Illinois

by Sufjan Stevens

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about

Like the self-proclaimed "Spiderman" who climbed Chicago's Sears Tower with no harness, Sufjan Stevens scales dusty prairies, steel factories, and two hundred years of history in the second installment of his 50 State Project, "ILLINOIS", a 22-track anthematic tone poem to The Prairie State.

An engrossing musical road trip, "Illinois" takes you through ghost towns, grain mills, hospital rooms, and the City of Broad Shoulders, with guest appearances by a poet, a president, a serial murderer, UFOs, Superman, the goat that cursed the Cubs, and Decatur's famous Chickenmobile. Sufjan weaves variegated musical styles (jazz, funk, pop, folk, and Rodgers and Hammerstein-like flourishes) and the textures of 25 instruments into a tapestry of persons and places famous, infamous, iconic and anonymous. Invoking the muse of poet Carl Sandburg, "Illinois" ushers in trumpets on parade, string quartets, female choruses and ambient piano scales arranged around Stevens' emerging falsetto.

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released 05 July 2005

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about

Sufjan Stevens Brooklyn, New York

Sufjan Stevens mixes autobiography, religious fantasy, and regional history to create folk songs of grand proportions. More recently, Sufjan released two albums in 2010: a generous EP (All Delighted People) and the full length The Age of Adz, a collection of songs partly inspired by the outsider artist Royal Robertson.

Sufjan currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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Track Name: Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
When the revenant came down, we couldn’t imagine what it was
In the spirit of three stars the alien thing that took its form
Then to Lebanon, oh God
The flashing at night, the sirens grow and grow

Oh, history involved itself
Mysterious shade that took its form
Or what it was, incarnation, three stars
Delivering signs and dusting from their eyes
Track Name: Come On! Feel the Illinoise! (Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition — Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream)
Oh, great intentions
I’ve got the best of interventions
But when the ads come
I think about it now

In my infliction
Entrepreneurial condition
Take us to glory
I think about it now

Cannot conversations cull united nations?
If you’ve got the patience, celebrate the ancients
Cannot all creation call it celebration?
Or united nation, put it to your head

Oh, great white city
I’ve got the adequate committee
Where have your walls gone?
I think about it now

Chicago, in fashion
The soft drinks, expansion
Oh, Columbia
From Paris, incentive
Like Cream of Wheat invented
The Ferris wheel

Oh, great intentions
Covenant with the imitation
Have you no conscience?
I think about it now

Oh, God of Progress
Have you degraded or forgot us?
Where have your laws gone?
I think about it now

Ancient hieroglyphic or the South Pacific
Typically terrific, busy and prolific
Classical devotion, architect promotion
Lacking in emotion, think about it now

Chicago, the New Age
But what would Frank Lloyd Wright say?
Oh, Columbia
Amusement or treasure
These optimistic pleasures
Like the Ferris wheel

Cannot conversations cull united nations?
If you’ve got the patience, celebrate the ancients
Columbia


I cried myself to sleep last night
And the ghost of Carl
He approached my window
I was hypnotized
I was asked to improvise
On the attitude, the regret
Of a thousand centuries of death

Even with the heart of terror and the superstitious wearer
I am riding all alone, I am writing all alone
Even in my best condition, counting all the superstition
I am riding all alone, I am running all alone

And we laughed at the beatitudes of a thousand lines
We were asked at the attitudes, they reminded us of death

Even with the rest belated, everything is antiquated
Are you writing from the heart, are you writing from the heart?
Even in his heart, the Devil has to know the water level
Are you writing from the heart, are you writing from the heart?

And I cried myself to sleep last night
For the Earth, and materials, they may sound just right to me

Even with the rest belated, everything is antiquated
Are you writing from the heart, are you writing from the heart?
Even in his heart, the Devil has to know the water level
Are you writing from the heart, are you writing from the heart?
Track Name: John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
His father was a drinker
And his mother cried in bed
Folding John Wayne’s T-shirts
When the swingset hit his head
The neighbors they adored him
For his humor and his conversation
Look underneath the house there
Find the few living things
Rotting fast in their sleep of the dead
Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God

Are you one of them?

He dressed up like a clown for them
With his face paint white and red
And on his best behavior
In a dark room on the bed he kissed them all
He’d kill ten thousand people
With a sleight of his hand
Running far, running fast to the dead
He took off all their clothes for them
He put a cloth on their lips
Quiet hands, quiet kiss
On the mouth

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid
Track Name: Jacksonville
I’m not afraid of the black man running
He’s got it right, he’s got a better life comin’
And I don’t care what the Captain said
I fold it right at the top of my head
I lost my sight and the state packs in
I follow my heart and it leads me right to Jackson

(Oh Keller, oh oh oh oh)
She gave us a medal she gave us a map
(Oh Canner Row, oh oh oh)
If seeing is right, then look where you’re at

