The Secret Of Life

Artist
Gretchen Peters
Released
1996
Genre
Singer-Songwriter

Listen to The Secret Of Life in its entirety.

  1. Waiting For The Light To Turn Green -:-- / -:--
  2. Border Town -:-- / -:--
  3. I Ain’t Ever Satisfied -:-- / -:--
  4. I Was Looking For You -:-- / -:--
  5. On A Bus To St. Cloud -:-- / -:--
  6. Over Africa -:-- / -:--
  7. This Uncivil War -:-- / -:--
  8. The Secret Of Life -:-- / -:--
  9. A Room With A View -:-- / -:--
  10. Circus Girl -:-- / -:--
  11. When You Are Old -:-- / -:--

LYRICS

WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO TURN GREEN

by Gretchen Peters and Suzy Bogguss

It’s raining in my coffee cup
Comin’ down since I got up today—cold and gray
And lookin’ in my rearview mirror I could be anywhere
But here I am—traffic jam
All these people without names
Every day we face the same routine
Waiting for the light to turn green

The lady in the blue sedan
Combs her hair and steals a glance at me—who is she?
Does anybody hold her tight
Or does she spend her days and nights at home all alone
And over in the passing zone
All wrapped up inside their own daydreams
They’re waiting for the light to turn green

Do they wonder who I am
Do they know I’m not some damn machine
Waiting for the light to turn green
What about the love I long for
What about the child I want someday—where are they?
What about my heart’s desire
What about these four bald tires I’m on—how long?
I’ve been goin’ nowhere fast
Runnin’ out of time and gasoline
Waiting for the light to turn green

I’ll be damned if I’ll grow old
Waiting for these wheels to roll, not me
Waitin’ for the light to turn green

©©1993 Sony/ATV Tunes
LLC/Purple Crayon Music & Famous Music Corp./Loyal Dutchess Music.
All Rights OBO Sony ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music ADM.
By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP).
All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

BORDER TOWN

by Gretchen Peters

Carmelita was a street angel but she kept her halo hid
Never learned to read or write so well she was just a farmer’s kid

She took communion at the age of twelve, she wore a cross of wood
She heard the clanging of the mission bell
and she vowed that she’d be good

But the world goes round
And it’s hard enough to stand your ground
There’s always someone tryin’ to keep you down
In a border town

Mamacita said you can’t go down,
stay away from the white man’s world
She drew the line at the edge of town
for her little dark-haired girl
But Carmelita she had other plans and her life had just begun

She ran away with a black-eyed man
and he left her with a black-eyed son

But the world goes round
And it’s hard enough to stand your ground
There’s always someone tryin’ to keep you down
In a border town

Carmelita now she’s settlin’ down, she’s not so free and wild
She rides a bus all the way across town
to love somebody else’s child
Shows up each morning
right on time and at six o’clock she’s gone
She keeps her distance and she toes the line
cause she knows where it’s been drawn

But the world goes round
And it’s hard enough to stand your ground
There’s always someone tryin’ to keep you down
In a border town

©1995 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music.
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP).
All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

I AIN’T EVER SATISFIED

by Steve Earle

I was born by the railroad track
Train whistle wailed and I wailed right back
Daddy left Mama when I was quite young
Said one of these days you’re gonna follow me on

Whoa I ain’t ever satisfied

Well I had me a man and he was my world
Oh, but I ran off like a back street girl
Back street woman cannot be true
Now I’m standing on the corner just thinkin’ ’bout you

Whoa I ain’t ever satisfied
Whoa I ain’t ever satisfied

I got an empty feeling deep inside
I’m goin’ over to the other side
Last night I dreamed I made it to the promised land
I was standing at the gate and I had the key in my hand
St. Peter said come in child you’re finally home
I said no thank you Peter I’ll just move along

Whoa I ain’t ever satisfied
Whoa I ain’t ever satisfied

©1987 WB Music Corp. (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved Used By Permission

I WAS LOOKING FOR YOU

by Gretchen Peters

I was born with a hunger nobody could name
Mama said I was restless, just made that way
But I was looking for you, I was looking for you
I’d wake up crying and she’d hold me tight
But something about it just didn’t feel right
Cause I was looking for you, I was looking for you

I was looking for you all this time
I was looking for you, hoping I’d find
A little light in the darkness
A little shelter at sea
A little sign from above, now
That you were looking for me

