City of Immigrants: a song by Steve Earle


Steve Earle (1955) is an American singer-songwriter, well known for his rock and country music, as well as for his many political views. In his song City of Immigrants, from his latest album Washington Square Serenade, he talks about a reality in this globalized 21st century: you can find bits of many different worlds right next door.

Read more about Steve Earl in the the article “Is Steve Earle America’s greatest living songwriter?”, published on 22 July 2007 in The Independent)

You can do this exercise with the lyrics of the song. Be ready to concentrate because his accent makes the task quite challenging! In the exercise there is a link to the audio version of the song, which is longer than the video above.

Here’s the pdf version of the lyrics of the song with gaps and  without gaps.

Which is the city Steve Earle sings about? Do you think it is similar to the place you live in? Or any big cities in Spain? Tell us your opinion writing a comment for this post!

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19 thoughts on “City of Immigrants: a song by Steve Earle

  1. Good afternoon María and classmates.
    I’ve been listening to the song and reading the article of “The Independent”.
    I don’t agree with the lyrics. I mean, I’ve heard some verses and words that doesn’t match with the solution that is proposed, and the video song ends before the text to complete is finished, so it was impossible to do the exercise correctly.
    I had to push the “Hint” button a million times to do it!!!!
    Ha, ha, ha!!!!
    Maybe I’m wrong.
    What do you think?
    See you.

  2. There seemed to be a problem with one of the gaps in the exercise (didn’t accept the right answer for “don’t speak”). The words of the song are for the audio version of the song, not the video.
    Thank you for reporting the problem.

    María

  3. I extremelly agree with this song. Nowadays, all of us are inmigrants, not only because the great majority af us have had a inmigrant in our own family, but also because we are moving all time and travelling everywhere.

    I meet a lot of students who has travelled to other country to finish their degree, even people who go abroad, to England or German, looking for a good job.

    This song could have been written this year.

  4. Good afternoon y’all.
    I also had to push “hint” button a lot, most of the times because I listened to the video to complete the gaps and some words were missing…

    I think there are almost 100% similiriaties with Spain. I think the only difference is that USA is a country made 100% by immigrants, you know, only American natives are the real Americans and they’re very little… Spanish natives lived in this country since ages and we are most of the population…
    What do you think?

  5. Hi everybody,
    I think that although the song is about New York (at least what I understood), it could be about any city even in Spain nowadays.
    I´ve been immigrant in two different countries in the last 10 years and I can honestly say I´ve nerver had such a feeling of being “out” as when I came back.
    But it is true that when you arrive to a new city in a different country, looking for a job or a new life, you can reach the sky and fall down to the earth every other day.
    What is your experience about it?

  6. I’ve never listened this song before but I think the lyric is quite interesting. For me, the best part is when he says “All of us are inmigrants”, because in some way that’s true!

    I couldn’t complete all the words from the exercise but I think it’s a good way to learn english and may be it’ll help us when we have to do a listening… I hope!

    See you!

  7. That was a troublesome exercise, some words are impossible to understand due to the singer´s accent…but I scored a 86% which I think it´s pretty good, only four gaps left without using the “Hint” option 😛

    About the song…well, it´s not my style but it´s quite good, and carries a beautiful message within. Tomorrow I won´t remember it :$

  8. Good afternoon!

    First of all, I would like to say that I really enjoy this type of exercises because I usually dowload the lyrics of the songs that I like the most and then try to sing it.

    Well, I agreed with this song because I think that we live in a world of inmigrant. All the people have travelled to other country, maybe to study or looking for a job.

    Talking about Spain, I found many similiriaties with many important cities of here, like Barcelona or Madrid, this cities are crowded of inmigrants and I think that it´s good for our society.

  9. Hi Everybody!
    First of all, I’ve enjoyed a lot listening to this song, it’s the first time I listen to something from Steve Earle, I’ll search for some of his songs because probably I’ll found some great ones.

    I liked the lyrics, but what I didn’t understand very well was the sentence ”All of us are inmigrants”, I don’t know if he’s talking about inmigration in the United States (We all know that the United States is a country where everybody comes from Europe), or if he means that there’re no differences between inmigrants and local people, which has more sense with the rest of the song.

    Well, before reading the next post I have to say that I agree with Rubén, this kind of exercices are very useful and interesting and I prefer doing this than a writing exercise! (We all hate grammar exercices!!!!!, lol).

    See you in the next comment! 😉

  10. Good evening everybody!
    This is the first I’ve heard something by Steve Earle, and what’s more it’s the first time I’ve heard of him. Anyway, the song could be describing any big city Spain. Almost everybody knows a person who has emigrated to another country, or even to another city. And the same was done by our grandparents who came to city from the countryside to find a better life. Somehow all of us are inmigrants.
    See you!!

  11. Hi everyone! 🙂

    First of all, I think that Steve is talking about the world in general, not about a particulary city.Maybe because he talks about rivers, about the sea … and these things seems to refer to the planet in general.