I’m not afraid of Nichol’s Park
I ride the train and I ride it after dark
And I’m not afraid to get it right
I turn around and I give it one more try
And I said things that I meant to say
The bandstand chairs and the Dewey Day Parade
I go out to the Golden Age
The spirit is right and the spirit doesn’t change

(Oh Keller, oh oh oh oh)
She gave us a mirror, she gave us a map
(Oh Canner Row, oh oh oh)
If seeing is right, then look where you’re at

Andrew Jackson! All I’m asking
Show us the wheel, and give us the wine
Raise the Banner, Jackson Hammer!
Everyone goes to the capitol line
Colored Preacher, nice to meet you!
The spirit is here, and the spirit is fine
Education! Ask the nation!
You gave us our sight and the hearing is fine
Andrew Jackson! All I’m asking
Give us the wheel, and give us the wine
Track Name: Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!
Our stepmom, we did everything to hate her
She took us down to the edge of Decatur
We saw the lion and the kangaroo take her
Down to the river where they caught a wild alligator

Sangamon River, it overflowed
It caused a mudslide on the banks of the operator
Civil War skeletons in their graves
They came up clapping in the spirit of the aviator

The sound of the engines and the smell of the grain
We go riding on the abolition grain train
Stephen A. Douglas was a great debater
But Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator

Chickenmobile with your rooster tail
I had my fill, and I know how bad it feels
Stay awake and watch for the data
No small caterpillar, go congratulate her

Denominator, go Decatur, go Decatur
It’s the great I Am
Abominate her, go Decatur, why did we hate her?
It’s the great I Am
Denominator, go Decatur, anticipate her
It’s the great I Am
Appreciate her, appreciate her
Stand up and thank her
Track Name: Chicago
I fell in love again
All things go, all things go
Drove to Chicago
All things know, all things know

We sold our clothes to the state
I don’t mind, I don’t mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mind set
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

I drove to New York
In a van with my friend
We slept in parking lots
I don’t mind, I don’t mind

I was in love with the place
In my mind, in my mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mind set
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go

If I was crying
In the van with my friend
It was for freedom
From myself and from the land

I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes

You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow

We had our mind set
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go
Track Name: Casimir Pulaski Day
Goldenrod and the 4-H stone
The things I brought you
When I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car to the navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading

Oh, the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

I remember at Michael’s house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse

In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared

Oh, the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I find the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother

On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

Oh, the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see his face
In the morning in the window

Oh, the glory when he took our place
But he took my shoulders and he shook my face
And he takes and he takes and he takes
Track Name: The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
Trouble falls in my home
Troubled man, troubled stone
Turn a mountain of lies
Turn a card for my life

Man of steel, man of heart
Tame our ways, if we start
To devise something more
Something halfways

Only a steel man came to recover
If he had run from gold, carry over
We celebrate our sense of each other
We have a lot to give one another

I took a bus to the lake
Saw the monument face
Yellow tides, golden eyes
Red and white, red and wise

Raise the flag, summer home
Parted hair and part unknown
If I knew what I read
I’ll send it halfways

Only a real man can be a lover
If he had hands to lend us all over
We celebrate our sense on each other
We have a lot to give one another

Took my bags, Illinois
Dreamt the lake took my boy
Man of steel, man of heart
Turn your ear to my part

There are things you have said
Raise the boat and raise the dead
If you take us away
Still can we say

Only a steel man can be a lover
If he had hands to tremble all over
We celebrate our sense of each other
We have a lot to give one another

Only a steel man can be a lover
If he had hands to tremble all over
We celebrate our sense of each other
We have a lot to give one another
Track Name: Prairie Fire That Wanders About
Peoria! Destroy-a!
Infinity! Divinity!

For Lydia Octavia!
And Jack-of-Trades!
The Cubs hooray!

The Opera House
Where Emma sang!
America! Oh will it play?

And Santa Claus!
The Great Parade!
Peoria!
You have it made!

Into the crossfire
Faithfully run
Middle America,
One on one
Peoria!
We saddle the fun times
Track Name: The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!
Thinking outrageously I write in cursive
I hide in my bed with the lights on the floor
Wearing three layers of coats and leg warmers
I see my own breath on the face of the door

Oh I am not quite sleeping
Oh I am fast in bed
There on the wall in the bedroom creeping
I see a wasp with her wings outstretched

North of Savanna we swim in the palisades
I come out wearing my brother’s red hat
There on his shoulder my best friend is bit seven times
He runs washing his face in his hands

Oh how I meant to tease him
Oh how I meant no harm
Touching his back with my hand I kiss him
I see the wasp on the length of my arm

Oh great sights upon this state. Hallelujah!
Wonders bright, and rivers, lake. Hallelujah!
Trail of Tears and Horseshoe Lake. Hallelujah!
Trusting things beyond mistake. Hallelujah!

We were in love. We were in love.
Palisades! Palisades!
I can wait. I can wait.

