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Zac Brown Band’s Message in a Bottle: Let it Go Lyrics and Meaning

Zac Brown Band’s Message in a Bottle: “Let it Go”

My wife knows way more than me about everything, including which songs mention messages in bottles. I had no idea that Zac Brown Band had a message in a bottle song until she played it for me one day. Needless to say, I was hooked. It’s also a different take on the “message in a bottle” in music, and that’s why I’ve made this post about Zac Brown’s Let it Go lyrics and meaning.

Let it Go Lyrics and Meaning - Zac Brown Band Performing for USO - Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Burden

Zac Brown Band Performing for USO. Photo by Sgt.1st Class Chuck Burden, retrieved through Wikipedia.

In this song, the message in a bottle really is a “message”. It forms the chorus of the song, and it seeks to impart a lesson. This song is not cryptic in the way of Sting’s song, “Message in a Bottle.” This song delivers a more folksy, straight-to-the-point kind of message.

First, let’s check out the song.

Zac Brown Band Let it Go Lyrics and Meaning with Video

Here’s the song with lyrics below.

Let It Go Lyrics

Spent the night with a friend of mine and a handle of good whiskey
We picked guitars and talked about how the glory days we missed ’em
And it didn’t take too long to find the truth inside that bottle
Cast a-sea so long ago was a message from my father.

You keep your heart above your head and your eyes wide open
So this world can’t find a way to leave you cold
And know you’re not the only ship out on the ocean
Save your strength for things that you can change
Forgive the ones you can’t
You gotta let it go

Looking back now on my life I can’t say I regret it
And all the places that I ended up not the way Ma woulda had it
But you only get one chance at life to leave your mark upon it
And when a pony he comes riding by you better set your sweet ass on it

You keep your heart above your head and your eyes wide open
So this world can’t find a way to leave you cold
And know you’re not the only ship out on the ocean
Save your strength for things that you can change
Forgive the ones you can’t
You gotta let it go

Like a sweet sunset in Georgia let it go
And like the fear that grabs ahold ya let it go
(La la la) Let it go
(La la la) Let it go

You keep your heart above your head and your eyes wide open
So this world can’t find a way to leave you cold
And know you’re not the only ship out on the ocean
Save your strength for things that you can change
Forgive the ones you can’t
You gotta let it go

Let it Go Lyrics and Meaning - Zac Brown Cover Facebook

Zac Brown Band Facebook promo photo. Photo: Zac Brown Band / Facebook.

What is Zac Brown Band’s “Let it Go” About?

Verse 1:

“Spent the night with a friend of mine and a handle of good whiskey
We picked guitars and talked about how the glory days we missed ’em
And it didn’t take too long to find the truth inside that bottle
Cast a-sea so long ago was a message from my father.”

In the first verse, we are immediately transported into an intimate, drunken night between two old friends. They’re playing guitar and talking about the good old days and getting wonderfully plastered.

But suddenly, we realize that the character in this song is in the midst of discovering a “truth inside that bottle”. It’s the final line of the first verse that is really surprising–it suggests that the bottle of whiskey being drunk by these two old friends was cast into the ocean years before by the main character’s father. How could that be?! Impossible! Madness!

Here’s the thing about this song: You have to think of it like a painting. If you focus too hard on any one stroke–any individual line–you’re going to miss out on the greater image. So… Does the end of the first verse “make sense”? No. But–does it feel right? Absolutely. Because it performs a simple function: It sets up the chorus in which we receive some mothaflippin’ wisdom from the main character’s father. And you better strap in, friends, cause thangs are about to get reeeeal figurative up in here. That’s right–we’re going line by line on this bad boy!

Line 1: “You keep your heart above your head and your eyes wide open”

A lovely line, don’t you think? And, at the same time that it’s highly figurative, it’s also totally understandable. That is the magic of it. The father’s “message in a bottle” begins by urging us–and his son, of course–to lead with the heart. To trust the heart over the brain. But in the very same line, we are encouraged to keep our “eyes wide open,” which is really a scientific thing to say. Observation (keeping your eyes open) is the basis, the bedrock of all science. So–right here, in this first line of the chorus, we have the entirety of the message in a bottle phenomenon captured. That is to say–the history of messages in bottles is: Intense emotion + science. The oldest messages in bottles were sent in the name of science. But the most wonderful and amazing messages in bottles came from the heart.

Line 2: “So this world can’t find a way to leave you cold”

This seemingly simple line suggests more than it says. It suggests that favoring your mind above your heart will create a kind of weakness whereby “this world” can “leave you cold”. It’s that ancient debate between logic and emotion, smarts vs. hearts. What should you trust? Your brain? Your heart? One critique I have of this line is that it kind of suggests you can’t do both–but of course you can. The brain tempers the heart, the heart tempers the brain. They are locked in orbit.