    What’s more, I’ve been living in Oviedo for all my life and I don’t see similiarities between my city and the city of the song, probably because in small towns we live like inside a bubble.
    Agreeing with Monica Fdez. Ujado I also think that in our country, natives, are most of the population , but if we go to bigger cities, like New York for example, we can see an unbelievable mixture of people from all around the world, which is not better than a comunity with only natives, but it could be more interesting and helpful sometimes.

    To sum up, nowadays, we live in a global world and from now to an early future we’ll merge all different human races in a unique race.

    —————————————–
    * I really love this kind of exercise, is the first time I’ve worked with new technologies in the EOI and it has been a great experience.

    Thanks Maria for the opportunity 🙂

  12. Hi!!
    First of all, I´ve liked listening this song, althought I´ve never heard about this singer Steve Earle, because it´s an issue that every week or every day is in the news in Spain.
    I think that the more foreign people you have around you, the luckier you are because you are able to know how the life is in other countries, different cultures, etc…
    I agree with the previous comments about the travelling around the world and that, nowadays, all of us are inmigrants because nearly every person have a member of its family that´s foreign or know somebody of a different country.
    Travelling around the world, having friends from different countries, speaking different languages is useful in your life and I think that it´s a total advantage, not a disadvantage!
    A good message to spread!

  13. I’ve liked very much this exercise, especially the lyrics which I think are very interesting.

    I think that the topic that the song talks about is very common nowadays in all European countries also in ours, in most of Spanish cities live a big percent of immigrants and many times they have problems to fit in the society.

    I’ve like the sentence “All of us are immigrants” because I think many of us can find in our families or near people someone who has gone to a foreign conutry to improve his/her life.

    I’ve liked very much this type of exercise and I also think is better than grammar.

    See you!

  14. Honestly, I didn’t like the song at all. This style of music is definitely not my cup of tea. I found the lyrics somewhat simple and predictable. I mean … “Bla, bla, bla.City of black. Bla, bla, bla.City of white”. C’mon, man! Do we need another song full of commonplaces? That’s just my opinion. No need to say I’m not judging nobody’s musical tastes.

  15. Hello.
    I’ve been listening to the song again and reading the comments.
    I think this song is not only on immigration.
    Steve Earle, in my opinion, has made a metaphore, which is implicit in the lyrics.
    First of all, New York is a huge city, it could be considered as the capital city of the world. And this city is not a fostering, friendly city.
    I imagine it as a hostil place, specially some neighborhoods like Bronx, the “city of black”.
    That’s why he says “all of us are immigrants”, because all of us are strangers in a city like New York.
    Then he says somenthing about a statue (Liberty Statue), and dreams that reach out to touch the sky and then fall down to earth.
    It may be a sort of Babel Tower, “singing in languages I don’t speak”.
    He’s singing about all these things I’ve pointed out too.
    I like this song!
    By the way, that guy is not playing a harmonium!
    Don’t believe the presenter’s words.
    On immigration…
    I think it is good as long as immigrants respect the cultures they go to live in and that immigration does not become an invasion.
    It should be properly regulated so that every immigrant had a good job and a good place to live in.
    So…
    What do you think?

  16. I’ve been reading a few comments, and some people say that you can’t see in Oviedo what this song talks about, but if a I tell you the truth I think that we have some good examples: most chinese shops have their name written in chinese, close to my house there’s an arabic butcher and you can’t see any word of spanish inside that place, etc. So maybe Oviedo is becoming an ”inmigrants city” so slowly that we can’t notice it but if you look carefully you’ll see lots of countries in just one street.

    By the way, when is Starbucks going to open a coffee shop here?? I CAN’T WAIT much longer!!, haha, now Yuppi is offering coffee in paper cups like in starbucks so you can drink your coffee wherever you’re, but an Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts is necessary in this town!

    Well, after this silly paragraph I have to end my comment saying that every time I come back to my house after school I see 70% people from Oviedo, and the rest are inmigrants. Maybe in a few years ”los oventenses” are going to disappear and all the citizens are going to be ”World Citizens”…

    Just trying to talk a little bit more about this topic. See you on thursday guys!

  17. I haven’t heard the song yet because I’m busy with my children this weekend, but finding Steve Earle here is a great surprise for me. I saw him on a live cincert four years ago and he is one of my favourite singer -songwriters since them. His coming back disk after prison ,’I FEEL ALRIGHT’, is absolutely moving. I recommend his sister Stacey Early’s music too. She has a sweet voice and makes very nice and soft music -I think she’s the blonde girl who backs Steve up in the video-. If someone is interested in, I have a few discs of they both and you would ask me for at school.

  18. Good morning.
    I’ve been listening to the studio version, which is longer than the video version and has different arrangements. Both are good.

    By the way, I’m not sure, but I think there is a Starbucks in Parque Principado.
    So, Mateo, if you are really interested to have a coffe in a cardboard cup, you can go and check if I am right or wrong.
    Ha, ha, ha.
    See you.

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