Beds Are Burning

The song “Beds Are Burning” by Midnight Oil, an Australian rock band from the 80s, wrote this song to protest the taking of native lands from the tribe Pintupi. They wrote this song in an attempt to highlight the effects it had on the native tribe. The song starts out with a description of the land, using imagery to allow the listener to grasp that they are in the desert.

Holden wrecks and boiling diesels
Steam at forty-five degrees

The lines above are from the very end of the first stanza, they are almost like an introduction. They allow the reader to infer that it is extremely hot, it would be around 113 degrees Fahrenheit, and it paints a picture in the listener’s head using imagery. This song is written from the Australian’s POV, the second stanza and part of the chorus talks about how they need the take accountability and give the land back.

The time has come, a fact’s a fact
It belongs to them, let’s give it back

Those lines are in the second half of the stanza. The use of rhyme with “fact” and “back” empowers the song and helps it flow better onto the next part of the chorus. By using these lines as the chorus, it helps reinforce their message about giving the land back. The second part of the chorus, the third stanza, puts the song in the POV of the natives.

How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?

These lines are repeated twice in the stanza. That, along with the use of “ing” at the end of each line signifies that this conflict is still going on. The song title is also used in the chorus to reveal the effect the stolen land had on the Natives. Their beds weren’t literally burning but when eventually forces back to their native county, the Kintore ranges, which are extremely hot. This has the double meaning that it is so hot they can’t sleep but also the meaning that they are angry with the Australians and want their land back. Finally, the use of “dance” in the first line also has a double meaning. At first, it means that they literally can’t dance because of their uprooted lives but it also means they can’t be happy since they were forced to leave their homes. In the second to last stanza, Midnight oil changes one line in the chorus.

It belongs to them, we’re gonna give it back

They change the original line “let’s give it back” to this and it also changes the tone of the song. By the end of it, they seem determined to hold Australia accountable for the things they did to the Pintupi tribe. The use of the pronoun “we” blames the whole country not just the people in power which is a part of their message. Overall I really like this song because the use of rhyme and repetition really adds to the meaning of it.

One thought on “Beds Are Burning

  1. Joe H.

    I really like that this song has a strong meaning and purpose behind it. I admire how well the writers used the words such as dance and burning to convey the issue.


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