Although “Desperado” was made popular by the Eagles, I heard it first as sung by Karen Carpenter, and then later by Judy Collins. Only recently, however, have I thought seriously about the message of the lyrics. Considering them is the purpose of the following.
It simply is the case that most of us (if not all of us), have our limits as to how close we will let other folk get to us. In A Severe Mercy, author Sheldon Vanauken tells the story of how he and his wife Davy isolated themselves from everyone else, cleaving only to themselves. It was their way to experience what they thought were the depths of love. They erected a “Shining Barrier” to protect themselves from intrusion by anyone else.
After Davy’s death, which brought to an end the Vanauken’s 17 years long personal experiment in marital oneness, Sheldon received a letter from C.S. Lewis with whom he maintained correspondence. In the letter, Lewis referred to Davy’s passing as “a severe mercy.” Among other things, Lewis was telling Vanauken that God had more “life” for people than can be experienced either by being a solitaire or one half of a couple.
That brings me back to “Desperado” which concludes with an unexpected expression – “You better let someone love you before it’s too late.” Note that the expression is not, “you better love someone before it’s too late”; it is “let someone love you” before it is too late.
As did Sheldon and Davy Vanauken, the desperado was living a life of self-protection, sealing himself off from the love of the rest of the world. He was his own man. He needed no one else. His “walking through this world all alone” was, however, not freedom, but his prison. Was he so egotistical that he had no interest in anyone else’s opinions? Was he so fearful that he perceived anyone’s suggestions as a threat? Was he so convinced of being worthless to others that he didn’t want them to waste their time on him? I don’t know; I am not a psychiatrist nor the son of a psychiatrist.
What I do know is that as important as it is to love others, it is equally important to allow “others” to love us. In actuality, being loved is the base for our loving others. And, the “others” ultimately include the God of the universe, whose love for us reached the point of the Son of God bearing upon Himself what would have killed all of us otherwise. We live by being loved, and then, by loving.
With what you have just read, now listen to Karen Carpenter sing (“link to Desperado”). As you can follow along with the lyrics, don’t miss those final two lines!!
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses? You been out ridin’ fences for so long now. Oh, you’re a hard one but I know that you got your reasons. These things that are pleasin’ you can hurt you somehow
Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds boy; She’ll beat you if she’s able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet. Now it seems to me, some fine things have been laid upon your table. But you only want the ones that you can’t get
Desperado, oh you ain’t gettin’ no younger. Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home. And freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talkin’. Your prison is walkin’ through this world all alone.
Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time? The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine. It’s hard to tell the night time from the day. You’re losin’ all your highs and lows. Ain’t it funny how the feelin’ goes away?
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses? Come down from your fences, open the gate. It may be rainin’ but there’s a rainbow above you. You better let somebody love you. . . . You better let somebody love you before it’s too late
Comments are welcome!!