Line 3: “And know you’re not the only ship out on the ocean”

You know…I’m not actually sure whether the line is: “And know you’re not the only ship out on the ocean” or “No you’re not the only ship out on the ocean”.

Either way, the idea of the line is obvious: To comfort us / the son by reminding us that we are never really alone. That we may feel as though we are navigating a vast sea alone–but the truth is, there are others out here on this wild, intimidating ocean and we can reach out to them…

Line 4: “Save your strength for things that you can change”

This line reminds me of Line 1 because they are both lines that encourage emotional strength, which is something that MANLY MAN country music doesn’t get a lot of credit for. Kudos to Zac Brown for encouraging people to think of other kinds of strength than the kind that allows you to punch through drywall.

Lines 5 & 6: “Forgive the ones you can’t / You gotta let it go”

These lines build directly on Line 4. The basic idea is that the father (remember him? He’s the author of this message / chorus) is encouraging us all to “forgive” the “things you can’t [change]” (presumably the bad things), and “let it go”.

So then, we get to the second verse:

“Looking back now on my life I can’t say I regret it
And all the places that I ended up not the way Ma woulda had it
But you only get one chance at life to leave your mark upon it
And when a pony he comes riding by you better set your sweet ass on it”

I just realized that all four lines of this verse end with the word “it”…

This verse is interesting because it departs from the main themes of the song–essentially love, friendship, compassion, emotional strength. Here, instead, we have the main character reflecting on his life and urging us to make the most of ours. There’s no reference to the father’s message in a bottle. I suppose this verse, in a way, is the son’s answer to the father. It’s the son’s message here, not the father’s.

So, the first two lines tell a story as old as time: The main character reflects on the fact that he has chosen a path in life different from what his mother would have picked, if it were up to her. But he doesn’t regret the path he has taken–he has made his choices and is content with where they have led him.

The third line is a pretty straightforward “carpe diem” sort of line. You know, don’t waste your life and all that. You just get this one trip on earth, so make it count.

The fourth line seems to simply rephrase the third with some funny imagery in order to reinforce the idea: Don’t let that pony go riding off into the sunset without you! Get your butt up there and see the world!

The song then returns to the chorus, and then goes on to the bridge:

“Like a sweet sunset in Georgia let it go
And like the fear that grabs ahold ya let it go
(La la la) Let it go
(La la la) Let it go”

The “sweet sunset in Georgia” seems silly here–out of place. Is he suggesting that a Georgia sunset “lets it go” and we should act like a sunset? That would be weird and nonsensical… But in fact that’s not what’s happening.

Sunsets, of course, are fleeting. This is part of where their beauty comes from. If we somehow held onto them, or if we lived in a world of perpetual sunset, we would become desensitized to the sunset’s beauty. The whole point is that you see it, love it, and then let it go.

let it go lyrics and meaning - Zac Brown with snook

Zac Brown with a snook he caught! That fish… Think he kept it? Or did he, ah… Let it Go? 🙂 Photo: Zac Brown Band / Facebook.

I’m not sure what to make of the next line… Maybe the word “like” is out of place here? Because it seems like the main character is urging us to let go of fear, rather than saying we should be or act like fear, which, syntactically, is what the line suggests…

Again, this song is a painting–sometimes, the sense of a line is more important than the literal meaning. We come away from this bridge with the feeling that we should let go of fear, and not let it rule our lives, and that we should cherish the fleeting moments of beauty that we get–like sunsets–precisely because they are fleeting, and we are fleeting beings, destined to keep moving forward through a long, lovely, difficult, confusing, hilarious, painful, joyful life. It reminds me of the line from Kacey Musgraves, “You can’t set sail with your anchor down.”

Zac Brown Band rocking out on stage.

Zac Brown Band rocking out on stage. Photo: Zac Brown Band / Facebook.

Summary of Zac Brown Band Let it Go Lyrics and Meaning

In the end, the message in a bottle in this song and the main character’s message are a little different, but they augment each other. In contrast to Sting’s more figurative and metaphorical song, Zac Brown Band’s Let it Go lyrics are a little more straightforward: Live with your heart open, know there are always others out there for you when the night is dark and you feel alone, make peace with your decisions and where they have led you, and finally, cherish your short time on earth, the fleeting moments of beauty you are lucky enough to experience, and the people you share them with.

***If you liked this post, click here to find me on Facebook and like my page for more message in a bottle stories! You never know when YOU could be the one to solve a message in a bottle mystery! Also, click here for more songs about messages in bottles. Click here to learn more about messages in bottles, and you can always contact me with questions, ideas, or stories.

 

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