I used to ride down Main Street in the middle of the night
I was looking for trouble and I found it all right
It was easy to do—I was looking for you
And I thought it was a miracle when you looked my way
And I felt my heart beat when I heard you say
I was looking for you girl, I was looking for you

I was looking for you all this time
I was looking for you, hoping I’d find
A little light in the darkness
A little shelter at sea
A little sign from above, now
That you were looking for me

One day it’s rapture, the next despair
I pulled up at a stoplight and I saw you there
And I saw her too—I was looking for you
Last night I met someone and I looked in his eyes
Took me a minute ‘fore I realized
That I was looking for you,

I was looking for you I was looking for you all this time
I was looking for you, hoping I’d find
A little light in the darkness
A little shelter at sea
A little sign from above, now
That you were looking for me

©1992 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission

ON A BUS TO ST. CLOUD

by Gretchen Peters

On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you Like a silent prayer
And once on a street in New York City
With the jazz and the sin in the air
And once on a cold L.A. freeway
Going nowhere

And it’s strange, but it’s true
I was sure it was you
Just a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud

In a church in downtown New Orleans
I got down on my knees and prayed
And I wept in the arms of Jesus
For the choice you made
We were just gettin’ to the good part
Just gettin’ past the mystery
Oh, and it’s just like you, just like you
To disagree

And it’s strange, but it’s true
You just slipped out of view
Like a face in the crowd
On a bus to St. Cloud

And you chase me like a shadow
And you haunt me like a ghost
And I hate you some, and I love you some
But I miss you most…

On a bus to St. Cloud, Minnesota
I thought I saw you there
With the snow falling down around you
Like a silent prayer

©1994 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission

OVER AFRICA

by Gretchen Peters

Under Kilimanjaro
She guards her young
And she speaks to the darkness
In the mother tongue
She waits and she watches
All night long
She calls to her lover
And she sings this song

I will be there for you whatever comes
I am as constant as the beat of drums
My love is stronger than the noonday sun over Africa
Over Africa

It’s a force of nature
It’s the power of need
Love will heal you, baby
And it’ll make you bleed
But I will be patient
I will bide my time
I will be waiting
Like a mama lion

I will be there for you whatever comes
I am as constant as the beat of drums
My love is stronger than the noonday sun over Africa
Over Africa

Between love and money, between pride and sin
We are just wild things underneath the skin
In the cradle of creation we were made this way
Bound together til our dying day

It’s the law of the jungle
It’s the ancient truth
Live by the senses, baby
Die by the tooth
But I would walk through fire
I would swim the sea
Long as I live and breathe
You belong to me

I will be there for you whatever comes
I am as constant as the beat of drums
My love is stronger than the noonday sun over Africa
Over Africa

©1995 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved Used by Permission

THIS UNCIVIL WAR

by Gretchen Peters

There’s a silence on the front lines
You can cut it with a knife
You can stay and take your chances
Or you can run to save your life
And one side is retreating
And the other’s runnin’ scared
And the drums of war are beating
Even though it’s undeclared
And both sides say they’re winning
And both sides know they’re losing
And neither one knows what they’re fightin’ for
And in the quiet little places
You can see the little faces
Huddled right outside the bedroom door
Praying for an end to this uncivil war

Papa needs a new job
So he’s swallowing his pride
Oh, but it don’t go down easy
And it eats him up inside
And Mama, she don’t notice
Little sister’s ragged dress
Lately she don’t notice
Much of anything I guess
They’re just fightin’ off the hunger
Tryin’ to keep from goin’ under
But the wolves just keep on gathering round the door
There’s no place to run for cover
And so they’re turning on each other
Cause there really ain’t no winners anymore
Just victims in this uncivil war

Repeat first verse

©1993 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved Used by Permission

THE SECRET OF LIFE

by Gretchen Peters

Couple of guys sittin’ around drinkin’ down at the Starlight Bar
One of ’em says, you know I been thinkin’—
Other one says that won’t get you too far
He says this is your life and welcome to it—
It’s just workin’ and drinkin’ and dreams
Ad on the TV says “Just do it”—
Hell if I know what that means…

The secret of life is a good cup of coffee
The secret of life is keep your eye on the ball
The secret of life is a beautiful woman
And Marilyn stares down from the barroom wall…

You and me, we’re just a couple of zeroes—
Just a couple of down-and-outs
But movie stars and football heroes—
What’ve they got to be unhappy about?
So they turn to the bartender, “Sam what do you think—
What’s the key that unlocks that door?”
Sam don’t say nothin’, he just wipes down the bar
And he pours ’em a couple more

