Sara Bareilles – “Once Upon Another Time” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“Once Upon Another Time” by Sara Bareilles is a poignant reflection on simpler times and the essence of true freedom. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of youthful memories, capturing moments of carefree adventure and the pure joy of being in the present. The songwriter reminisces about a time when life felt boundless, with no ties or burdens. The recurring imagery of driving, sun-kissed skin, and summer nights symbolizes a period of unhindered exploration and self-discovery. Bareilles emphasizes the value of cherishing memories while acknowledging life’s inevitable evolution. It’s a heartwarming ode to the beauty of days gone by.

Feels nostalgic, right? There’s more depth to these lyrics. It’s a journey worth taking.


“Once Upon Another Time” Lyrics Meaning

The opening lines, “Once upon another time, Somebody’s hands who felt like mine” evoke a sense of lost innocence and the past’s comforting familiarity. They speak of a time when our protagonist felt connected, at ease, and as if the world was an open road.

The lyrics, “I recall the sun sank low, Buckley on the radio” further paints a sensory-rich atmosphere. The music of Jeff Buckley (likely alluded to) has always carried an emotional depth, complimenting the feelings of wistful remembrance. The “cigarette was burning slow” is a metaphor for moments passing leisurely, without the rush that adulthood often brings.

“Just yellow lines and tire marks, Sun-kissed skin and handle bars” reflects the essence of summer adventures. These lines celebrate the simplicity of life, encapsulating the spirit of freedom and the pleasure of small moments. With “No enemies to call my own, No porch light on to pull me home”, we perceive life without boundaries or constraints, echoing the song’s central theme of unadulterated liberty.

The transition from “Before I knew which life was mine” to “Before I left the child behind” is heartrending. It underscores the inevitable loss of innocence and the journey from carefreeness to responsibility.

However, the song doesn’t end on a somber note. The resilient spirit shines through with “Deciding nothing good in dying, So I would just keep on driving”. This determination emphasizes the importance of cherishing memories yet continuing forward with life’s journey.

The Story Behind “Once Upon Another Time”

Sara Bareilles has always possessed a knack for touching the heartstrings of her listeners. This particular track delves deep into her own personal history. At a time when she was facing pressures from the industry and personal transitions, the song served as a sanctuary for her.

It’s evident that Bareilles was yearning for the simpler times. Times when life’s decisions didn’t weigh so heavily and the freedom was tangible. The “child” she refers to is not just her younger self, but the childlike wonder and innocence that often gets left behind as we age.

The open road, represented in the lyrics, is symbolic of the vast possibilities she once saw in life. It’s not just about physical travel but the journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and the unbridled joy of exploring what’s around the next bend.

Through this masterpiece, Bareilles reminds us all to hold onto those precious moments from our past. They shape us, guide us, and most importantly, they remind us of who we once were. While we can’t turn back time, we can always cherish the memories and use them as a compass for our future.