Flo Perlin’s song begins with a spade that is digging to Baghdad, I presume. The woman of the aptly named tune, “Baghdad,” has hope for a new land where she can live as she chooses. However, she’s anxious that she may not find it. Her trust is in tales that she used to hear from her family. As the song goes on, it is unclear if these stories are fantasies, though.
The chorus is where imagination and reality become blurred. “Grandma sings / Of a life lived in Baghdad collecting new things,” is contrasted with, “Grandpa tells / Of a life lived in Baghdad that she never had.” The grandpa seems to be enriching the wishes of her granddaughter, while the grandpa gives her honesty, to protect her from disappointment.
It is decided by the narrator to give us some background information on this group of people. “She couldn’t bear the taste of mum’s tea / Oh, It runs through the roots of her family tree,” informs the listener that the granddaughter is rubbed the wrong way by her mother and vice versa. That the grandmother couldn’t bear Baghdad and the escapee gene skips generations, leading to a traditionalist vision in the granddaughter.
When the granddaughter is angry with her mother, falling asleep in a place full of hatred, she hopes for refuge in Baghdad. “Oh, the nights, as she’s drifting away / Hold on to the stories that hurt them to say,” is how the girl comforts herself at night. The land that her grandfather aches to return to is what fills her head at night. His stories are her fuel to keep moving.
After a return of the fantastical chorus, the good cop/bad cop routine continues throughout the rest of the song. The grandpa reminisces about more aspects of their supposedly perfect life in the couple’s homeland. He brings up how the honey tasted in Baghdad and the comfort of his childhood street. Following these words, there is a detailed description of the landscape and sweets he used to enjoy… causing me to wonder just how senile this man is. In my mind, grandma interrupts her husband’s wandering mind to tell the granddaughter, “She dreamt of her father, who said she was brave / Those dark brown eyes, those war-torn feet.” It makes you wonder about the life that the great-grandfather lived; Was he a calm soldier, a scared child, a desperate protector in whatever war he experienced? If the couple experienced full-scale war, with soldiers as parents, that paints the grandpa’s babbling as even more dreamlike. To see beauty in every crevice of the world, he must be a complete romantic.
The final appearance of the chorus again highlights the opposition in the grandparents’ personalities. Grandpa weaved a sanctuary for a little girl, while grandma held her head together. It seems that their relationship continues to shine because of grandma’s wry honesty and grandpa’s unconditional love.