Cause the secret of life is in Sam’s martinis
The secret of life is in Marilyn’s eyes
The secret of life is in Monday night football
And Rolling Stones records and Mom’s apple pies

Sam looks up from his Sunday paper—
He says boys you’re on the wrong track
The secret of life is there ain’t no secret
And you don’t get your money back

The secret of life is gettin’ up early
The secret of life is stayin’ up late
The secret of life is try not to hurry
But don’t wait, don’t wait…

The secret of life is a good cup of coffee
The secret of life is keep your eye on the ball
The secret of life is to find the right woman
The secret of life is nothin’ at all

Repeat first verse

©1994 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing
(ASCAP) All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

by Gretchen Peters

I drive a cab in Brooklyn—I like my job okay
Nobody breathin’ down my neck—I just drive around all day
I meet all kinds of people—I’ve got the gift of gab
Been everything from bums to kings in the back seat of my cab

And I got a roof over my head
I got three square meals and a nice warm bed
I got a place I can call my own when the day is through
I got a room with a view

Don’t have much education but I know how people are
You’d be surprised what you can learn
From the front seat of a car
I sleep real good most every night and my baby he does too
We ain’t rich but we’re all right just doin’ what we do

And I got a roof over my head
I got three square meals and a nice warm bed
I got a place I can call my own when the day is through
I got a room with a view

Now when this life is over and the angels take me back
I’ll let em drive my yellow cab and I’ll be the one in back
But this world don’t owe me nothin’—I learned that long ago
Got everything I’ll ever need to get me where I wanna go

And I got a roof over my head
I got three square meals and a nice warm bed
I got a place I can call my own when the day is through
I got a room with a view

©1995 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved Used by Permission

CIRCUS GIRL

by Gretchen Peters

I work the high wire in the center ring
Defying gravity, that’s my thing
Guess I never wanted no regular life
I couldn’t stand to be nobody’s wife
Some people tell me that I’m livin’ their dream
But things in the circus ain’t what they seem
Believe me darlin’ it’s a lonely world
It ain’t easy for a circus girl

Nobody knows you when you come to town
You’re somebody’s hero or you’re somebody’s clown
And you hope like hell that it’ll be enough
Cause you’re nobody’s baby when the sun comes up
You can dazzle em with beauty
Make ’em laugh until they cry
You can give ’em the thrill of a lifetime
But they always say good-bye

It’s just that sometimes I get so tired
Of goin’ nowhere on that little wire
I’d like to plant my feet on solid ground
But God have mercy it’s a long way down
So I climb that ladder right on up to the sky
I don’t look down and I don’t ask why
And just for a moment I’m on top of the world
Just for a moment I’m a circus girl

©1993 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights ADM. By Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved Used by Permission

WHEN YOU ARE OLD

by Gretchen Peters

When you are old and tired and gray
And wear your overcoat on sunny days
When your brave tales have all been told
I’ll ask for them when you are old

When you are old and full of sleep
And death no longer makes you weep
When your body aches with cold
I’ll warm your heart when you are old

And you’ll still be the same to me
A comfort and a mystery
And I will be old too, you see
I’ll need someone to comfort me

When you are old and pale and gaunt
And a gentle hand is all you want
I will give you mine to hold
I’ll be here when you are old

©1991 Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/Purple Crayon Music
All Rights Administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing (ASCAP).
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

NOTES

The Secret Of LifeThe Secret of Life

When I wrote this song in the mid-90s I really felt I had come up with something different. Musically it was not your standard 1/4/5 fare (although it reverts back to a pretty common progression in the chorus), and certainly it was not your typical country music lyric, either. After it was released as the title song of my first album, Faith Hill came along and recorded the hit version. I was surprised, to say the least.

Over AfricaOver Africa

I wanted to write something that would be different, fun to play, and something that the band could stretch out on. I think it caused a lot of country radio people to scratch their heads and say “no, thanks”.

Border TownBorder Town

The idea came from an article in The New Yorker about women from Puerto Rico who come to New York to be nannies. Some had children they’d left behind in order to care for someone else’s kids – and then they’d become attached to these other children. Some of them were abused, taken advantage of, all kinds of things. Carmelita is a woman who was raised to believe that if you’re good, the world will treat you well.

