“Dani California” lyrics by Red Hot Chili Peppers – for English students

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From a young girl in a police family to a final showdown in the Badlands, there’s a lot of action in this song. We”ll be going over “Dani California” lyrics by Red Hot Chili Peppers here with explanations, especially for you English students out there. Learn some new idioms, slang, and grammar points. Learn a little about society too. And don’t forget to listen to the song to check your understanding! I checked the lyrics on Genius if you want a reference. After you read, make sure to find other song lyrics explanations here. Alright, here we go:

Song Lyrics

Gettin’ born in the state of Mississippi

  • Grammar: *Being born…
  • Society: He could be using the improper “getting born” to present the uneducated origins of Dani from Mississippi.

Poppa was a copper and her momma was a hippie

  • Slang: “Copper” is an informal word for a cop or police officer.
A chain gang of African American prisoners in the old South of the USA as sung in the lyrics of Dani California song
Classic chain gang – By Detroit Publishing Co.

In Alabama, she would swing a hammer

  • Society: “Swinging a hammer” probably refers to a chain gang. This is a form of punishment in prisons that has been outlawed for a while. Prisoners had to do unpaid labor like build and construct things, often in the form of mining or clearing space for roads and train rails. Working in a mine or with heavy tools creates the idea of swinging a hammer,

Price you gotta pay when you break the panorama

  • Grammar: *It’s the price you have to pay…
  • Figurative Speech: “Breaking the panorama” is like going against what everyone else is doing, or not fitting in. In Dani’s case, she is probably breaking the laws established in her community.

She never knew that there was anything more than poor

  • Society: Just a note; the way he pronounces “poor” like “po” is an informal but common way for certain American communities to pronounce it. This is usually associated with poor, black, or Southern speakers.

What in the world, what does your company take me for?

  • Daily speech: By “company” here, he means the people you spend time with, not a real enterprise or business. Asking “What do you take me for?” is another way of saying “Who do you think I am?” or “You are wrong about me!” Also, saying “What in the world?” is a simple way to show that you are shocked or confused by something. You can also use it to ask a question. “What in the world is that thing? Oh, it looks like a termite.”

Black bandana, sweet Louisiana

  • Culture/Society: The “black bandana” is usually a symbol of criminal activity. This is because traditionally when someone would rob a place, they would wear a bandana to cover their face.

Robbin’ on a bank in the state of Indiana

  • Grammar: *Robbing a bank …
  • Culture: Again, using informal grammar on purpose to relate to a specific class or region of the U.S. In these communities, it can be common for people to say a verb with “on.” “He was kissing on her, loving all on the poor girl. So she didn’t like that and slapped all on his face.”

She’s a runner, rebel and a stunner

  • Figurative/Informal speech: “Runner” in the sense of a fugitive. Also, she lives a fast-paced lifestyle. I can’t tell exactly if he sings “stunner” or “stunter,” but either way he is saying that Dani is confident and likes to show off her skills. She can stun others with her abilities but can make herself look amazing doing it.

On her merry way sayin’, “Baby, what you gonna—?

  • Other details: “Merry” of course means happy or cheerful. Her saying “Baby, what you gonna–?” can be like her teasing or playing with her victims. She’s also a quick shooter, killing them before they can even answer her question.
Model of a Colt Forty-five pistol gun sung in the lyrics of Dani California by Red Hot Chili Peppers M1911A1.png
By M62 – This file was derived from:  M1911 A1 pistol.jpg,

Lookin’ down the barrel of a hot metal .45

  • Informal speech: “A metal .45” probably refers to a Colt .45, a type of gun.

Just another way to survive

California, rest in peace

  • Special occasion: “Rest in peace” (R.I.P.) is what we say when someone has died.

Simultaneous release

  • Figurative speech: This line could be talking about the “release” of a gunshot that “releases” Dani’s soul. It also sounds like it could have a sensual meaning, but we’ll stick to the violent one, hehe.

California, show your teeth

  • Figurative speech: Saying “show your teeth” is another way of making people afraid of you. Think of how wolves or lions show their teeth to try and intimidate others. It could also mean showing us who you really are.

She’s my priestess, I’m your priest, yeah, yeah

  • Figurative speech: This is like saying she told him, so now he is telling us. She taught him, now he will teach us.

