Manzanar
Tom Russell Lyrics


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He said my name is Nakashima
And I'm a proud American
I came here in '27
From my homeland of Japan

And we picked your grapes and oranges
Made some money, bought a store
Until 1942
Pearl Harbor and the war

Came those relocation orders
They took our house, the store, the car
Then they drove us to the desert
To a place called Manzanar

The Spanish word for "apple orchard"
Though we saw no apple trees
Just the rows of prison barracks
And barbed wired boundaries

And we dream of apple blossoms
Waving free beneath the stars
Till we wake up in the desert
The prisoners of Manzanar
Manzanar

Fifty years, they've all but vanished
And now I am an old man
But I don't regret the day
That I came here from Japan

But on moonlit winter nights
I often wish upon a star
That I'd forget the shame and sorrow
That I felt at Manzanar

And we dream of apple blossoms
Waving free beneath the stars
Till we wake up in the desert




The prisoners of Manzanar
Manzanar

Overall Meaning

The lyrics of Tom Russell's song "Manzanar" are rich with meaning and emotion, telling the tragic story of Japanese internment during World War II. The song is told from the perspective of an elderly Japanese man named Nakashima, who came to America from Japan in 1927 and built a life farming and operating a store until the war broke out. Once Pearl Harbor was attacked, Nakashima and other Japanese Americans were stripped of their homes, businesses, and possessions, and sent to internment camps in the desert, including Manzanar. The lyrics speak to the incredible loss and trauma experienced by Japanese Americans during this time, and the haunting memory that remains even years later.


The opening lines set the stage for Nakashima's story and identity as a proud American who came to the country in search of opportunity. The mention of picking grapes and oranges shows the role that Japanese Americans played in agriculture in the US, and how they contributed to the country's economy. However, the joy of building a life in America is quickly shattered with the arrival of relocation orders in 1942, which forcefully removed Japanese Americans from their homes and incarcerated them without trial. The reference to Manzanar, which means "apple orchard" in Spanish, highlights the irony of the internment camps, which were not the idyllic-sounding places their names implied, but instead were places of great suffering and detention.


The chorus of the song speaks to the resilience of Nakashima and his fellow internees, who dream of returning to their homes and living their lives free from the fear and terror of internment. The last stanza of the song is particularly poignant, as Nakashima reflects on the ongoing impact of Manzanar on his life and his memories, even many years later. The song is a powerful testament to the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II and the ongoing legacy of that trauma.


Line by Line Meaning

He said my name is Nakashima
A man named Nakashima introduced himself


And I'm a proud American
Nakashima identifies as an American


I came here in '27
Nakashima immigrated to the United States in 1927


From my homeland of Japan
Nakashima is originally from Japan


And we picked your grapes and oranges
Nakashima and his fellow Japanese immigrants worked in agriculture


Made some money, bought a store
They were able to save enough money to open a store


Until 1942
This changed in 1942


Pearl Harbor and the war
The United States entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor


Came those relocation orders
The US government issued orders for Japanese Americans to be relocated


They took our house, the store, the car
Nakashima and his family lost their possessions


Then they drove us to the desert
They were taken to a remote location


To a place called Manzanar
This location was called Manzanar


The Spanish word for "apple orchard"
Manzanar translates to apple orchard


Though we saw no apple trees
There were no apple trees at Manzanar


Just the rows of prison barracks
Instead, there were rows of barracks that were like prisons


And barbed wired boundaries
The area was surrounded by barbed wire


And we dream of apple blossoms
Despite the circumstances, they still held onto hope


Waving free beneath the stars
They imagined apple blossoms waving beneath the stars


Till we wake up in the desert
But then they would wake up to the reality of their situation


The prisoners of Manzanar
They were essentially prisoners at Manzanar


Fifty years, they've all but vanished
Fifty years have passed and many of the people affected have passed away


And now I am an old man
Nakashima is now elderly


But I don't regret the day
Despite the hardships, Nakashima doesn't regret coming to America


That I came here from Japan
He is glad that he immigrated to America from Japan


But on moonlit winter nights
However, there are times when he feels the weight of his experiences


I often wish upon a star
He sometimes wishes for relief from his pain


That I'd forget the shame and sorrow
Nakashima wishes he could forget the shame and sorrow he felt at Manzanar


That I felt at Manzanar
The emotions he experienced while at Manzanar still affect him




Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
Written by: THOMAS GEORGE RUSSELL

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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