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Attachment Mix Tape Tack #4: "The Fourth of July" by Sufjan Stevens

Over the summer, I discovered the album, Carrie and Lowell, the latest recording of artist, Sufjan Stevens. I really love the entire album – all the songs are beautiful and calming, but then I learned more of the background story of Sufjan Stevens and the inspiration for the album, and it became even more meaningful to me. Stevens was abandoned by his mother, Carrie, as a young child. Carrie struggled with mental illness and drug addiction and didn’t feel she could care for her children so left them with their father to raise. Stevens had some contact with her over the years after she left, but never really had a chance to know her very well. In 2012, Steven’s mother died of cancer. This album is an exploration of his grief and his process of forgiving her for not being a part of his life. One of the most poignant songs, is the “Fourth of July”. In it, Stevens conjures a loving and soothing version of his mother who apologizes for not being there for him, and sets him free to live his life and be happy. I’ve added it to the Attachment Mix Tape because this song illustrates so beautifully our fundamental, relational nature and is a wonderful example of what’s been shown in the research literature on attachment – the facts of our history are less important than how we learn to relate to our history and our experience. In this song in particular, we see Stevens finding the secure, loving relationship he needed with his mother within himself:

The Fourth of July lyrics:

The evil it spread like a fever ahead It was night when you died, my firefly What could I have said to raise you from the dead? Oh could I be the sky on the Fourth of July?

“Well you do enough talk My little hawk, why do you cry? Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn? Or the Fourth of July? We’re all gonna die”

Sitting at the bed with the halo at your head Was it all a disguise, like Junior High Where everything was fiction, future, and prediction Now, where am I? My fading supply

“Did you get enough love, my little dove Why do you cry? And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best Though it never felt right My little Versailles”

The hospital asked should the body be cast Before I say goodbye, my star in the sky Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth Do you find it all right, my dragonfly?

“Shall we look at the moon, my little loon Why do you cry? Make the most of your life, while it is rife While it is light

Well you do enough talk My little hawk, why do you cry? Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn? Or the Fourth of July? We’re all gonna die”

We’re all gonna die (x7)

The lyrics have many layers of meaning, but in addition to the themes of love and forgiveness, one thing that stands out is the repetition of the phrase, “We’re all gonna die” which seems to be highlighting the transient and precious nature of our relationships. I hope listening to this song inspires the kindness and gentleness that we all need. It’s another great addition to the Attachment Mix Tape!

If you have an idea for a song that highlights the importance of relationships, connections, or attachment please send them along!

If you haven’t heard The Fourth of July, click here:

For a great interview with Sufjan Stevens on the life experiences that inspired the album, Carrie and Lowell, click here:

To access the Attachment “mix tape” in progress on Spotify, click here:

Thanks for reading!

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