“Donna” by The Lumineers

First off it should be noted that the titular “Donna” is a character on The Lumineers’ concept album “III”. Indeed it can be gathered from the lyrics of this song that the subject has a distinct history and is not wholly meant to serve as a symbol of a group of people. And basically Donna’s defining characteristic is her addiction, seemingly to alcohol. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Lumineers's Donna at Lyrics.org.

However, it should be noted that the narrator of the song attributes this behavior to her past, as in Donna growing up devoid of a mother. Indeed overall she is presented as someone who is not only an addict but also a victim of depression. She’s been so depressed to the point of hating her own name and even being suicidal, as in desiring to join her mother in the afterlife.

“You hate the name Junior
Your husband loved his computers
Your mother never was one
The eldest of seven children”

Release Date of “Donna”

“Donna” is featured on “Gloria Sparks”, which is actually a three-track EP which is part of the overall “III” narrative. As such, it was released by Dualtone Music Group with the rest of the EP on 17 May 2019. And the music video for “Gloria” came out on 21 May.

FYI, “Donna” wasn’t a single. “III” produced just two singles, namely “Gloria” and “It Wasn’t Easy To Be Happy For You”.

Who are The Lumineers?

They are folk rock band who originated from Denver, Colorado. They released their debut studio album in April 2012. Their second studio album titled “Cleopatra” was released in 2016. “III” is their third studio album. As of the time of the release of “III”, The Lumineers consisted of drummer Jeremiah Fraites and lead vocalist Wesley Schultz.

1 Response

  1. Tomas.x says:

    I have a significantly different take on this opening track.

    As the songs/story progress, various lyrics change back/forth between different people in the family tree speaking to each other or thinking out loud, creating a narrative quality.

    “Donna” opens the story as a stage setting. Donna is Gloria’s mother, she was the eldest in a very large family, which meant taking on great responsibility helping raise her six siblings. Rising to this challenge, Donna “never was one” – an alcoholic.

    It’s one of many guesses, but I believe something happened to her father, who built the family home. Maybe war. So Donna is left raising Gloria on her own. She’s likely up to the task, but her upbringing is far, far different than Donna’s. Gloria becomes rebellious, they fight a lot, and at some point arguing over what Gloria has planned for her (her big New York City dreams) Donna calls Gloria “ordinary”…not someone who succeeds in the big city…and about the worst thing you can say to your child. Gloria never speaks to her mother again.

    (The lyrics “It’s not the words you say, but how you say it” and “you told your daughter she was ordinary”…I believe this is Gloria’s husband speaking out loud to Donna, giving her much belated advice on how Gloria might have turned out differently.)

    Gloria had married this classic nice guy, far too nice for her, who sacrices his hopes for a family to support her NYC dreams. On the way from NJ to NYC he speaks of “The trucks always made you worry”, implying further her failure was imminent, never having been far from her rural home, guven freeway traffic scares her.

    Her poor husband encouraged her not to dug her own grave and rail against the dying day in the face of failure. But she had given up, emotionally isolated, staying out all night, keeping him up. He is very angry, turning the table on her sarcastically saying he hopes he never keeps her up at night waiting up for him, which of course, he doesn’t.

    I think when the NYC “dream” didn’t work out, he remained devoted to her. They didnt just move back to NJ, but lived in her childhood home. He pursued a job to provide for them (working with computers.)

    Life was about to turn to hell, though. Their child was the result of a drunken sexual encounter with a stranger in NYC shortly before the move back to NJ. I believe the lyrics stating she hates the names “Donna” and “Junior” are related to all of the above.

    As they consider names for their (gender not yet known) child, she makes it clear she hates her mother’s name (not surprising) and ultimately when they knew it was a boy, the choice to name him “Junior” was made by her, as a neutral name for the child ahe had resulting from a one night stand.

    She tried to be happy (in the video she’s happy in the maternity ward) but she sank deeper in the bottle and ignored Junior. It’s my belief, again influenced by the video, that she injures him in a raging fight over her alcoholism and when she’s speeding him to the ER, drunk, he ultimately dies as she flees the scene. It’s the last time we hear about them. She winds up a single mom, as Donna had been to her, and does but far less preparef, making Junior’s addiction problems (alcohol and fam ling) inevitable.

    If there’s a slighty positive end to the story it’s that Junior raised a son who despite everything, rejected alcohol, forgave his dad’s abuse, learned from his mistakes (the stranger at 3 AM) and you’re left hoping the thread binding past generations may have broken.

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