serial killer is the strange justifications during the act. “You are too beautiful for this world,” and that kind of thing. Every good psychopath thinks he’s some kind of angel of deliverance. Otherwise, you’d never get the job.

With my will (will!) and my hands (hands!) like old Solomon
Oh Mom, I love you, I didn’t mean to set you free

I hear what you’re saying, Jack, but to be quite honest, I haven’t really trusted you since you winked after childbirth.

Was Jack wrong? (Jack killed Mom!)
Was Jack wrong? (Jack killed Mom!)
Was Jack wrong? (Jack killed Mom!)

And we finish with another super easy question. Yes! He was wrong, all right!

***

Everybody exhale. Thanks again to Anita, because that one had some pretty disturbing incestual and oedipal themes before we even got to the murder. When the act of killing is the least unsettling part of the song, you know you’ve got a real doozy. I can’t find any good backstory on this song, so there’s nothing to mitigate the terror in our hearts. Like Solomon, I’m now ready to make my final judgment.

Official Horror Rating: 9.1

Check out our previous installments:

Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
Fake Palindromes – Andrew Bird
Young Girl – Gary Puckett and The Union Gap
Dance Hall Days — Wang Chung
Art Lover – The Kinks
Possum Kingdom — Toadies
Excitable Boy — Warren Zevon
In the Colosseum — Tom Waits
Silhouettes — The Rays

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