100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #85: “Cleopatra” by The Lumineers

The song at #85 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the beautiful “Cleopatra” by American folk rock band The Lumineers. The Denver, Colorado based trio, consisting of Wesley Schultz, Jeremiah Fraites and Neyla Pekarek, first made a splash in 2012 with their massive breakthrough single “Ho Hey”. (Pekarek has since left the band in 2018, so The Lumineers are currently a duo).

“Cleopatra” is the title track and second single from their sophomore album Cleopatra, and my personal favorite of all their songs. I love songs that tell a compelling story, and “Cleopatra” certainly fills the bill. Schultz explained his inspiration for the song in a 2017 Facebook post: “It’s inspired by a true story about a female taxi driver who, when she was younger, was proposed to. But her father had just passed away, so she didn’t give her boyfriend an answer. So he left the village broken-hearted and rejected and never returned again. He was her great love and she wouldn’t wash the footprints off the floor after he had left.

The toe-tapping rhythms, jangly strummed guitars and rousing piano are really wonderful and upbeat, providing a contrast to the rather bittersweet lyrics:

I was Cleopatra, I was young and an actress
When you knelt by my mattress, and asked for my hand
But I was sad you asked it, as I laid in a black dress
With my father in a casket, I had no plans, yeah

And I left the footprints, the mud stained on the carpet
And it hardened like my heart did when you left town
But I must admit it, that I would marry you in an instant
Damn your wife, I’d be your mistress just to have you around

But I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time

While the church discouraged, any lust that burned within me
Yes my flesh, it was my currency, but I held true
So I drive a taxi, and the traffic distracts me
From the strangers in my backseat, they remind me of you

But I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time

And the only gifts from my Lord were a birth and a divorce
But I’ve read this script and the costume fits, so I’ll play my part

I was Cleopatra, I was taller than the rafters
But that’s all in the past love, gone with the wind
Now a nurse in white shoes leads me back to my guestroom
It’s a bed and a bathroom
And a place for the end

I won’t be late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time

6 thoughts on “100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #85: “Cleopatra” by The Lumineers

  1. Nice song! I actually saw The Lumineers open for U2 in July 2017 during their Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour and thought they did a nice job. It made be listen to the Cleopatra album, which I subsequently covered. I just saw they’ve since released another album, III, in September 2019. I gotta check that one out.

    Liked by 1 person

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