She’s a lover, baby and a fighter

  • Figurative speech: “Baby” here meaning someone sweet, kind, loving, and also a bit innocent.

Shoulda seen her comin’ when it got a little brighter

  • Grammar: *I should have seen …
  • Figurative speech: “Get brighter” here refers to something becoming more clear or evident. It’s like the phrase “come to light,” which has this same meaning.

With a name like Dani California

Day was gonna come when I was gonna mourn ya

  • Deeper meaning: He says this like he knew the day was going to come.
  • Informal speech: “Ya” in this case is an informal way of pronouncing you.

A little loaded, she was stealin’ another breath

  • Slang: “Loaded” means drunk. It could also have a double meaning, referring to her loaded gun (gun with bullets in it).
  • Figurative speech: “Stealing a breath” is like the phrase “Cheating death.” This means living dangerously, encountering seemingly fatal situations and still making it out alive.

I love my baby to death

  • Figurative speech: “Loving something to death” is actually a pretty common term in English. It usually just means that you love someone or something a lot. Here, he uses the “to death” part literally, so it sounds a bit more morbid.

California, rest in peace

  • Other details: Now we see that California is Dani’s last name, so we know he’s talking about a woman, not the state.

Simultaneous release

California, show your teeth

She’s my priestess, I’m your priest, yeah, yeah

Who knew the other side of you?

Who knew what others died to prove?

Too true to say goodbye to you

Too true to say, say, say

Push the fader, gifted animator

  • Informal speech: To push the “fader” is referring to the fade feature where DJ’s or music producers make a song fade at the end.
  • Figurative speech: Referring to the “gifted animator,” this could be a reference to the Creator, the designer of the universe, putting an end to Dani’s life as if it were a song. This relates the fading feature in music to the fading away of a person’s life.

One for the now and eleven for the later

  • Unusual format: This might be a reference to the bullets in a gun. There was one shot, and eleven were saved for later.

Never made it up to Minnesota

  • Informal speech: To “make it” somewhere is the same as getting there or arriving there. The same is used for non-physical places. “She never made it to 21 (she died before turning 21).”

North Dakota man was a gunnin’ for the quota

  • Other details: The “quota” means a share or earnings from something.
  • Slang/Informal speech: This North Dakota man was “gunning,” or using his gun, to get a piece of the reward, apparently for stopping Dani. Adding “a” before a verb is also a stereotypical way that rural or Southern people are seen to talk. It has no meaning but is used to add color to speech. “He was a-going and a-going until he got tired. Then his feet start a-hurting.”
An example of the Badlands, geography of western North America from Pexels, sung in the lyrics of Dani California
An example of Badlands – Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Down in the Badlands, she was savin’ the best for last

  • Geography: The “Badlands” is a geographical feature of several U.S. states, and other parts of the world. It is characterized by desert or rugged rocky landscapes where few animals live. It’s usually dry and looks like a very tough place to live.
  • Figurative speech: The rock formations look like a spectacular arena or something, so she put on a final show.

It only hurts when I laugh

  • Figurative speech: He laughs when he remembers the good times with Dani, which also hurts because she is not around anymore.

Gone too fast

. Then they repeat.

Final Thoughts

The story of Dani California is a classic bandit highway criminal tale. We have a girl with humble beginnings in the South who’s a rebel for her times. She grows up, gets into more and more trouble, all until she eventually gets taken down. The lyrics add in a lot of colloquial or figurative phrases to better paint the picture of where Dani California is from. There are several bits of imagery to present her wild lifestyle and we see her final demise at the end. The singer loves this woman, has respect for her, but that couldn’t save her. After all, we see that a life of crime really doesn’t pay, though it can bring us fun and exciting memories.

Thanks for reading/listening and I hope you enjoyed the post! Check out some related posts if you want, and follow to be notified of new posts to your email. Thanks and have a good one!

“Tighten Up” [The Black Keys] – lyrics for English students

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Thanks for coming! Practice your English skills by reading and listening to the song lyrics. You can find more songs here on the website, too.

