Simply Red – “Holding Back the Years” Lyrics Meaning

Photo of author
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.

“Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red is a deeply emotional ballad about grappling with fear, loss, and the passage of time. It touches on the challenges of letting go and moving forward. At its core, the song speaks to the struggle of managing emotional baggage, especially when it comes to familial relationships. Songwriter Mick Hucknall wrote this song reflecting his experiences with his own family, particularly the abandonment by his mother and living with his father. It’s a song that many can relate to because it touches universal themes of yearning for love and acceptance.

Feeling stuck in life? Or simply can’t let go of the past? Dive deep into Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years” and find out how this song captures the essence of holding on and letting go.

“Holding Back the Years” Lyrics Meaning

The opening lines, “Holding back the years, thinking of the fear I’ve had so long,” instantly introduce us to the central theme of fear and the struggle with time. It’s like the songwriter is telling us, “Hey, I’ve been carrying these emotional weights for too long, and it’s time to address it.”

“When somebody hears, listen to the fear that’s gone” is especially intriguing. The song subtly encourages us to face our fears head-on because sometimes, they’re not as intimidating as we think.

The next lines, “Strangled by the wishes of pater, hoping for the arms of mater,” explicitly dive into Hucknall’s complicated family dynamics. “Pater” and “mater” are Latin terms for father and mother. These lines evoke a yearning for maternal love while being restricted by the father’s expectations or wishes. It makes you think about how family can both hold us back and propel us forward.

“I’ll keep holding on” serves as the song’s mantra. It reveals a determination to hold onto hope, even when circumstances make it difficult. But, what are we holding on to? Perhaps the hope that things will get better, or maybe we’re clinging to the past, unable to move forward.

“Holding back the years, chance for me to escape from all I’ve known,” introduces the idea of escapism. It’s a cry for freedom from whatever is holding us back, be it our past, our family, or even ourselves.

“Wasted all my tears, wasted all those years,” strikes us with its blunt honesty. It acknowledges the futility of wallowing in the past and yet tells us it’s okay. We’ve all been there.

It’s crucial to notice the line, “Nothing ever could.” This pessimism reinforces the struggle to find something good or worthwhile in the midst of life’s challenges.

The Story Behind “Holding Back the Years”

Mick Hucknall wrote “Holding Back the Years” during a period when he was reconciling his complicated family history. Raised primarily by his father after his mother left when he was just three, Hucknall had to navigate through life with the emotional weight of abandonment and yearning for a mother’s love.

The song isn’t just a random collection of words; it’s a window into Hucknall’s soul at that point in his life. The raw vulnerability and introspection in the song are likely a result of his emotional state and his effort to make sense of his past. With that background, it becomes easier to see how the song is so layered with feelings of hope, regret, and the complexities of family relationships.

Adding to what we already know, the song also marked a significant shift in Hucknall’s career. Before “Holding Back the Years,” Simply Red was primarily known for soulful, upbeat songs. This ballad was a departure, revealing a more intimate and introspective side of Hucknall as an artist. The song’s success demonstrated that vulnerability could resonate with a wide audience, thereby expanding the band’s range and appeal.

Interestingly, the universal themes of “Holding Back the Years” have allowed it to transcend generations. It’s a testament to Hucknall’s songwriting that a deeply personal narrative could speak to so many people, each with their unique experiences and struggles. Whether it’s a troubled family background, unrequited love, or personal fears, the song serves as a comforting companion that understands the complexity of human emotions. This rich tapestry of emotional layers is what makes “Holding Back the Years” a timeless classic that continues to touch hearts more than three decades after its release.