On A Bus To St. CloudOn A Bus To St. Cloud

I could never have predicted the trajectory this song would take. Trisha Yearwood’s beautiful version was an unsuccessful country single, Jimmy LaFave’s transcendent version became one of his most requested songs, and my own version became my most-played song on BBC’s Radio 2 thanks to people like Terry Wogan and Bob Harris. It was never really a hit, but is the most requested song we do live, by a long shot.

When You Are OldWhen You Are Old

This was my first radio single. It did much better in the UK than it did in the US – and the Irish took to it as their own, which is right and proper since the title was lifted from a Yeats poem. It’s been played at both weddings and funerals and I take that as a very big compliment.

Circus GirlCircus Girl

Of all the songs on the album, this one is my favorite. It’s grown more autobiographical and closer to my heart as the years have gone by. I loved this character when I wrote her; eventually I became her.

A Room With A ViewA Room With A View

Inspired by a female taxi driver in New York, who I had the pleasure of being driven by. She talked about life in terms of very basic reality: food, shelter & clothing – but she was not without a philosophical side. She understood that people need stimulation in their lives – you have to have somewhere for your mind to go. It’s the fourth essential element – that’s how she viewed the world. It’s not necessarily a matter of formal education – most of the stuff she learned, she learned in the front seat of a cab.

I Ain't Ever SatisfiedI Ain’t Ever Satisfied

I’d been doing this live with my band for two years before making The Secret Of Life album. I’ve been a fan of Steve Earle since I signed with my very first publishing company – he was one of the songwriters signed there, so I got to hear his songs before the records came out.

Waiting For The Light To Turn GreenWaiting For The Light To Turn Green

I wrote this with my dear friend Suzy Bogguss. It was raining really, really hard that day, the way it can in Nashville, and obviously that came out in the song. I don’t remember much more about writing it, except that we became friends after that and now here we are all these years later touring together!

I Was Looking For YouI Was Looking For You

Emotionally the twin to “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied”. I love singing this song, and was really happy with the way it came out. We actually tried to re-record this for The Secret Of Life, but the demo sounded so good that we ended up using it instead.

This Uncivil WarThis Uncivil War

I wasn’t really conscious of what I was writing about here. There’s a whole lot of autobiographical stuff in there, my childhood, my parents’ divorce. When a marriage blows up, it’s like there’s a war in the house.

REVIEWS

TIME MAGAZINE

The Secret Of Life

Brave Tales: Gretchen Peters Sings The Poetry Of Everyday Lives

by Richard Corliss

A couple of decades ago, Tin Pan Alley moved to the South and changed its name to Nashville. There the division of musical labor still largely applied: singers sang and songwriters wrote. In the past few years one distinct author’s voice has emerged from the throats of Martina McBride (Independence Day), Patty Loveless (You Don’t Even Know Who I Am) and Trisha Yearwood (On a Bus to St. Cloud). The composer is Gretchen Peters, and her own first album, The Secret of Life (Imprint), offers 10 fresh reasons to elect her to the country songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

So many pop songs inhabit emotional extremes–the juice of ecstasy, the razor on the wrist of despair–that someone writing about the middle ground most of us occupy most of the time can sound like a pioneer of the everyday. Peters extracts muted poetry from lives that might seem either prosaic, like taxi drivers (A Room with a View) and people locked in a traffic jam (Waiting for the Light to Turn Green), or dangerous (Circus Girl). Carmelita, in Border Town, leaves her own baby at home “to love somebody else’s child” as a nanny: “She keeps her distance and she tows the line/ Cause she knows where it’s been drawn.” Peters’ world holds more ifs than epiphanies. “The secret of life,” promised in the title song, turns out to be “nothin’ at all.”

Yet Peters, whose choir-girl voice has a seductive hint of late nights and cigarettes, knows the tunesmith’s secret: crafting a good love song. The catchy, uptempo Over Africa sees love as “a force of nature…the power of need.” And the passionately elegiac When You Are Old is a declaration of eternal devotion: “When your brave tales have all been told/ I’ll ask for them when you are old.” In Peters’ music every tale is brave, unique, beautiful.

PEOPLE

“If Peters never delivers another tune as achingly beautiful as “On a Bus to St. Cloud,”… she has already earned herself a spot among country’s upper echelon of contemporary composers.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“she has more in common with the romantic sensibilities of Rickie Lee Jones… Peters’ songs about emotional thirsts that never get quenched have a quiet power all their own…”