Lilac Wine is one of the most haunting gems of a song. Reading the lyrics, you can see how innovative the structure is, the way it unfolds this mysterious narrative through strong imagery. Lost in love-lost misery, she walks alone a midnight, tapping a lilac tree for this strange potion, intoxicated by the brew she hallucinates to see the image of her estranged lover.
Written in 1950, it made a theatrical debut and later reached a wider audience through the first cover by Eartha Kitt, a subsequent cover by Elkie Brooks (who was the only artist to have a hit with the song), and gained the most iconic cover of all by Nina Simone who gave it a powerful mystique. My favorite version of all is by Jeff Buckley... He added to it, like everything he touches, the soft ghostliness the other versions miss.
I lost myself on a cool damp night
I gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Under a lilac tree
I made wine from the lilac tree
Put my heart in its recipe
It makes me see what I want to see (may be better to say "What I wanted to see"
and be what I want to be
When I think more than I want to think
I do things I never should do
I drink much more than I ought to drink
Because it brings me back you...
Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love
Listen to me... I cannot see clearly
Isn't that she coming to me nearly here?
Lilac wine is sweet and heady, where's my love?
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, where's my love?
Listen to me, why is everything so hazy?
Isn't that she, or am I just going crazy, dear?
Lilac Wine, I feel unready for my love,
feel unready for my love.