Lamb of God, we sound the horn. Hallelujah!
To us your ghost is born. Hallelujah!

I can’t explain the state that I’m in
The state of my heart, he was my best friend
Into the car, from the back seat
Oh admiration in falling asleep
All of my powers, day after day
I can tell you, we swaggered and swayed
Deep in the tower, the prairies below
I can tell you, the telling gets old
(Oh great sights upon this state. Hallelujah!)
Terrible sting and terrible storm
I can tell you the day we were born
(Wonders bright, and rivers, lake. Hallelujah!)
My friend is gone, he ran away
I can tell you, I love him each day
(Trail of Tears and Horseshoe Lake. Hallelujah!)
Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged
I can tell you I love him each day
(Trusting things beyond mistake. Hallelujah!)
Terrible sting, terrible storm
I can tell you...
Track Name: They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
(Who will save it?)
Logan, Grant, and Ronald Reagan
(Dedicate it?)
In the grave with Xylophagan
(Who will praise it?)
Do you know the ghost community?
(Commemorate it for you?)
Sound the horn, address the city

We are awakened with the axe
Night of the living dead at last
They have begun to shake the dirt
Wiping their shoulders from the earth
I know, I know the nations past
I know, I know they rust at last
They tremble with the nervous thought
Of having been, at last, forgot

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
(Who will save it?)
B-U-D-A! Caledonia
(Dedicate it?)
S-E-C-O-R! Magnolia
(Who will praise it?)
B-I-R-D-S! And Kankakee
(Commemorate it for you?)
Evansville and Parker City

Speaking their names, they shake the flag
Waking the earth, it lifts and lags
We see a thousand rooms to rest
Helping us taste the bite of death
I know, I know my time is passed
I’m not so young, I’m not so fast
I tremble with the nervous thought
Of having been, at last, forgot

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Ring the bell and call or write us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Can you call the Captain Clitus?
Comer and Potato Peelers
G-R-E-E-N Ridge! Reeders
M-C-V-E-Y! And Horace
E-N-O-S! Start the chorus

Corn and farms and tombs in Lemmon
Sailor Springs and all things feminine
Centerville and Old Metropolis
Shawneetown, you trade and topple us

I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Hold your tongue and don’t divide us
I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S!
Land of God, you hold and guide us
Track Name: The Seer's Tower
In the tower above the earth
There is a view that reaches far
Where we see the universe
I see the fire, I see the end

Seven miles above the earth
There is Emmanuel of mothers
With his sword, with his robe
He comes dividing man from brothers

In the tower above the earth, we built it for Emmanuel
In the powers of the earth, we wait until it rips and rips
In the tower above the earth, we built it for Emmanuel
Oh my mother, she betrayed us but my father loved and bathed us

Still I go to the deepest grave
Where I go to sleep alone
Track Name: The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders (Part I: The Great Frontier — Part II: Come to Me Only with Playthings Now)
I count the days the Great Frontier
Forgiving, faced the seventh year
I stand in awe of gratefulness
I can and call forgetfulness

And when I, and when I call
The Patient, the Patient fall
The Spirit, the Carpenter
Invites us to be with her

What have we become America?
Soldiers on the Great Frontier
Carpenter and soldier, one on one
It’s the battle, volunteer

The prairie, the frontier, the perfect farm, it’s from here
(Run from yourself, from your friends)
The fortress, the faker, the cornerstone, the baker
(Run for your life, for your friends)
The dancer, the fisher, audition and the disher
(America)
The boxer, the fetcher, the chewing gum, dream catcher
(Oh, Illinois)

I count the days the Great Frontier
Forgiving, faced the seventh year
I stand and strain to make ends meet
Five Spirits on the Grand Marquee

And when I, and when I call
The Patient, the Patient fall
The Spirit, the Carpenter
Invites us to be with her

There was a man at the wall
He was grateful for us all
I saw the wise woman sing
She wasn’t asking anything
She wasn’t asking anything
How she made the nations sing!

What have we become America?
Soldiers on the Great Frontier

The mattress, the floozies, the actress at the movies
(Run from yourself, from your friends)
The lantern, the lotion, the wind that wakes the ocean
(Run for your life, for your friends)
The Standard Edition, the architect’s rendition
(America)
The fashion, the fevers, the house we got at Sears
(Oh, Illinois)


Oh Great Fire of Great Disaster
Oh Great Heaven, oh Great Master
Oh Great Goat, the curse you gave us
Oh Great Ghost, protect and save us
Oh Great River, green with envy
Oh Jane Addams, spirit send thee
Oh Great Trumpet and the singers
(Given what you lost are you better off)
Oh Great Goodman, King of Swingers
(Given what you had, has it made you mad)
Oh Great Bears and Bulls, Joe Jackson
(Celebrate the few, celebrate the new)
Oh Great Illinois
(It can only start with you)