I wanted love, I needed love

Most of all, most of all

Someone said true love was dead

And I’m bound to fall, bound to fall for you

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Oh, what can I do? Yeah

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Take my badge but my heart remains

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Lovin’ you, baby child

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Tighten up on your reins

You are runnin’ wild, runnin’ wild, it’s true

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Sick for days in so many ways

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I’m achin’ now, I’m achin’ now

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It’s times like these I need relief

Please show me how, oh show me how to get right

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Yeah, it’s out of sight

When I was young and movin’ fast

Nothin’ slowed me down, oh, slowed me down

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Now I let the others pass, I’ve come around

Oh come around, ’cause I’ve found

Livin’ just to keep goin’

Goin’ just to be sane

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All the while not knowin’

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It’s such a shame

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I don’t need to get steady

I know just how I feel

I’m tellin’ you to be ready

My dear

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  • To be “bound to” do something means that it is meant to happen or destined to happen. In other words, it is guaranteed. “If you jump off of bridges, you are bound to get hurt.” In this lyric, “falling” refers to falling in love. Sometimes people don’t say the “in love” part but it means the same thing.
  • “Badge” here can mean respect or honor since people who wear badges are generally respected and honored people. She took his honor but he still loves her (my heart remains).
  • Calling her “baby child” is a way to sound like he is in control or has power in the relationship. It also sounds like he feels pity for her because some people say this when they feel sorry for another person. Still, it’s a loving term.
  • To “tighten up” is to hold onto something tighter or more firmly. “Reins” are the equipment used to steer a horse or other large animal. That’s where we get the word “reindeer”. “Tightening up the reins” can be thought of as getting a strong grip on your life, controlling yourself more, behaving more appropriately.
  • This shows how “sick” can be a state of feeling terribly both physically and emotionally.
  • Of course, to “ache” is pretty much the same as to hurt. That’s why we say headache, back ache, etc.
  • *It is in times like these…
  • To “get right” is to feel better or live life better. When someone wants to have a more fulfilling and successful life, they want to get right.
  • “Out of sight” is more of an old-fashioned slang. It was more popular in the ’70s but obviously, people love the ’70s and so it’s still popular among some groups of people. It means that something is amazing, it’s so good that you can’t see it anymore, out of sight.
  • To “come around” usually means to come over, like to someone’s house. “What time are you coming over?” In this song, though, he uses a figurative meaning. “Come around” also means to come to your senses, or to realize that you were doing something wrong. You think more clearly now. “Finally, you stopped listening to that terrible rock band. I knew you would come around.”
  • “All the while” means the whole time. It’s especially used in situations when someone doesn’t know about something, but they usually find out later. “The kids were crying to buy ice cream after school when, all the while, there was already ice cream at home.”
  • Such a” before a descriptive noun just adds emphasis, meaning it is a lot or in a big way. “He’s such a good guy (a really good guy).”
  • “Steady” normally means to be stable or in control, both physically and emotionally. To “get steady” then means to become stable or to gain control of himself/his emotions.

The song lyrics are quite short but there’s a lot of story in them. We have an old love seemingly from childhood, and a guy who insists on love when everyone else doubts him. It seems like for good reason since the love interest has disrespected him and hurt him. Still, like so many of us, he insists on keeping the relationship going, keeping hope alive, and denying he needs any help at all. I like the idea of these lyrics because he hasn’t yet resolved his relationship issues and he’s very much still trying to figure out what he’s doing, all while being a little bit in denial. Either way he seems to have a strong mindset about it and is warning us to “be ready” for when he is back on top of things. This story is not over yet!

Thanks for reading. Here are some things to think about and some questions to answer in the comments if you want to practice your English writing skills. I will give feedback on any comments or answers guys!

Questions

  1. Do you know someone who should “tighten up” their reins and behave a little better?
  2. Why do you think someone might tell you “love is dead?” Do you agree with this statement?
  3. Do you like The Black Keys? What other songs do you like by them?
  4. Why do you think they’re called “the black keys”, anyway?

“Lazaretto” [Jack White] – lyrics for English students

Watch video below–>

Oh, my veins are blue and connected

  • Having “blue blood” means to be privileged, an aristocrat, or well-off. There also might be a connection to Blues music.

And every single bone in my brain is electric

  • This reminds me of the phrase “hard-headed” or “having a hard head.” This means that the person doesn’t listen or follow directions, and they like to do things their own way. Having “bones in my brain” might be a reference to having a hard head.

But I dig ditches like the best of ’em

  • Adding “like the best of them” to an action means that you can do it as well as the best. “He’s a great guitarist. He can play it like the best of them.”

