Meaning of The Court by Peter Gabriel

This track – or more specifically its “Dark Side Mix” – was released as the second single from Peter Gabriel’s album I/O on 5 February 2023, as well as the second track on the project’s playlist. In its entirety, I/O is 36 tracks’ long, actually featuring 12 original songs but 2 additional remixes of each. So besides the “Dark Side Mix”, there is also a “Bright-Side Mix” and “In-Side Mix” of The Court in circulation.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Peter Gabriel's The Court at

This track was both produced and written by Peter Gabriel, though to note, the “Dark-Side Mix” was conducted by tenured American musician Tchad Blake. Its eye-catching cover art, which itself is titled “Lifting the Curse”, is the work of an artist named Tim Shaw. And The Court did manage to humbly appear on the UK Singles Downloads Chart.

By the looks of things, I/O is a project that was inspired by Peter Gabriel’s human rights’ leanings. And it has been noted that this particular track was in part inspired by a US-based NGO called Namati, which is dedicated to educating and empowering vulnerable people in relation to legal and justice systems.

Interpretation of the Lyrics to The Court

Peter has pointed out that the creation of this song all began with him initially coming up with the line “the court will rise”, as found in the chorus. He also went on to explain that the entire piece is based on the dichotomy which the criminal justice system or law enforcement represents. In other words, such organizations tend to play an important role in maintaining order in society. But at the same time they often misuse that authority, such as targeting or discriminating against a certain group or type of people, while we may also say favoring others.

And it’s a good thing that Gabriel did in fact describe this piece, because the lyrics are so abstract that a listener would likely be hard-pressed to come to the above conclusion based on them alone. As the song progresses, it does become increasingly obvious that the vocalist is critically speaking of criminal justice on a number of fronts, such as how having money is often necessary when you get in trouble with the law, or how “we lost the line between good and bad”. The sixth verse, where that latter statement is found, is one of the clearest on the entire track, implying that the criminal justice system isn’t based on right or wrong but rather, let’s say as inferred, the personal inclinations of respective judges. Or more specifically as Peter seems to be hinting, society as a whole has lost its moral compass. Therefore, it is not in a rightful position to judge anyone to begin with.

It may be that this song was inspired by realities such as the United States’ “War on Drugs”, whereas masses of people are incarcerated or permanently labeled felons due to nonviolent or even in some cases recreational offenses. Most of those individuals also happen to be non-White minorities. And similar issues exist in places like the UK, Gabriel’s homeland, where a disproportionate amount of minorities, percentage-wise, are locked up.

But conclusively, as presented in The Court, this isn’t really a race issue. Rather, as the outro indicates, there are “so many” people out there in the world who are looking for true justice, if you will.

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