Yo trabajo duro

  • For those that don’t speak Spanish/Castilian: “I work hard”

Como en madera y yeso

  • “Like in wood and plaster.” Like he’s a construction worker, basically.

Como en madera y yeso

And even God Herself has fewer plans than me

  • Referring to God as a “Her” in English is not common, but it’s a rebellious way to break the idea that God is a male figure. A biblical reference, but he’s saying he has even more plans than God has. Very busy.

But she never helps me out with my scams for free, though

  • A “scam” is some plan that is discreet, undercover, or malicious, usually trying to trick someone or to do something you’re not supposed to. Again, referring to God as a female.

She grabs a stick and then she points it at me

  • This is like people who are outcasts or have severe diseases. People are too afraid to touch them with their hands, so they only touch them from far away with a stick. It’s like being disgusted or frightened by those who are different than us. It also reminds me of the story of Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, for some reason.

When I say nothing, I say everything

Yeah, when I say nothing, I say everything

Transmission of Leprosy in the US via Armadillos - The Plainspoken  Scientist - AGU Blogosphere
some of the symptoms of leprosy, from here

They threw me down in a lazaretto

  • “Lazaretto” was a special kind of quarantine for people with a disease called leprosy. Historically, people with leprosy were secluded from the rest of society. This relates to him feeling like people threw him away into isolation, maybe because of his style or ideas.
Long before coronavirus, Philly ran a quarantine center for another deadly  contagion
An example of an old lazaretto, found here

Born rottin’, bored rotten

  • To “rot” is to go bad, like when a fruit or piece of meat is left out of the fridge for too long. If he was “born rotting,” this means he was born into this state of quarantine, or he’s never fit in with others since he was a kid. To be “bored rotten” is to be extremely bored. Similarly, a kid that is “rotten” is spoiled, or gets whatever they want even if they act bad. There are a lot of mixed meanings in this small lyric.

Makin’ models of people I used to know

Out of coffee and cotton

And all my illegitimate kids have begotten

  • An “illegitimate child” is one born out of a relationship that is not approved of or outside of marriage, for example. To be “begotten” is to be forgotten and left alone. It’s not such a common word in English nowadays and has more of an archaic or biblical feel to it.

Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin’

  • “Thrown to the wolves” is a popular phrase for when someone is thrown into a situation that they obviously have no chance to win. A similar phrase is “thrown to the lions.” “Feral” means wild or like a wild beast. Also, he pronounces “nothing” like “nuttin,” which is common in certain regions and accents.

Quarantined on the Isle of Man

MICHELIN Isle of Man map - ViaMichelin
Isle of Man between Great Britain & Ireland, from here
  • The Isle of Man is a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

And I’m trying to escape any way that I can, oh

7 Reasons you should visit the Isle of Man
Isle of Man is actually quite pretty, here

Any way that I can, oh

Damn, I have no time left, time is lost

No time at all, throw it in a garbage can

And I shake God’s hand

I jump up and let Her know when I can

This is how I’m gonna do it

They wanna burn down the prison

They’re lighting fires with the cash of the masses

  • With the public’s money.

And like the dough, I don’t fall down

  • “Dough” is a slang term for money. Real dough (used to make bread) rises in an oven. “Bread” is also slang for money.

I’m so Detroit, I make it rise from the ashes

  • “I’m so…” is a way to compare yourself to something else. “I’m so Los Angeles, always hot and sunny!” Detroit is known for suffering a huge economic crash but has been steadily rising in importance again. This image of “rising from the ashes” comes from the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that burns and rises again from its ashes. Figuratively, it means to reinvent yourself, grow, learn new things, and come back better after failing.

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This song centers around the idea of a societal outcast, like someone with a terrible disease like leprosy. His quarantine, as if on a lonely island, doesn’t come from a physical illness, but from his ambitions and personal style. The fact that he feels isolated turns out to be positive, since all this makes him unique. There are lots of references from the Bible or that could relate to religion, since leprosy is a disease that was prominent in the Bible. There’s this idea that he was born with some privilege, but he acknowledges this, accepts it, and it doesn’t stop him from working hard or getting his hands dirty. Him saying he works hard like a construction worker in Spanish is kind of a reference to many hard laborers in the U.S. having Mexican heritage, or Latin American heritage in general. What are your thoughts on this song? Do you understand why he would compare himself to a lazaretto? Share your thoughts!

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Also, watch the video. It’s really cool!